John Steinbeck: Reflection In American Literature

1100 words - 4 pages

John Steinbeck: Reflection in American Literature The literary contributions of John Steinbeck have had a profound effect on literature in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Born February 27, 1902, John Steinbeck, like many of his fictional characters, grew up in Salinas, California. He studied writing intermittently at Stanford but never graduated. Instead, Steinbeck moved to New York where he worked as a manual laborer and journalist while writing his first two novels. He married in 1930 and moved back to California with his wife. There, his father, a government official in Salinas County, gave the couple a house to live in while Steinbeck continued writing (Bowmen 167). Steinbeck won a Pulitzer Prize in 1939, the Nobel Prize in literature in 1962, and the United States Medal of Freedom in 1964 before he passed away in 1968 (Bowmen 169). Many aspects of Steinbeck's writing can be directly linked to his personal life through the style, themes, and characters presented in his works.Steinbeck's childhood experiences have made him very aware of the "weaknesses, frustrations, failures, and grotesqueries" of humans (Steinbeck, Short Novels 109). As a child, Steinbeck experienced problems at home, which are reflected in his writing. Steinbeck once wrote of his father, "He was not particularly gifted as a parent. He could be very self-centered, abusive, and dysfunctional when it came to raising children. So the kid has to raise himself. Dad never had to be a parent except on his time and on his terms, and then he was very good at that, very good. Had he had to do it day in and day out, he would have failed miserably" (Steinbeck, Short Novels 106).Steinbeck never understood the reasons behind his family's problems until much later. For this reason, he claimed his writing was aimed at helping people understand each other. He demonstrated this quest for understanding first in "The Harness" (Steinbeck, Short Novels 106). In the occurrences between Peter Randall and Emma Randall, Steinbeck mirrored his own difficulties at home, using Emma as a passive, yet somehow violent, controlling wife to her husband. Even after her death, when the horrible things she forced upon Peter surface, he cannot undo the damage. In "The Chrysanthemums," the most important relationship was between Elisa and the salesman, and this relationship suffers for reasons unknown. They experience the same hopelessness, then ecstasy, and finally grief Steinbeck dealt with in his youth. Through his unfortunate childhood, Steinbeck learned a valuable lesson about human understanding, and he used it to create innumerable literary masterpieces.John Steinbeck used his past in numerous strategic ways to fulfill his self-ordained quest for human understanding. Steinbeck grew up in Salinas Valley, Monterary County, California. This valley became the setting for almost every piece of his literature, including "The Harness" and "The Chrysanthemums". Many critics agree that the reasoning...

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