John Ernst Steinbeck Jr. (February 27, 1902 December 20, 1968) was a Pulitzer and Nobel Prize- winning American author. He wrote twenty-seven books within his lifetime, and became influential in his writing style and views.
Steinbeck was born by the Salinas River in California out in the country, which affected many of the settings of his works. A simple man, he labored alongside the migrant workers that inspired him. After leaving Stanford University without a degree, he set off his career with Tortilla Flat, a novel set in post-World War I Monterey. His Dust Bowl novels set in California garnered critical success and became some of his most popular works, such as Of Mice and Men. The Grapes of Wrath won the Pulitzer Prize in 1940, and became a controversial but influential work that ended up on the list of banned novels. It caused controversy with his leftist political views. The negative angle on capitalism and the representation of the Okies made trouble for him, but the book remained a success and is considered by many to be his best work.
In 1952, he gave the introductory narrations for the short stories of a film adaptation of O. Henry's Full House.
Steinbeck is known for showing the poor as decent people and the underdogs, and putting his views into his work. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1962 before he died in 1968.
Notable books by Steinbeck
- The Red Pony (1933)
- Tortilla Flat (1935)
- In Dubious Battle (1936)
- Of Mice and Men (1937)
- The Grapes of Wrath (1939)
- Cannery Row (1945)
- The Pearl (1947)
- East of Eden (1952)
- Sweet Thursday (1954)
- Travels With Charley (1962)
- The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights (1976)
Screenplays by Steinbeck
- Lifeboat (1944)—Wrote the story outline, while Jo Swerling wrote the screenplay.
- Viva Zapata! (1952)
Tropes associated with his works:
- Author Tract: A lot of his works express his socialist political beliefs, with varying degrees of subtlety.
- Central Theme: All his books are set during The Great Depression
- Death By Pulitzer Prize
- Died During Production: Steinbeck died before finishing his modern English translation of Le Morte d'Arthur, leaving the book stopping after the story of Lancelot.
- Downer Ending: Reading Steinbeck is sort of like driving past a bad traffic accident. You know someone who probably didn't deserve to die has died, but you have to look.
- Early Installment Weirdness: His first book, Cup of Gold, is a historical fiction about the notorious privateer Henry Morgan, and a far cry from the low key and bitterly realistic works he's known for.
- From Bad to Worse
- Grey-and-Gray Morality
- Kitchen Sink Drama
- Literary Allusion Title
- Rousseau Was Right: While his books are aware of human evil, many of his characters are still human and sympathetic.
- Scenery Porn: Steinbeck is to California what L. M. Montgomery is to Prince Edward Island.
- Shoot the Shaggy Dog
- Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: While his books often featured sympathetic people....they were set during the great depression.
- Sliding Scale of Realistic vs. Fantastic: His books are as realistic as modern literature gets. His books were about real people living through a really dark time in human history.
- Write What You Know: Most of his books are based on his own experiences.