John Steinbeck’s Journey

An author’s surroundings are what often are included in their writing. John Steinbeck, an author born and raised in California, published many astonishing novels that different groups of people could relate to. He produced many famous pieces and is still known in the literary world till this day. His writing expressed the feelings of many Americans and wrote about all the struggles. His writing is and always will be remembered. The people and place one grow up with shapes one’s future. The memories created during one’s childhood are hard to forget and can impact certain decision one makes later on in life. John Steinbeck’s childhood started in Salinas, California on February 27, 1902. He was raised by John Ernst Steinbeck Sr. and Olivia Hamilton. Steinbeck, however, was not the only kid John and Olivia had to deal with. He had two older sisters and one younger sister. Dealing with four kids, however, was very difficult for John and Olivia. John Steinbeck Sr. was working multiple jobs to provide a food and house for his family. He was managing a flour plant and working at his own feed and grain store. Unfortunately, the plant closed and the store failed and shut down as the business failed to grow. Nonetheless, later on Steinbeck Sr. was appointed the treasurer for the Monterey County. Without doubt, John Steinbeck Sr. cared for his family at a high extinct and was willing to go through all the pain and hard work in order to be the best father for his kids. He tried and did his best to make sure that he gave his children the childhood they deserved.

Every once in a while, a kid will find their passion for what they enjoy to do at a young age. John Steinbeck at an early age found his love for literature and arts. His mother, a schoolteacher, was very interested in literature and was the one who Steinbeck received his love for arts from. When Steinbeck started writing, he was greatly influenced by Sir Thomas Malory’s, Le Morte D’Arthur, a book about the tales of King Arthur that was given to him from his aunt on his ninth birthday. As Steinbeck got older, he decided he wanted to pursue a degree in Literature at Stanford University. He did not have the intentions of graduating, but to improve his writing. Therefore, he took multiple writing courses along with world history. Steinbeck did not care much of what college he went to, “He came to Stanford to mollify his parents, primarily his mother…”(Hearle). During the summer, Steinbeck also took a biology course at Hopkins Marine Station.- During his time at college, he worked as a lab assistant and farm laborer to help earn money for his family. In 1925, Steinbeck dropped out of college and traveled to New York to work as a newspaper reporter. While staying there, he was also part of the construction crew building Madison Square Garden. Eventually, he came back to California and worked as a caretaker in Lake Tahoe. It was also here where Steinbeck decided to officially start his writing career. Steinbeck evidently was willing to take any chance he could to launch his writing career even if it meant he had to work alongside at minimum wage to maintain his living costs.Challenges and failures will come along one’s journey but it is important one remembers to not give up. John Steinbeck published his first book, Cup of Gold, in 1929. The plot of this book was about the adventures of a privateer, Henry Morgan, in Panama. Unfortunately, this book turned out to be unsuccessful in the eyes of the readers. Steinbeck’s first book that received critical attention was Tortilla Flat, Steinbeck’s fifth book in all which was published in 1935. This novel took place in Monterey, near Steinbeck’s childhood, and was about paisanos and their life after the World War I. Steinbeck was able to incorporate stories and people he met in his childhood into this book. The reviews of this book were amazing and Steinbeck received a gold medal from the California Commonwealth Club for it, a prize for best novel written by a Californian. Along his side during the failures and success was Carol Henning, Steinbeck’s first wife. They got together in 1930 in Los Angeles but later lived in a small family cottage in Pacific Grove. However, they later moved to a house in Los Gatos designed by Henning. Steinbeck added an 8 foot fence around this property to insure his privacy while he wrote.

Steinbeck and Henning’s relationship did not work out and they divorced in 1942. Supposedly, a reason towards the divorce was because Carol wanted to start a family with Steinbeck, however, he disagreed feeling it would distract him from his writing. With a failed abortion, Henning had to get a hysterectomy which she was very mad and disappointed about. After one accomplishment, many more are destined to come. John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, was another achievement that was the top-selling book in 1939. It is a fictional novel that captures the different emotions felt by people during the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl. It was written about 50,000 people migrating due to environmental disasters. The book talks about the journey of the Joads, a family from Oklahoma, forced to move west due to the Dust Bowl. On their way, they meet many other families going to Salinas, a rich place they feel that is filled with lots of opportunities. Steinbeck finally started to include personal experiences and different memories into his writing. Many people, however, looked at this book as controversial. Three years before the book was published, a drought caused people to move to Kern County where the people there were very supportive. Although, in the book, the members of Kern County felt that they did not receive the right amount of credit for the effort they had put in. With a county board vote of four to one, the book became banned and burned. Different wealthy and political people saw this book as an act of communism. In libraries and schools, the book was banned as the language was harsh and the content was not suitable for children. Lyle Boren, son of a tenant farmer, completely disagreed with everything said in the book and called it “a damnable lie, a black, infernal creation of a twisted, distorted mind.” Despite all the disagreements and arguments people had made, The Grapes of Wrath was awarded the National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize Fiction Award in 1940. Steinbeck completely deserved these awards as his writing was something else, one that grasped the emotions and struggles of the farmers’ as well as talk about the Great Depression, a depressing time in this nation’s history.Friends often come and go, but the ones who stay and get close to one another are the ones who create the best memories. Along Steinbeck’s journey, he came across Edward Ricketts, a marine biologist, philospher, and ecologist who operated Pacific Biological Laboratories. Steinbeck and Ricketts became friends working at the Hopkins Marine Station. Later on, Steinbeck started working at Ed’s lab and they became closer and closer. In 1940, they went on a six week journey to the Sea of Cortez. The purpose of this trip was to study different habitats and find new specimen which Ricketts succeed at as he found 35 new marine species. The Log from the Sea of Cortez is a book that Steinbeck and Ricketts collaborated on talking about the whole journey in general as well as the collections and findings of it. After this trip, Ricketts and John planned more trips together to different places. Unfortunately, Ricketts passed away in a crash in 1942. Devastated and heartbroken, Steinbeck decided to write a book inspired by Ed Ricketts, Cannery Row.

In this book, there is a character named Doc who is based of Ed Ricketts. Doc is portrayed as a man who was greatly in love with the marine life as well as a community favorite. Ed Ricketts had a major impact on John Steinbeck’s life and career and Steinbeck clearly appreciates everything Ed had done for him. Hence, the reason many of Steinbeck’s other books have an aspect of Ricketts’ life in it. It is important for one to have another person to be there for one during hardships and bad times. To help deal with Steinbeck’s pain was Gwyndolyn Conger, Steinbeck’s second wife. They got married in 1943 and had two sons, Thomas and John. The four of them lived together in New York. But like Steinbeck’s last relationship, Steinbeck and Gwyn got divorced after only 5 years of marriage. With the divorce and the death of Ed Ricketts, Steinbeck fell into depression for a whole year. Steinbeck, like most people, could not handle and process all these bad events happening and eventually hit a breaking point.Death is something everyone fears but also the one thing that is unstoppable. John Steinbeck died in his home at New York City on December 20, 1968 due to a severe heart disease. Before his death, he had married Elaine Anderson Scott, an American actress. Their relationship was much better than the previous wives of Steinbeck. Elaine and Steinbeck had been together for 18 years until Steinbeck’s passing. Steinbeck left this world leaving behind his supposedly best work, East of Eden. This book was for Steinbeck’s kids as he wanted them to know all of the struggles Steinbeck faced and basically his life story. Incorporating his own history and the history of Salinas, this was “…the greatest story of all—the story of good and evil, of strength and weakness, of love and hate, of beauty and ugliness…” (Steinbeck 3). Although Steinbeck had an unfortunate death, he fulfilled everything a man like him could ask for. John Steinbeck lived a life full of struggles and pain but still managed to create so many novels that were a hit in people’s eyes. He had the ability to do what many authors can and could not do by incorporating real world problems into his writing. His writing would touch people at heart and give them something to think about. Steinbeck expressed his voice and feelings through his writing. When people attempted to stop and ban his writing, he still continued as it was his way to express his thoughts. Steinbeck is a role model not only authors look up to. His work and contribution to this nation and world will always be remembered and never be forgotten.

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