The protagonist Ethan grows discontented with his own moral decline and that of those around him. It was not a critical success. Many reviewers recognized the importance of the novel, but were disappointed that it was not another Grapes of Wrath. Again he holds his position as an independent expounder of the truth with an unbiased instinct for what is genuinely American, be it good or bad.
Apparently taken aback by the critical reception of this novel, and the critical outcry when he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in ,  Steinbeck published no more fiction in the remaining six years before his death.
Critical essays on Steinbeck's The grapes of wrath
In , Steinbeck won the Nobel Prize for literature for his "realistic and imaginative writing, combining as it does sympathetic humor and keen social perception. The New York Times asked why the Nobel committee gave the award to an author whose "limited talent is, in his best books, watered down by tenth-rate philosophising", noting that "[T]he international character of the award and the weight attached to it raise questions about the mechanics of selection and how close the Nobel committee is to the main currents of American writing.
It was precisely because the committee made its judgment In the endless war against weakness and despair, these are the bright rally flags of hope and of emulation. I hold that a writer who does not believe in the perfectibility of man has no dedication nor any membership in literature. Fifty years later, in , the Nobel Prize opened its archives and it was revealed that Steinbeck was a "compromise choice" among a shortlist consisting of Steinbeck, British authors Robert Graves and Lawrence Durrell , French dramatist Jean Anouilh and Danish author Karen Blixen.
Although modest about his own talent as a writer, Steinbeck talked openly of his own admiration of certain writers. In , he wrote that he considered cartoonist Al Capp , creator of the satirical Li'l Abner , "possibly the best writer in the world today. In September , President Lyndon B.
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Johnson awarded Steinbeck the Presidential Medal of Freedom. In , at the behest of Newsday magazine, Steinbeck went to Vietnam to report on the war. He thought of the Vietnam War as a heroic venture and was considered a hawk for his position on the war. His sons served in Vietnam before his death, and Steinbeck visited one son in the battlefield.
At one point he was allowed to man a machine-gun watch position at night at a firebase while his son and other members of his platoon slept. In May , Steinbeck returned to California on an emergency trip to be with his friend Ed Ricketts, who had been seriously injured when a train struck his car. Ricketts died hours before Steinbeck arrived. Upon returning home, Steinbeck was confronted by Gwyn, who asked for a divorce, which became final in August.
Steinbeck spent the year after Ricketts' death in deep depression.
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Steinbeck and Scott eventually began a relationship and in December Steinbeck and Scott married, within a week of the finalizing of Scott's own divorce from actor Zachary Scott. This third marriage for Steinbeck lasted until his death in In , Steinbeck began acting as friend and mentor to the young writer and naturalist Jack Rudloe , who was trying to establish his own biological supply company, now Gulf Specimen Marine Laboratory in Florida.
Their correspondence continued until Steinbeck's death.
John Steinbeck died in New York City on December 20, , of heart disease and congestive heart failure. He was 66, and had been a lifelong smoker. An autopsy showed nearly complete occlusion of the main coronary arteries. In accordance with his wishes, his body was cremated, and interred on March 4,  at the Hamilton family gravesite in Salinas, with those of his parents and maternal grandparents.
His third wife, Elaine, was buried in the plot in He had written to his doctor that he felt deeply "in his flesh" that he would not survive his physical death, and that the biological end of his life was the final end to it. Many of Steinbeck's works are required reading in American high schools. A study by the Center for the Learning and Teaching of Literature in the United States found that Of Mice and Men was one of the ten most frequently read books in public high schools. The Grapes of Wrath was banned by school boards: in August , Kern County Board of Supervisors banned the book from the county's publicly funded schools and libraries.
The award citation lauded Steinbeck "for his realistic and imaginative writings, combining as they do sympathetic humour and keen social perception". Many critics complained that the author's best works were behind him.
John Steinbeck: the contemporary reviews
Many American critics now consider these attacks to be politically motivated. The British newspaper The Guardian , in a article that revealed that Steinbeck had been a compromise choice for the Nobel Prize, called him a "Giant of American letters". Works such as Of Mice and Men are short and easy to read, and compassionately illustrate universal themes that are still relevant in the 21st century.
Steinbeck grew up in California's Salinas Valley, a culturally diverse place with a rich migratory and immigrant history. This upbringing imparted a regionalistic flavor to his writing, giving many of his works a distinct sense of place.
John Steinbeck - Wikipedia
The area is now sometimes referred to as "Steinbeck Country". An exception was his first novel, Cup of Gold , which concerns the pirate Henry Morgan , whose adventures had captured Steinbeck's imagination as a child. In his subsequent novels, Steinbeck found a more authentic voice by drawing upon direct memories of his life in California.
Later he used actual American conditions and events in the first half of the 20th century, which he had experienced first-hand as a reporter. Steinbeck often populated his stories with struggling characters; his works examined the lives of the working class and migrant workers during the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression. His later work reflected his wide range of interests, including marine biology , politics, religion, history and mythology.
One of his last published works was Travels with Charley , a travelogue of a road trip he took in to rediscover America. Steinbeck's boyhood home , a turreted Victorian building in downtown Salinas, has been preserved and restored by the Valley Guild, a nonprofit organization. Fixed menu lunches are served Monday through Saturday, and the house is open for tours on Sunday afternoons during the summer.
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Dana Gioia chair of the National Endowment for the Arts told an audience at the center, "This is really the best modern literary shrine in the country, and I've seen them all. His father's cottage on Eleventh Street in Pacific Grove, where Steinbeck wrote some of his earliest books, also survives.
In Monterey, Ed Ricketts' laboratory survives though it is not yet open to the public and at the corner which Steinbeck describes in Cannery Row , also the store which once belonged to Lee Chong, and the adjacent vacant lot frequented by the hobos of Cannery Row. In the street that Steinbeck described as "Cannery Row" in the novel, once named Ocean View Avenue , was renamed Cannery Row in honor of the novel. The town of Monterey has commemorated Steinbeck's work with an avenue of flags depicting characters from Cannery Row , historical plaques, and sculptured busts depicting Steinbeck and Ricketts.
On February 27, the 77th anniversary of the writer's birth , the United States Postal Service issued a stamp featuring Steinbeck, starting the Postal Service's Literary Arts series honoring American writers. To commemorate the th anniversary of Mr. Steinbeck's birthday on February 27, , Google displayed an interactive doodle utilizing animation which included illustrations portraying scenes and quotes from several novels by the author.
Steinbeck was affiliated to the St. Paul's Episcopal Church and he stayed attached throughout his life to Episcopalianism. Especially in his works of fiction, Steinbeck was highly conscious of religion and incorporated it into his style and themes. The shaping of his characters often drew on the Bible and the theology of Anglicanism , combining elements of Roman Catholicism and Protestantism.
Steinbeck distanced himself from religious views when he left Salinas for Stanford.
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However, the work he produced still reflected the language of his childhood at Salinas, and his beliefs remained a powerful influence within his fiction and non-fiction work. William Ray considered his Episcopal views are prominently displayed in The Grapes of Wrath , in which themes of conversion and self-sacrifice play a major part in the characters Casy and Tom who achieve spiritual transcendence through conversion.
Steinbeck's contacts with leftist authors, journalists, and labor union figures may have influenced his writing. He joined the League of American Writers , a Communist organization, in Documents released by the Central Intelligence Agency in indicate that Steinbeck offered his services to the Agency in , while planning a European tour, and the Director of Central Intelligence, Walter Bedell Smith , was eager to take him up on the offer.
Steinbeck was a close associate of playwright Arthur Miller. In June , Steinbeck took a personal and professional risk by supporting him when Miller refused to name names in the House Un-American Activities Committee trials. In , when he was sent to Vietnam to report on the war , his sympathetic portrayal of the United States Army led the New York Post to denounce him for betraying his liberal past.
Johnson  influenced his views on Vietnam. Steinbeck complained publicly about government harassment.
Related John Steinbeck: The Contemporary Reviews (American Critical Archives)
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