An Example Essay on Steinbeck | 2000 Words

An Example Essay on Steinbeck

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An Example Essay on Steinbeck

Books are not good. A guy needs somebody – to be near him. […] A guy goes nuts if he ain’t got nobody” (Of Mice and Men 69). In this excerpt taken from one of John Steinbeck’s most acclaimed books, one of the novel’s main characters express his loneliness and reveals the adverse effects of solitude. Steinbeck, a renowned American author, was raised in a wealthy family in Salinas, California. He experienced intense feelings of loneliness during his childhood. Many of Steinbeck’s acclaimed books are in the Salinas area of central California. Additionally, many of his characters exhibit similar character traits and desires to his own. In this way, both external and internal factors influence Steinbeck’s work.

Steinbeck’s writing, including his renowned novels The Grapes of Wrath and Of Mice and Men, draws upon the setting of his childhood and the feelings of loneliness and isolation that began early in his life. John Steinbeck was born in Salinas, California, to the county treasurer and a retired teacher. During Steinbeck’s childhood in the early 20th century, central California was a rural area dependent on agriculture. Monterey County had a “proliferation of smaller farms growing varied crops” that Steinbeck adored (Morgan & McNamee).

As he matured, Steinbeck developed a love for agriculture and a keen understanding of the lives of farm workers. Steinbeck’s passion for the region’s agricultural practices influenced his writing during the Great Depression as family farms began to shut down. The sustenance farming techniques used by smaller farms were replaced with the profit-maximizing practices of more giant corporations. Steinbeck was repulsed by these techniques and regarded them as an affront to the practices he revered. His love for agriculture and hatred of the large commercial farm shaped his writing.

Steinbeck’s passion for writing and literature began at a young age. As a child, Steinbeck was “very shy” and came to be known as “something of a loner” (“John Ernst Steinbeck, Jr.”). His limited social interaction may suggest that he was antisocial and preferred to be alone, but this was certainly not the case. As is apparent to any reader of his novels, Steinbeck struggled with loneliness. All of Steinbeck’s books feature characters who echo his desires for friendship and relationships.

His novels also contain themes reflecting his views on loneliness and the importance of social interaction. Steinbeck was born in a unique setting that gave him a broad perspective on the human experience and the world around him. His writing incorporates what he saw as a child and what he felt, leading his upbringing to influence both the events and settings of his books as well as their deeper meanings and messages.

Many of Steinbeck’s books can be summarized as an attempt to accurately portray the otherwise invisible lives of poor Americans and brazenly condemn those he found immoral. Steinbeck’s most famous novels include Of Mice and Men and The Grapes of Wrath, both of which are works of fiction that mirror Steinbeck’s experiences and beliefs. Both pieces of literature center around agriculture and its effects on a community. Tom Collins primarily shaped Steinbeck’s perspective on agriculture and agricultural workers. He worked as the manager of a migrant worker camp in central California during the Great Depression.

Steinbeck found Collins to be a “notoriously hard worker.” During Steinbeck’s visit, the two “not only documented injustice but caused physical change” in Collins’ camp (Rumsby). The injustice and adverse conditions at these camps shocked Steinbeck. They led him to depict the suffering of migrant workers in his novels. As Steinbeck worked to learn more about the world and those less fortunate than him, he grew outraged and motivated to document the struggles of the poor in his writing. Steinbeck’s style, like his message, is unique and molded by his upbringing. His novels are structured with “interchapters that depart from the narrative […] and describe phenomena representative of the migrant population as a whole” (Shindo).

Steinbeck’s alternating between broad topics and specific characters and events represents how his origins influenced him and his literature. Growing up in the Salinas Valley, Steinbeck was heavily influenced by the agricultural roots of his community and the broad topic of the agriculture industry and its workers. Additionally, Steinbeck was influenced by his feelings of loneliness and isolation. Steinbeck, like his novels, focuses on both the broad and the specific. During his career, Steinbeck could use this technique to become a very controversial figure who achieved his goal of influencing American politics.

He infuriated those of nearly all ideologies and could boast that “more of his works are on lists of books banned by schools and libraries than any other writer” (“John Ernst Steinbeck, Jr.”). Steinbeck’s unrivaled ability to commentate on social issues and generate controversy and conversation is what sets him apart as a truly great and influential author. Steinbeck’s unique writing style and specific goals, which are products of his upbringing, led him to become one of the most renowned American authors of his century. Of Mice and Men, one of the most popular novels of its era, thoroughly encapsulates the experiences of migrant workers at the time and is heavily influenced by Steinbeck’s background.

In many of his books, Steinbeck relates his distaste for anonymous corporate entities to his adoration of human connections and relationships. Much of his work addresses the importance of social connection and the devastating consequences of isolation. In Of Mice and Men, a character named Slim comments that “Maybe everybody in the whole damn world is scared of each other,” to which the protagonist George replies, “It is a lot nicer to go around with a guy, you know” (32-33). Throughout the story, George is burdened by the foolish actions of his mentally challenged friend, Lennie.

The reader is led to consider why George chooses to take care of Lennie, particularly in a destitute era where workers are never more than a few dollars or canned food items away from starvation. As the story develops, it is revealed that George and Lennie are perhaps the happiest of the two characters simply because they have one another. Also revealed is that Steinbeck did not believe in unlimited, indiscriminate social interaction. His characters recognize not only the importance of relationships but also the importance of forming and maintaining relationships with the right people.

To showcase this, Steinbeck inserts the sole and unnamed female character into an abusive relationship with Curley, the son of the wealthy ranch owner. Speaking alone with Lennie, she confesses that “I get lonely […] I cannot talk to nobody but Curley. Else he gets mad” (82). In theory, Curley’s wife does not at all appear lonely. She in no way resembles the image of an adolescent Steinbeck, secluded in his room and interested only in reading and writing. She is a married adult and has achieved what a younger Steinbeck could only dream of by entering an intimate relationship. Her partner, however, is a controlling and abusive person. Therefore, her loneliness persists despite her relationship because she has not formed the connections with good, caring people necessary to dispel such feelings truly.

Steinbeck’s focus on the importance of social interaction, a trait that he passed on to his characters in Of Mice and Men and in other novels, was a belief formed early in his life. Steinbeck’s loneliness had begun well before he attended college. However, during his time at Stanford University, he truly began to develop these feelings in his writing. One of his English professors, Edith Ronald Mirrielees, guided Steinbeck on how to write more concisely and how to translate his loneliness into literature.

During their time together, Mirrielees succeeded in “forcing the verbosity out of Steinbeck’s work” (Rumsby). Mirrielees believed that “writing can never be other than a lonely business,” and she worked to help Steinbeck express his “philosophy of loneliness.” Without Mirrielees guiding his writing, Steinbeck would never have learned to express his loneliness so effectively in Of Mice and Men and in various other books. Mirrielees’ teachings gave Steinbeck the skills to articulate his ideas in writing and create characters who mirror his beliefs. Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men is one of his most acclaimed novels and tremendously insightful into the mind and influences of its author.

John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath reveals how Steinbeck was influenced by his experiences witnessing and interacting with migrant and agricultural workers. Like Of Mice and Men, The Grapes of Wrath are unbridled in its ruthless criticism of the wealthy. Steinbeck’s primary goal, however, was to reveal and document the challenges facing agricultural workers. The story follows the experiences of the Joads, a family in the Midwest. They are forced to move to California for work after the foreclosure of their farm.

Even more so than Of Mice and Men, The Grapes of Wrath is a social commentary on the issues of its era. Steinbeck refers to the banks causing foreclosures of family farms as “something more than men […] It is the monster. Men made it, but they cannot control it” (The Grapes of Wrath 33). Steinbeck considered it his responsibility to denounce in his writing the people he believed caused adversity and the institutions that allowed them to do so. The most common recipient of Steinbeck’s criticism, the large banks, are characterized throughout the novel as omnipotent entities concerned only with advancing their interests, utterly ambivalent towards the suffering they impose upon their victims.

As the plot progresses and the Joads continue to search for a better life, The Grapes of Wrath grows broader in its message. Steinbeck transitions from criticism of banks and bankers to more general commentary on the nation’s state. Reflecting upon the plight of America’s poor, an anonymous migrant worker comments that “the whole United States ain’t that big […] It ain’t big enough. There ain’t enough room […] for rich and poor together all in one country, for thieves and honest men. For hunger and fat” (120). These remarks on inequity and the threat it presents to the nation’s survival reveal a vital aspect of Steinbeck’s ideology.

He believed not only that American inequality was morally reprehensible but also that it threatened to destabilize the country. Steinbeck’s distaste for the privileged and sympathy for the abused manifest in his novels. However, his ideology is perhaps most thoroughly documented in The Grapes of Wrath. Steinbeck’s ideology, although certainly the unintentional product of his upbringing, was also intentionally refined and developed during the beginning of his career. While living in central California in 1930, Steinbeck met Ed Ricketts, a marine life research center operator. Ricketts and Steinbeck grew close and began to delve into complex discussions.

The two men “used each other as sounding boards for obscure and fascinating philosophical ideas” and “worked together to refine Steinbeck’s theory” (Rumsby). Steinbeck had developed much of his ideology alone as he had spent most of his childhood alone. However, meeting and speaking with Ricketts proved vital to his development as a thinker and author. Ricketts offered Steinbeck the discussions and feedback he needed to develop an elaborate and refined ideology to convey in a long novel such as The Grapes of Wrath.

Like Of Mice and Men, Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath provides the reader with deep insight into how his background influenced Steinbeck. John Steinbeck’s work is the product of internal factors such as his enduring loneliness and external influences, including the people he met and the environment in which he was raised. One fascinating aspect of Steinbeck’s writing is the subtlety with which profound statements are made. Inconspicuous and seemingly unimportant dialogue is used throughout his novels to convey his most vital messages.

Therefore, one of Steinbeck’s characters casually remarking that “a guy needs somebody” is perhaps the most fitting encapsulation of Steinbeck’s work (Of Mice and Men 69). Although undoubtedly a unique author, John Steinbeck is an archetype of his profession in that internal and external factors have heavily influenced him. Steinbeck’s writing, like that of any author, cannot be fully understood without an understanding of how he was influenced.

Some influences are apparent: where an author was raised, the economic situation they were born into, and whom they met. However, some internal feelings and attitudes are much more concealed. Both types of influences must be identified for the reader to fully understand an author and grasp the meaning of their work. John Ernst Steinbeck, Jr.” Dictionary of American Biography, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1988.  U.S. History in Context


Frequently Asked Questions

What is unique about Steinbeck’s writing style?

One distinguishing feature of John Steinbeck’s writing style is his use of social commentary. Steinbeck lived during some of the most difficult periods in American histories, such as the Great Depression, which impacted his writings.

What are three facts about Steinbeck?

  1. An early draft of John Steinbeck’s novel Of Mice and Men was eaten by his dog.
  2. In the 1980s, a rumor arose that Steinbeck’s novel The Grapes of Wrath had been translated into Japanese as ‘The Angry Raisins.’
  3. Steinbeck used 300 pencils to write East of Eden.

Why is Steinbeck important?

His novel The Grapes of Wrath, about a family’s migration from the Oklahoma Dust Bowl to California, won a Pulitzer Prize and a National Book Award in 1939. Steinbeck worked as a war correspondent during WWII and received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1962.

How is Steinbeck’s writing described?

Direct, conversational, unpretentious, and earnest. Steinbeck’s writing style reflects the personalities of his characters. Of course, the author writes as the men would speak, but on a deeper level, the book’s language is simple but compelling—just like the characters.

Why is Steinbeck a great writer?

Steinbeck understands people better than most and sympathizes with those who face challenges in life. A writer who is both humane and compassionate. For one thing, Steinbeck was a wise writer. He could make readers connect with each of his characters and their roles in a story.

Why is Steinbeck a great author?

He was known for his realistic and imaginative writings, combining as they do sympathetic humor and keen social perception.

What genre is Steinbeck?

All of Steinbeck’s novels can be classified as social novels dealing with the economic problems of rural labor. Still, there is also a streak of soil worship in his works that does not always agree with his matter-of-fact sociological approach.

What philosophy of life is revealed in Steinbeck’s Nobel?

People should be spending time learning and understanding people around them.

What influenced John Steinbeck’s writing?

While Steinbeck was largely self-taught in biology and philosophy, a series of teachers he both feared and revered significantly influenced his composition and creativity. Miss Cupp and Miss Hawkins, two of his high school teachers, were among them.

What was John Steinbeck’s impact on society?

The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck’s classic novel, was written to personalize the injustices meted out to many migrants on the road during the Great Depression. Steinbeck was successful in raising awareness, which fueled political activist movements.

What themes did John Steinbeck write?

Steinbeck touches on several themes in sharing his vision of what it means to be human: the nature of dreams, loneliness, man’s propensity for cruelty, powerlessness, economic injustices, and the uncertainty of the future.

Why was Steinbeck important to American literature?

John Steinbeck is a towering figure in American literature. In “The Grapes of Wrath,” he tackled the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl, telling the story of the Joad family’s trials and tribulations, including their migration from Oklahoma to California.

Was Steinbeck a good author?

Even though he was reviled by many influential people, Steinbeck was hugely successful. Even as he drew harsh criticism, he received some critical acclaim—partly because ordinary people adored him. The novel The Grapes of Wrath received the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award.

What is John Steinbeck’s best work?

1939, The Grapes of Wrath

This realist novel is probably Steinbeck’s most well-known work; it won him the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1940 and is widely regarded as one of the most influential American novels.

What was the central theme or idea in Of Mice and Men?

Loneliness, innocence, and dreams are central themes in Of Mice and Men. Loneliness: Characters are separated by race, age, gender, and class. Crooks’ private room, isolated from the others, exemplifies the loneliness of exclusion.

Was Steinbeck a bad person?

Steinbeck was a complicated and contradictory man – and even stranger than you might think. A new biography, Mad at the World, will be published in 2019, and there is little doubt that Steinbeck was an angry man. As his books demonstrate, he was enraged by injustice, poverty, and prejudice.

What is John Steinbeck’s most popular book?

The Grapes of Wrath

The most famous of these, The Grapes of Wrath, earned its author the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award, was adapted into a successful film starring Henry Fonda, and was heavily featured in his Nobel Prize citation in 1962.

Why did Steinbeck win the Nobel Prize?

For his realistic and imaginative writings, combining as they do sympathetic humor and keen social perception.

What is John Steinbeck’s legacy?

During his illustrious career, California author John Steinbeck won the Pulitzer Prize and the Nobel Peace Prize. He was born in Salinas, California, and will forever be associated with Salinas, Monterey, Carmel, and the Central Coast, as well as his celebration of the common person and interest in social justice.

What is the purpose of the Steinbeck Award?

The John Steinbeck Award honors writers, artists, thinkers, and activists whose work exemplifies Steinbeck’s empathy, commitment to democratic values, and belief in the dignity of people who are pushed to the margins by circumstance.

What are the most significant events and the major facts we should know about Steinbeck’s life?

Major Facts

  1. Feb 27, 1902 – Birth
  2. Jun 15, 1919 – Graduated from high school
  3. Jun 15, 1925 – Dropped out of College
  4. Aug 15, 1929 – First Novel Published
  5. Jan 15, 1930 – First Marriage
  6. May 28, 1935 – First popular success novel published
  7. Apr 15, 1939 – The Grapes of Wrath published
  8. Mar 15, 1942 – Divorces Carol
  9. Mar 29, 1943 – Married again
  10. Aug 2, 1944 – The first son born
  11. Jun 12, 1946 – Birth of the Second son.
  12. Aug 17, 1948 – Divorce
  13. Dec 28, 1950 – Married for the third time.
  14. Dec 10, 1962 – Nobel Prize speech
  15. Sep 14, 1964 – United States Medal of Freedom
  16. Oct 12, 1966 – Final book published
  17. Dec 20, 1968 – Death

What did Steinbeck say about gallantry?

“The writer is delegated to declare and to celebrate man’s proven capacity for greatness of heart and spirit—for gallantry in defeat—for courage, compassion, and love.”

What did John Steinbeck believe in?

The ability of man to improve his condition.

Who was Steinbeck’s favorite author?

Steinbeck adored Le Morte d’Arthur, which he received as a gift when he was nine. The book had a significant impact on him and had a significant influence on his writing. Based on his favorite childhood story, he was inspired to write The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights.

What were John Steinbeck’s two most famous novels?

His best-known work includes “Of Mice and Men” and “The Grapes of Wrath.”

When was Steinbeck considered a success as a writer?

When John Steinbeck’s novel Tortilla Flat was published in 1935, he became a literary success. In Dubious Battle (1936), Of Mice and Men (1937), and The Long Valley (1938) were among John Steinbeck’s subsequent novels (1938)

What are the 3 main themes presented in Of Mice and Men?

  1. Dreams.
  2. Loneliness.
  3. Companionship.

Why is it called Of Mice and Men?

Steinbeck chose the title Of Mice and Men after reading Robert Burns’ poem “To a Mouse,” in which the poet laments accidentally destroying a mouse’s nest. The poem touches on several central themes in Of Mice and Men, including the impermanence of home and the harshness of life for the most vulnerable.

Why are Steinbeck’s books still popular?

For many international readers, Steinbeck’s work captures the elusive American psyche: bonds to land and the need for a place. Many of Steinbeck’s stories are archetypal, depicting restless migrants heading west to start over.

Who did Steinbeck influence?

  1. William Faulkner
  2. Robert Burns
  3. Thomas Malory
  4. Sherwood Anderson

What is Steinbeck’s famous novel?

  1. The Grapes of Wrath
  2. East of Eden
  3. The Pearl
  4. Cannery Row

What is a good thesis statement for Of Mice and Men?

Thesis Statement: In the novel Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck, the characters Lennie and George show that true friendship can be difficult. Relationship as friends. Overall, the relationship between Lennie and George shows that even the best and closest of friendships can be difficult at times.

What does Lennie’s death symbolize?

Lennie’s death is not only the death of a single vulnerable person but also the destruction of a rare and idealized friendship because George is forced to kill his friend himself.

What does Steinbeck say about the American Dream?

Steinbeck contends that, while the American Dream has, at best, been an illusion and, at worst, a trap throughout American history, unattainable dreams are still necessary to make life in America bearable.

Why did Steinbeck write the Pearl?

Steinbeck was inspired by a Mexican folk tale he heard in La Paz, Baja California Sur, Mexico, during a 1940 visit to the formerly pearl-rich region. The novel was adapted into a Mexican film called La Perla (1947) and a cult Kannada film called Ondu Muttina Kathe (1987).

What are three things that Steinbeck wrote?

  1. East of Eden (1952)
  2. The Winter of Our Discontent (1961)
  3. Travels with Charley (1962),

How does Steinbeck use foreshadowing in Of Mice and Men essay?

  1. The title is the first hint.
  2. The second clue is Lennie petting soft things and not knowing his own strength.
  3. The third hint is that the characters’ dreams will not be granted.
  4. Candy’s dog is shot in the back of the head


Did John Steinbeck deserve the Nobel Prize?

Steinbeck, a National Book Award, Pulitzer Prize, and Nobel Prize winner, certainly has the credentials to justify that position. However, Steinbeck’s detractors, including members of the Swedish Academy, questioned the legendary author’s merits. Steinbeck himself did not believe he deserved the Nobel Prize.

What are some major facts about Steinbeck’s life?

Is Steinbeck a modernist writer?

John Steinbeck is associated with the literary movement modernism, owing to his novels’ break from tradition and experimentation with new things.

Who received the Steinbeck Award?

Chef José Andrés, the winner of the 2020 Steinbeck Award, deserves congratulations. Steinbeck is credited with inspiring him to become an activist. Jose Andres founded the World Central Kitchen (WCK) in 2010 after being inspired by Tom Joad’s iconic words: “Wherever there’s a fight, so hungry people can eat, I’ll be there.”

Where does Of Mice and Men take place?

California’s Salinas

The tragic story of George Milton and Lennie Small, two migrant ranch workers in Salinas, California, is told in John Steinbeck’s novella Of Mice and Men. Of Mice and Men, published in 1937 and set during the Great Depression of the 1930s, explores the themes of loneliness and isolation.

What genre is Steinbeck?

All of Steinbeck’s novels can be classified as social novels dealing with the economic problems of rural labor. Still, there is also a streak of soil worship in his works that does not always agree with his matter-of-fact sociological approach.

What philosophy of life is revealed in Steinbeck’s Nobel?

People should be spending more time learning and understanding people around them.

What does Steinbeck say about the responsibility of authors?

John Steinbeck, the author of literary classics, spoke of an author’s responsibility as a creator in his Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech. Writers are tasked with presenting both the positive aspects of humanity, such as love and triumph and the negative aspects, such as failure and greed.

What is Steinbeck’s view on society?

His figures are frequently people on the periphery of society, whom he portrays empathetically and sympathetically from their own perspective.

What was John Steinbeck’s impact on society?

Raising awareness became the impetus for political activist movements.

Who was Steinbeck an advocate for?

Given Steinbeck’s international reputation as an ardent advocate for the oppressed in the 1940s and 1950s, the writer inadvertently served as a political tool against the social order of capitalism.

What inspired Steinbeck’s writing?

He began writing novels after dropping out of Stanford University. The Great Depression and the Dust Bowl hit around this time, sending thousands of desperate families to California for farm work. While interviewing them for a series of articles, Steinbeck was inspired by their stories.

What influenced Steinbeck as a writer?

While Steinbeck was largely self-taught in biology and philosophy, a series of teachers he both feared and revered significantly influenced his composition and creativity. Miss Cupp and Miss Hawkins, two of his high school teachers, were among them.


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