John Steinbeck was an American writer whose works which commented on the labour conditions in California have had an enduring impact on American Literature. Originally from a farming background, Steinbeck enrolled at and attended Stanford University in hopes of refining his creative writing abilities in 1919 and whilst there took a course which extended his knowledge of William Emerson Ritter’s ideas about the super organism and group behaviour. This interest informed much of his fiction throughout the 1930s.
His seminal novel is considered to be The Grapes of Wrath (1939) which has its roots in a journalism assignment Steinbeck was set in 1936 by the San Francisco News, to investigate labour conditions in California. In a series of newspaper articles, Steinbeck responded to conditions which appalled him and also examined the differences in the Federal Government camp where workers experienced a better quality of life.
By 1939, Steinbeck’s ‘wrath’ and the optimism he felt that there was a solution to the problems of what he had seen became combined in the novel that would become The Grapes of Wrath.
The success of this novel which is often seen as the ‘novel for the everyman’ bolstered Steinbeck’s reputation and brought him success and a devoted readership which has ensured his place in the literary canon across the world.
Steinbeck was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1962.
The Grapes of Wrath (1939)
Recommended further reading:
In Dubious Battle (1936)
Of Mice and Men (1937)
East of Eden (1952)