Friday, September 16, 2011

John Steinbeck

Parlor Figure Name: John Ernst Steinbeck, Jr

Birth-Death: February 27, 1902 - December 20, 1968

Residence: Pacific Groove, California during the 1930s.

Occupation: American novelist, story writer, playwright, and essayist.




What’s this person best known for? John Steinbeck received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1962. He also won the Pulitzer Prize for The Grapes of Wrath, a novel widely considered to be a twentieth-century classic. (1)


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Race/Ethnicity/Religion: German and Irish descent.

Politics: New Deal Liberals, left wing. Steinbeck fought for the rights of the american migrant workers by bringing attention to them through his novels. These migrant workers and their lives were the basis and background of many of his acclaimed novels and articles he wrote for newspaper.

Beliefs about relation between art and politics:
The role of the artist is to become "merely a recording consciousness, judging nothing, simply putting down the thing." Steinbeck's writings are not intended to support any political party. (5)

Major Activities in the 1930s:
  • Edward Ricketts and John Steinbeck wrote a book together titled The Log from the Sea. (1)
  • During the decade of 1930s, Steinbeck wrote many novels with a theme of social history. He wrote Tortilla Flat (1935), In Dubious Battle (1936), Of Mice and Men (1937), The Long Valley (1938), and The Grapes of Wrath (1939). (1)
  • Steinbeck belonged to the organization called The League of American Writers. He was present at union strikes and meetings. (1)
Major Works:
Tortilla Flat (1935)
In Dubious Battle (1936)
Of Mice and Men (1937)
The Grapes of Wrath (1939)
East of Eden (1952)

Places where figure’s work often appears (magazines, radio, nightclubs, galleries):
In 1936, John Steinbeck wrote seven articles for "The San Francisco News." Later, he published them in The Harvest of Gypsies: on the road of the Grapes of Wrath, which was added the photographs of Dorothea Lange.

Organizations he belongs to, causes he supports:
Organizations he belonged to include The League of a American Writers, The Simon J. Lubin Society, and The John Steinbeck Committee to Aid Agricultural Organization. (5)

Best sound bites by or about this figure, including source:

"Maybe the hardest thing in writing is simply to tell the truth about things as we see them." Steinbeck (3)

"Power does not corrupt. Fear corrupts... perhaps the fear of a loss of power." Steinbeck (3)

"Socialism never took in America because the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat, but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires." Steinbeck (3)

"Our people are good people; our people are kind people. Pray God some day kind people won't all be poor." Steinbeck (The Grapes of Wrath) (3)

Was this person a popular or critical success? He was both popular and critical success.

Any Gossip? None

Fun Facts to Know and Tell:

Steinbeck and his wife Carol bought two ducks to stock the fishpond at their Pacific Groove cottage. The ducks were sold later to purchase writing paper for To a God Unknown. (2)

Carol wrote and published humorous poetry under the name Amnesia Glasscock. (2)

Titles of the 1-3 “texts” by this person you’ll discuss in your paper:

1. Harvest Gypsies: on the road to the Grapes of Wrath (1936)

2. In Dubious Battle (1936)

3. Of Mice and Men (1937)

What primary research have you done?
I found analysis of the three texts in New York Times (Historical), and photographs Steinbeck's life in AP Images.

Major influences on this person’s work:
Edward Ricketts, Ella Winter, Lincoln Steffens, and Carol Henning Steinbeck. (1, 4)
Steinbeck had a long and deep friendship with Edward Ricketts, a marine biologist. (1)
Carol Steinbeck was first Steinbeck's wife. She was also a writer and edited some of Steinbeck's works.
Lincoln Steffens and his wife Ella Winter mentored John Steinbeck. (1)

Connections with other parlor figures:

a. Friends, people who work together, people in the same circle:
Harvest Gypsies was published with the photographs taken by Dorothea Lange.
Pascal Covici was Steinbeck's publisher. (5)

b. political or artistic allies:
Will Rogers and John Steinbeck had similar views during 1930s.

c. political or artistic opponents:
Mary McCarthy said that Steinbeck was a bad and dishonest writer. (5)

d. other connections:
Charlie Chaplin was a hollywood fan of Steinbeck's works. They became friends.

Works Cited
  1. "John Steinbeck." Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. 7 Sep 2011. Wikimedia Foundation. 11 Sep 2011. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Steinbeck
  2. "John Steinbeck's Career and Books." Oprah. Oprah's Book Club, 03 September 2008. Web. 11 Sep 2011.
  3. "John Steinbeck> Quotes." goodreads. Goodreads Inc. Web. 11 Sep 2011
  4. Shillinglaw, Susan. "Steinbeck, John." Feb 2000. American National Biography. Web. 11 Sep 2011.
  5. Steinbeck, John. In Dubious Battle. New York: Penguin Books, 2006. Print.

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