John Steinbeck was born in Salinas, California in 1902 and attended Stanford University intermittently between 1920 and 1926. Steinbeck did not graduate from Stanford, but instead chose to support himself through manual labor while writing. His experiences among the working classes in California lent authenticity to his depiction of the lives of the workers who are the central characters of his most important novels. Steinbeck spent much of his life in Monterey County, which later was the setting of some of his fiction.
Steinbeck's first novel, Cup of Gold was published in 1929, and was followed three years later by The Pastures of Heaven and, in 1933, To a God Unknown. However, these first three novels were unsuccessful both critically and commercially. Steinbeck had his first success with Tortilla Flat in 1935, an affectionately told story of Mexican-Americans told with gentle humor. Nevertheless, his subsequent novel, In Dubious Battle (1936) was marked by an unrelenting grimness.
This novel is a classic account of a strike by agricultural laborers and a pair of Marxist labor organizers who engineer it, and is the first Steinbeck novel to encompass the striking social commentary of his most notable work. Steinbeck received even greater acclaim for the novella Of Mice and Men (1937), a tragic story about the strange, complex bond between two migrant laborers. His crowning achievement, The Grapes of Wrath, won Steinbeck a Pulitzer Prize, a National Book Award. It was also adapted into a classic film directed by John Ford that was name one of the American Film Institute's one hundred greatest films. The novel describes the migration of a dispossessed family from the Oklahoma Dust Bowl to California and critiques their subsequent exploitation by a ruthless system of agricultural economics.
After the best-selling success of The Grapes of Wrath, Steinbeck went...