How Steinbeck Explores Human Consciousness in The Grapes of Wrath
The investigation of the human consciousness, free will, and intelligence was the basis of the Modern literary movement. Of which John Steinbeck played a major role. Much of Steinbeck’s personal life impacted the way he formulated his novels and short stories which related to American Society and cultural development from his historic perspective. While his novel Grapes of Wrath garnered a Pulitzer Prize, East of Eden is still widely read across the globe for its character-driven modern naturalistic style. Steinbeck was born in the Salinas Valley in California in 1902. The Salinas Valley played a major role in many of his works. For example, in East of Eden, the valley was the main setting of the novel and many other novels where the characters would relate to the setting for its rough terrain, arid climate, and dry soil. “The geography and demographics of Steinbeck’shometown greatly influenced the majority of his novels and informed his characters’ strong identification with the land” (John Steinbeck – Biography). Steinbeck went to college but soon dropped out and afterward, he held many jobs including rancher and railroad worker. Through his many jobs, he met many people from all walks of life. Steinbeck traveled west looking for stories and came upon a hobo camp for WWI vets and asked if anyone had any tales to share. One gentleman stepped up and spoke of a time when we was lost and famished in the Oregonterrain and came upon a shack with a man and woman who was breastfeeding. The manSnow2convinced his wife to let the collapsed man to feed from her breast.
“Steinbeck listened to the story and then paid the man two dollars, saying, “Thanks I can use that.” (Verde102). Steinbeck was also a follower of the Christian community and was very fond of the Bible and its stories within. Many of his works reference back to the bible. In East of Eden, it tells the story of Cain and Able and how they fought against good versus evil. Also, the evil impulses from within us. Steinbeck’s family history is the premise of the storyline that embodies the biblical story of Cain and Able who were the first offspring of Adam and Eve. How he grew up with his family values shaped what he wrote about in his books. Before writing East of Eden, he and his third wife traveled extensively which broadened his perspective. Throughout the years and many novels and short stories later, he managed to imbed what was happening in his life within his works.In a family tree, evil will produce evil and cannot overcome genetic circumstances. The many themes of Steinbeck’s works included identity through land ownership, disregard of nature, innovations of men, friendship, and rebellion. “The period covered by the novel was a time of growth in areas for the United States” (Students135). Steinbeck wanted to show the struggles of the blue-collar class and the American Dream and how it is not always how we pictured it to be. “The framework for this theme is the story of Cain and Able in the biblical book Genesis” (Students135).
The author wanted to show the readers that everything relates back to the bible and by doing so, he showed the American people that faith is always the right path but it might be a bumpy road. “Impressed by in Dubious Battle, an editor at the SanFrancisco News asked Steinbeck to write a series of articles on the plight of the migrant workers, or “Okies,” who had been forced to emigrate from such Midwestern Dust Bowl states in search of work in California” (Verde106). Steinbeck wanted to show the readers the struggle of theSnow3working class and by writing these articles he showed what it was like living and being in a lower class. “The period between the 1870s and 1890s is often known as the Gilded Age, during which aggressive individualism and the spirit of optimism fueled national growth”(Students136). This was a time when the nation as a whole was prospering together. Steinbeck refers to the bible in East of Eden in many instances such as the main theme of the book of good vs. evil. You can choose the path you want just like Cal did or you can choose evil like Cathy and many characters before her. “He believes it demonstrates that humans have free will and can triumph over sin if they choose to do so” (Students127). Awareness to oppression of certain ethnic groups was another point that Steinbeck continuously pointed out to the readers. For example, Lee in East of Eden, was assumed to be less intelligent because of his ethnicity but if he spoke proper English he would not be understood. “The trouble with speaking pidgin is that you get into thinking in pidgin. I write a great deal to keep my English up. Hearing and reading are not the same as speaking and writing” (Steinbeck162). While his novel Grapes of Wrath garnered a Pulitzer Prize, East of Eden is still widely read for its character-driven modern naturalistic style. “In America, when injustice was exposed, the messenger got blamed. The Associated Farmers, the banks, the agribusiness men, the vested interests slandered Steinbeck with every distortion they could think up” (Bloom46). At this moment of global economic adversity, when the whole nation is gripped with financial recession symbolized by “Homerville’s” on the outskirts of major cities. Steinbeck would show the readers the troubles of migrant workers and the hardships that they go through every day. Steinbeck shed light on the good vs. evil topic in East of Eden because now the readers know that they can choose to be good and follow a righteous path. Many families within the SalinasValley struggle with good overcoming evil and vise versa. Also, the general public took toSnow4Steinbeck’s work because the relationship that the people had with his stories. “Telling the story of dispossessed Oklahoma family and their struggle to carve out a new life in California at the height of the Great Depression, the book captured the mood and angst of the nation during this time period” (Bio1). America loved Steinbeck’s works and praised him for his contributions to the American literary society.
Steinbeck was writing in a naturalistic way during a modern time. He was praised for his work because the point of view had changed to a lesser class during hard times. This opened the eyes of Americans and made them aware of issues that Steinbeck wrote about. ”At the height of its popularity, The Grapes of Wrath sold 10,000 copies per week. The work eventually earned Steinbeck a Pulitzer Prize in 1940” (Bio1). Many readers were hoping for the next big Grapes of Wrath but the anticipation took a personal toll on Steinbeckbut soon afterward, he wrote what he wanted. He was writing for himself and for his love of telling great stories. John Steinbeck admired many of his contemporaries. He always liked the way that Ernest Hemingway wrote and that influenced his style. Steinbeck had many other works such as Grapes of Wrath, Of Mice and Men, and The Pearl. These works continue to be read throughout schools worldwide which open the doors to future readers and writer. There have been many adaptations to Steinbeck’s works that were made into movies, plays, and shorts that have been well received. Steinbeck wanted to write about interesting stories and in the end, he got what he wanted. John Steinbeck’s works throughout the years have become a household name. His beliefs and thoughts contained in his many books and short stories that have been published millions of times. He has taught us many lesson that good can overcome evil if you choose the right path. American society will never be the same since Steinbeck’s works have shaped the way human consciousness works.
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The investigation of the human consciousness, free will, and intelligence was the basis of the Modern literary movement. Of which John Steinbeck played a major role. Much of Steinbeck’s personal […]