In The Wayward Bus (1947), Steinbeck leads a group of ill-matched passengers representing a spectrum of social types and classes, stranded by a washed-out bridge, on a circuitous journey that exposes cruelties, self-deceptions, and unsuspected moral strengths. The tone ranges from boisterous comedy to trenchant satirical observation of postwar America. Burning Bright (1950), an allegory set against shifting backgrounds (circus, sea, farm) and revolving around the fear of sterility and the desire for self-perpetuation, marks Steinbeck’s involvement with the drama in its fusion of the forms of novel and play.
Sweet Thursday (1954) marks Steinbeck’s return, in a mood of sometimes frothy comedy, to the characters and milieu of his earlier Cannery Row. A love story set against the background of the local brothel, the Bear Flag, Sweet Thursday is for all its intimations of melancholy one of the most lighthearted of Steinbeck’s books. It was subsequently adapted by Rodgers and Hammerstein into their musical Pipe Dream. Steinbeck’s final novel, The Winter of Our Discontent (1961) is set in an old Long Island whaling town modeled on Sag Harbor, where he had been spending time since 1953. The book breaks new ground in its depiction of the crass commercialism of contemporary America, and its impact on a protagonist with traditionalist values who is appalled but finally tempted by the encroaching sleaziness.
Travels with Charley in Search of America (1962) was Steinbeck’s last published book. A record of his experiences and observations as he drove around America in a pickup truck, accompanied by his standard poodle Charley, it is filled with engaging, often humorous description and comes to a powerful climax in an encounter with racist demonstrators in New Orleans.
About the Author
One of the leading American novelists of the 20th century, John Steinbeck (1902-1968) grew up in the fertile Salinas Valley in California, an environment that served as a setting for some of his best-loved books. Several of his most powerful novels, including Cannery Row, Of Mice and Men, and The Grapes of Wrath, focus on the plight of California’s laboring class, while East of Eden is an ambitious family saga. Steinbeck received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1962.
Date of Birth:February 27, 1902
Date of Death:December 20, 1968
Place of Birth:Salinas, California
Place of Death:New York, New York
Education:Attended Stanford University intermittently between 1919 and 1925
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