John Steinbeck (February 27, 1902 — December 20, 1968) was an American writer of the 20th century. His representative works include “Of Mice and Men”, “the Grapes of Wrath”, “the Moon Went Down”, “East of Eden”, “Winter of Trouble” and many more great American classics. John Steinbeck was born in Salinas, California, in 1902. His father, John Ernst Steinbeck, moved west after the Civil War to run a flour mill and served as treasurer for the Monterey County government for many years. His mother Olivia Hamilton was an elementary school teacher. Steinbeck read a lot in his childhood. He later graduated from high school in 1919, serving as class President in school. Steinbeck mostly spent his holidays on the nearby ranch as a hired farm hand.
In Steinbeck’s literary world, the observation and description of various living states under the poor material conditions of human beings have a prominent and decisive position. This is a common feature of his novels (including most of his journalistic and documentary works). He contemplates about the essential problem of human existence and even the transcendent dilemmas of society. In Steinbeck’s novel, “poverty” mainly refers to a state of extreme material deprivation. Steinbeck’s characters generally live in a state of considerable material deprivation — or rather, he persists in depicting the conditions of human poverty. In this specific creation, his writing about the causes of poverty directly correlates to the characteristic theme of realism. Steinbeck’s deep obsession with poverty and his discussion of it exemplify his artistic concerns and is reflected through many of his writings.
The Works of John Steinbeck are available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. They can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.
What if your family had no choice but to pack up all your belongings into a small car and travel a thousand miles on the road? And the destination is no place like home? What would you do?
Set in the “Dirty Thirties” during the Dust Bowl in Oklahoma, the Grapes of Wrath highlights the Joad family as they plan their new future in California, where workers are needed. In their eyes, California is their dream land and the rumored “Promised Land.” The family of thirteen people pack their necessities and are determined to take on the rigorous road to California.
Tom Joad, one of the main characters, leads his family through the obstacles on the road that include starvation and extreme heat. Each family member looks onto the road while facing internal and external challenges. The novel essentially teaches the importance of holding onto dignity and hope during hardships. The Joad family not only maintain hope for a better future, but they also unite together as a family.
Steinbeck additionally embraces the ideal American dream that, in reality, starts within the individuals with hope and determination. His use of symbols and literary devices portray the motif of endurance.
Overall, Steinbeck’s novel makes the reader go on his or her own journey while reading about the up’s and down’s of the Joads. At the end of the long path, the reader realizes that the obstacles they had to face teach them more about their ultimate destination.
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.
Sweet Thursday is basically a continuation of the book Cannery Row. In this book, Mack and his friends are trying to save their dear friend Doc from his unknown depression.
Fauna, the new owner of the brothel was introduced. She is pretty, kind and most important, smart. Even though she doesn’t know how nice and helpful she is. Fauna really detests it when people say “I love you” to her. It was very shocking to me that such an amazing woman isn’t married.
If you ask me who is my favorite character in this book, I will certainly point my finger at Suzy. Again, she is another new character in this book. Suzy is a very wild girl. She is frank, uneducated but also can be very girly when it comes to the man that she loves who is Doc. This whole entire book really touched me because I didn’t know that Suzy can be respectful to Doc. But thanks to God that Doc realized he loves Suzy and brought her back to him. I am really excited to see another gold star on the wall of the brothel which has the name “Suzy” on it representing that she is married.
Sweet Thursday by John Steinbeck is available for checkout from the Misson Viejo Library.
Mack and his boys are living in the flophouse that they bought from Lee Cong, a Chinese grocery man with a pair of judicious eyes. Except for some special occasions, they just stay home and play with their dog, Darling, a puppy who was never housebroken. Their favorite thing changed from drinking whiskey to catching frogs for their best friend Doc.
Doc has always been a genial man who never gets mad at anyone, except for Mack. His friendliness doesn’t necessarily mean that he is stupid, in fact, he is very shrewd. The only time that he was roiled was when Mack tried to give him a party, but because it was such an orgy that Doc’s house was almost broken into pieces. And Mack received a few punches and a lot of kicks as a gift back from Doc.
Having friends like Mack and the boys really is a wonderful thing, even though they ruined your house the intention was good. But I know that Doc must have been lonely for many years since he never got married until he met the girl laying on the beach. At last, I really liked the part when they had another party for Doc, though the results are exactly the same. Mack and his boys are all tall like giants, but they are all children inside the heart of Doc.
Cannery Row by John Steinbeck is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.
Picture Bride, a novel by Yoshiko Uchida, is the story of a teenage girl named Hana who is sent to America. She carries a picture of a man she has been arranged to marry but has yet to meet. Traveling an ocean away from her once noble Japanese family, Hana is promised that in America, she will live a life of comfort with her merchant husband, Taro Takeda. Hana is devastated when she finds not a successful merchant in San Francisco, but an impoverished shopkeeper who can barely provide for himself. However, despite her many trials, Hana and her husband learn to be happy in a marriage that seemed doomed to fail. San Francisco was not kind to Japanese immigrants in the mid-twentieth century, and Hana soon found herself faced with racism and hardships, all leading up to the one event that would change her life: the Japanese internment camps.
This novel has become one of my all time favorites, not only because of the wonderful writing style that Uchida uses, but because of his portrayal of Hana Takeda. Hana shows us rare insight into the mind of a young immigrant woman. Forced into a situation that she cannot control, Hana learns to adapt to a society that seems out to get her from the moment she sets foot on its shores. In her time period, women’s rights, especially those of an immigrant woman, were stifled. Hana was expected to be a homemaker and a mother. Graceful and dignified, Hana dares to quietly go against the norms of her culture and become an independent woman who struggles to adapt to a foreign nation and values.
Picture Bride by Yoshiko Uchida is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.
In a world where most people are loners comes a tale of two marvelous friends and the obstacles that cross their paths. It’s 1930’s California in the Salinas Valley. Most men who come through are looking for one thing: work. All of them travel from farm to farm, working alone.
This is not true for George Milton and Lennie Small. After being kicked out of Weed because of something Lennie did, they travel together on to the next farm with hopes and dreams of money to buy land: a few acre land with a small house and freedom from the bosses and a little patch for Lennie’s rabbits (he’s really obsessed with rabbits). There on the next farm they met people with hopes and dreams, and learn the basis for reality: dreams will get crushed.
This story is far by one of my favorites. Although (spoiler) the ending is quite sad, there are times when I laughed hard. By the way, the mice part is a metaphor: there is only one mouse, and it’s dead. The title comes from the poem “To a Mouse, On Turning up her Nest with a Plough”: “The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men” go astray, saying that we have hopes and dreams, but something shatters them (which describes the book very well).
Steinbeck worked on a farm once, so he knows, and describes very well, the life on a farm in 1930 or so. At times, it’s also a little hard to read because of the Californian accent. However, some good advice is to say it out loud. For example, “purty” is actually “pretty”. Even so, I encourage you to read this book! After I read it, I gave it a two thumbs up. Interestingly, the characters talk about a “cat house” a lot. It’s meaning is actually something different in modern times.
-Megan V., 9th grade