Tag Archives: John Steinbeck

Year of READING Dangerously: #5 Of Mice and Men

Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck has been banned or challenged since its publication in 1937.

Of Mice and Men

Parents wishing to ban the book from the Community High School of Normal, Illinois in  2003  give a typical challenge:

the novel … contains “racial slurs, profanity, violence, and does not represent traditional values.” [120 Banned Books]

And it does, but this relatively short piece of fiction is also a terrific bit of lit.

Steinbeck wrote it as a ‘novel-play’ in three acts with two chapters (or scenes) in each act. So it isn’t surprising that the Of Mice and Men has been adapted for the stage, screen (large and small) and radio. It has even been turned into an opera. The dialog certainly reads like a dramatic stage play. It is gritty and hard scrabbled like the men to utter it.

On our matrix of why a book might be banned Of Mice and Men checks lots of boxes: Racism, Offensive Language, Alcohol, Sexually Explicit, Political Viewpoint, and Violence.

Steinbeck’s utopian dream for Lenny and George of one day owning their own little farm, of living off the land and not being beholding to a boss has been called out by some.

Censors claim that the novel contains crude heroes who speak vulgar language and whose experience exhibit a sadly deficient social system in the United States  [Ibid]

The book was challenged in Chattanooga, Tennessee, because “Steinbeck is known to have had an anti-buisness attitude.” [Ibid]

 

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John Steinbeck 2.27.13 Thought of the Day

“Power does not corrupt. Fear corrupts… perhaps the fear of a loss of power.” — John Steinbeck

English: John Steinbeck

English: John Steinbeck (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

John Ernst Steinbeck, Jr. was born on this day in Salinas, California in 1902. Today is the 111st anniversary of his birth.

John Steinbeck home

John Steinbeck home (Photo credit: sjb4photos)

His father was the treasurer for Monterey County, California. His mother, who had been a school teacher, instilled a love a reading and writing in he young Steinbeck. He graduated from high school in 1919 and went to Stanford University.
He worked his way through college at Stanford University but never graduated. In 1925 he went to New York, where he tried for a few years to establish himself as a free-lance writer, but he failed and returned to California. [Nobel Prize.org]
Back on California he met and married his first wife,Carol Henning, but he struggled to find work as a writer. For the first few years of the Great Depression his parents supported the junior Steinbecks and gave them a cottage to live in.  “Steinbeck first became widely known with Tortilla Flat (1935), a series of humorous stories about Monterey paisanos.” [Ibid]
Of Mice and Men

Of Mice and Men (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The 1930s was …
his most productive decade, he wrote several novels about his native California, including Tortilla Flat (1935), set in Monterey; In Dubious Battle (1936), about fruit-pickers on strike in a California valley; and Of Mice and Men (1937), set on a ranch in Soledad, southeast of Steinbeck’s birth town. [Writer’s Almanac]
He had worked on local farms and ranches during the summers when he was growing up and he wrote from that first hand observation of the  struggles of migrants and farm workers in his novels.
Cover of "The Grapes of Wrath"

Cover of The Grapes of Wrath

In 1939 he published what is considered his best work, The Grapes of Wrath, the story of Oklahoma tenant farmers who, unable to earn a living from the land, moved to California where they became migratory workers. [Nobel Prize.org]
He won a Pulitzer Prize for the novel.
Steinbeck became a war correspondent for the  New York Herald Tribune during World War II. He wrote from the Mediterranean and North Africa. He collected some of those stories in There Was a War.
Cover of "Viva Zapata! [Region 2]"

Cover of Viva Zapata! [Region 2]

After the war he wrote Cannery Row and  the screenplay for Lifeboat for Alfred Hitchcock. He recycled his characters from Tortilla Flat for the film A Medal for Benny. And he wrote The Pearl, which also was turned quickly into a movie. Followed by the screenplay for  Viva Zapata!
East of Eden (novel)

East of Eden (novel) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

He considered his next novel, East of Eden, his masterpiece. Other late works include …
The Winter of Our Discontent (1961), and Travels with Charley (1962), a travelogue in which Steinbeck wrote about his impressions during a three-month tour in a truck that led him through forty American states. He died in New York City in 1968. [Nobel Prize.org]
Steinbeck won “Nobel Prize in literature for his “realistic and imaginative writing, combining as it does sympathetic humor and keen social perception.” [Writer’s Almanac] in 1962.
He died six years later, in 1968,  of congestive heart failure in New York City.

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