America And Americans By John Steinbeck Essay

In placing Steinbeck’s “productive ambivalence” (9) at center stage, this companion to the intersections of Steinbeck’s literary and political journeys wisely nudges us toward a fuller appreciation of the writer and his work. See Elaine Steinbeck and Robert Wallsten’s collection John Steinbeck: A Life in Letters, (Viking, 1975; Penguin, 1989) and Jackson Benson’s finely detailed biography, John Steinbeck, Writer (New York: Penguin, 1990, and Viking, 1984).__________ David Wrobel holds the Merrick Chair in Western American History at the University of Oklahoma.Other essays examine Steinbeck’s legacy in the work of Bruce Springsteen, , or of Steinbeck’s powerful defense of playwright Arthur Miller in 1957 against the charges of the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), or of the political backdrop of the Cold War more generally .

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His writings have generally covered the early part of 20th century America, its culture, its history, and its problems, and this particular collection of essays is no different, though he does focus on the present more than the past.

In , Steinbeck records his skepticism about America and her future, a skepticism grounded in love that doesn’t take away from his patriotism but rather adds to it.

He visited Vietnam from December 1966 to May 1967, where one of his two sons was serving, and wrote a series of dispatches, supportive of LBJ’s policies and critical of anti-war protests, though he would change his position on the war before he died.

In short, Steinbeck’s writings serve as a remarkable guide through the controversies and complications that marked American politics and culture in the middle third of the twentieth century.

Reading this book will give you a sense of what such a jump might be like.

Steinbeck wrote this work at one of the peaks of our nation’s racial struggles (other peaks being the height of slavery, the Emancipation, and the violent troubles we’re currently seeing throughout many states today), and he reconfirms what he had previously written in (published in 1962), that he loves “the negroes” and that it’s about time we all got along.While less productive in the fifties, that decade did see the appearance of one of Steinbeck’s most successful and enduring novels, (1962), an effort to come to grips with his growing sense of alienation resulting from the pace of post-war change.He was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in late 1962, over the lamentable protestations of some American critics, and then re-affirmed his deep attachment to the nation a few years later in a collection of essays on aspects of national life and character, (1966).C.” the more brainwashed and “tolerant” our people become), and in this, I think Steinbeck does a superb job.Aesthetically, I must note that the photographs splattered throughout my copy (published in October 1968) are way too dark and difficult to see. Also absent, among the essayists themselves, are representatives of an older and still active generation of groundbreaking Steinbeck scholars, including Robert De Mott, and some leading representatives of the current generation, including Susan Shillinglaw and Kevin Hearle, whose perspectives on the politics of race and place would have augmented the volume nicely.Nonetheless, for all the anthology’s voids, it does achieve the editors’ and contributors’ goal of illuminating the complexities of Steinbeck’s political thought and underscoring the enduring contributions of his work.It is worth considering that Steinbeck (1902-1968), contrary to the dismissive evaluations of most literary critics, remained a force in American cultural life for three decades after what have been labeled his “years of greatness,” from 1936-1939—a remarkably productive period marked by the publication of .During the World War II years Steinbeck was subjected to federal background investigations, even as he worked to advance the nation’s cause, writing the much maligned, yet truly impactful novel and play (1942) (a thoroughly positive account of a U. Air Force bomber team), as well as traveling to England in June 1943, and on to North Africa, Sicily, and the Italian mainland to report on the war for the New York (1945), which might be considered the first novel of the American counterculture.He starts each portion discussing one specific topic, but then meanders into other, seemingly unrelated issues, though by the end he somehow finds a way to take all his diverging thoughts and tie them together in a unified tapestry, just as they are already tied into the fabric of the great American nation that he’s trying to portray.His varied thoughts and personal opinions match the reality of America and Americans in general, the melting pot that we are (though that description is becoming less and less “P.


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