John SteinbeckA novelist is someone who writes novels, or writes a fancy work of fiction which often has a complicated plot, many major and minor characters, a significant theme, and several varied settings. A novelist will use literary devices such as characterization, tone, symbolism, imagery, and figurative language. John Steinbeck, an American novelist, uses many literary devices such as metaphors, similes, imagery, and figurative language along with excellent descriptive words to develop his characters and vividly describe their surroundings. His masterly of these and other techniques, in my opinion, is why John Steinbeck’s novels, like The Grape’s of Wrath and Of Mice and Men, have survived the test of time.
John’s writing style was developed from the experiences in his life; this may be why he is so interesting to read, because John has had an interesting life. John Steinbeck was born on February 27, 1902 in the Salinas Fertile Valley, California. His father, John Ernst Steinbeck, was a simple farmer and the treasurer of Monterey County, California. His mother, Olive Hamilton Steinbeck, was a school teacher and she was the one person who was responsible for introducing him to the wonderful world of famous literature. She also read and taught him Shakespeare and other famous writers. John Steinbeck had two younger sisters, Ester and Elizabeth. John grew up in Salinas on a farm and was surrounded by animals and other forms of nature, this is the main reason that John had such a love of all forms of nature and wildlife. He graduated from Salinas High School in 1919 and then went to Standford University in 1920. At Standford he published “The Standford Spectatorm,” his first short story. During a break from Standford, John got a job on Spreckel’s Ranch near Salinas. While he worked there, he was able to observe firsthand the lives of “bindle stiffs” and “ranch bosses”. These observations would later on become the characters in Of Mice and Men. John eventually dropped out of Standford University and began his career as a full-time writer. In 1930, Steinbeck meet Ed Ricketts, who soon is to be his life-long friend. Also that year, he married his sweetheart, Ms. Carol Henning. He then moved to Pacific Grove to find a publisher for A God Unknown. He failed to find a publisher but that did not stop him and he began writing stories for Pastures of Heaven. While writing this short story, he met another man that also became his friend for live by the name of Joseph Campbell. Joseph was a Jungian and a mythologist. He also was the person responsible for getting Steinbeck’s Pastures of Heaven published later that year. In 1933, Joseph also helped publish To a God Unknown and The Red Pony Stories. 1934 was an extremely tragic year for Mr. Steinbeck, the year began good when his story, “The Murder”, appeared in O. Henry Prize Stories. Later that year, John was dealt a tremendous blow when his mother died. John was so upset that he did not write anything for another year. Then when he began to recover and start writing again, his father died in 1936. At that time, John Steinbeck was about half way through writing Of Mice and Men. Again because of John’s despair, he was not able to finish this book right away. But finally he was able to finish it in 1937, and it was published and became his first best seller. In 1939, Steinbeck’s had his favorite year, John was elected to The National Institute of Arts and Letters. He also published his Pulitzer Prize winning novel The Grapes of Wraith. The year of 1944 had many ups and downs for John Steinbeck. A wonderful event was the birth of his first son on the second of August. John had to fight to have his name removed from the credits of Lifeboat because he believed he did not believe in racism and he believed it was involved and promoted in the film. In 1962, Steinbeck was honored again with the award of The Nobel Prize in literature.
John Steinbeck’s use of Charicterization and Imagery can easily be show through his best selling novel Of Mice and Men. The book Of Mice and Men is about loneliness and the need for companionship. Steinbeck has said that he wrote this novel along with most of his other novels, to challenge his readers sense of values and morals and also to increase there awareness of the horrible things that people are capable of doing. The title of the book was taken from a poem that was written by Robert Burns that goes like this:
“But, Mousie, thou art no thy lane
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best laid schemes of mice and men
Gang aft agley,
And leave us nought but grief and pain
For promised joy.”
In the novel, George Milton travels with his companion Lennie Smalles. George Milton was a small serious man who always looked after his traveling companion Lennie Smalls. Lennie Smalls was a large, mentally handicapped man who was George’s loyal follower and friend. Lennie’s uncontrollable impulses and ignorance continually got him into trouble and eventually cause his downfall. John vividly describes these two main characters, in a perfect example of characterization, on page two of his novel. The quote goes as follows:
“Both wore black, shapeless hats and both carried tight blanket roles thrown over there shoulder. The first man was small and quick, dark of face, with restless eyes and sharp strong features…. Behind him walked his opposite a huge man, shapeless face, with large pale eyes, with wide sloping shoulders, and he walked heavily, dragging his feet a little, the way a bear drags his paws.”
This illustration reveals just how well Steinbeck describes his characters. With the descriptions and literary devices, such as metaphors and similes, the characters seem to come to life for the reader. John’s vivid descriptions of nature really help the reader see the surroundings in his novels. The following quote starts of the book Of Mice and Men and contains some of the most descriptive language, and imagery in the hole book.
“A few miles south of the soledad, the Salinas River drops in close to the hillside bank and runs deep and green. The water is warm too: for it has slipped twinkling in the yellow sands before reaching the narrow pool. On one side the golden foothill slopes curve up to the strong and rocky Gabilan Mountains but on the valley side the water is lined with trees – willows fresh and green with every spring, carrying in there lower leafs the debris of the withers flooding: and sycamores with mottled, white recombered limbs and branches that are over the pool.”
This and other examples in Of Mice and Men show just how well John Steinbeck describes the settings that are in his novels.
Many other writers have analyzed John’s work. Most writers would have to agree with me on my opinion of his writing technique. One of these writers writes: