America And Americans By John Steinbeck Essay

Sadly, even with an African-American President in office for the past seven years, even that still seems to be wishful thinking for a society going farther and farther down the tubes.

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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.

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.

Steinbeck may not be read much in the academy, but he remains widely read outside of it.

His deep and abiding dedication to the betterment of humanity and the nurturing of human relations through his art is too literally and literarily low brow for most of the arbiters of the cannon.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.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.I hope they’ve figured out a way to improve them for newer editions. Stow identifies an ambivalence about nation, government, community, and individualism that characterizes Steinbeck’s works, confounds his critics, and helps explain both their consternation and the enduring popularity of his work among readers outside of the academy.Yet, while extremists on the right and the left attacked his work (from and beyond) vehemently, a significant segment of the reading public has always felt deeply connected to it.Steinbeck conveyed, probably better than any other writer of his day, the common strivings of Americans during the Depression, War War II, and the post-war decades, and in so doing he continually sparked the appreciation of working class people and the conscience of the middle class, as well as the disdain of many members of the literary class.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).


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