John Steinbeck biography
Born On This Day
John Steinbeck was born on this day in 1902.
Best Known ForJohn Steinbeck was a Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist whose book The Grapes of Wrath portrayed the plight of migrant workers during the Depression.
QuizThink you know about Biography?
Answer questions and see how you rank against other players.
Born February 27, 1902, in Salinas, California, John Steinbeck dropped out of college and worked as a manual laborer before achieving success as a writer. His novel The Grapes of Wrath—about the migration of a family from the Oklahoma Dust Bowl to California—won a Pulitzer Prize and a National Book Award. Steinbeck served as a war correspondent during World War II. He died in 1968.
"We are lonesome animals. We spend all our life trying to be less lonesome."
– John Steinbeck
For the most part Steinbeck, who grew up with three sisters, had a happy childhood. He was shy but smart and early in his life formed an appreciation for the land, and in particular California's Salinas Valley, which would greatly inform his later writing. According to accounts, Steinbeck made the decision at the age of 14 to become a writer and often locked himself in his bedroom to write poems and stories. In 1919 Steinbeck enrolled at Stanford University. But Steinbeck seems to have had little use for college.
He viewed himself strictly as a writer, and his decision to go to Stanford was made more to please his parents than anything else. Over the next six years Steinbeck drifted in out of school, eventually dropping out for good in 1925 without a degree.
His follow-up novels, The Pastures of Heaven (1932) and To a God Unknown (1933), received tepid reviews. It wasn't until Tortilla Flat (1935), a humorous novel about paisano life in the Monterrey region, that the writer achieved real success. Steinbeck struck a more serious tone with In Dubious Battle (1936), Of Mice and Men (1937) and The Long Valley (1938), a collection of short stories.
What is widely considered his finest, most ambitious novel, The Grapes of Wrath, was published in 1939. The book, about a dispossessed Oklahoma family and its struggle to carve out a new life in California at the height of the Depression, captured the mood and angst of the nation during this time period. At the height of its popularity, The Grapes of Wrath sold 10,000 copies a week. It eventually earned Steinbeck a Pulitzer Prize in 1940.