John Steinbeck was born in Salinas, California in 1902 and attended Stanford University intermittently between 1920 and 1926. Steinbeck did not graduate from Stanford, but chose to support himself through manual labor instead while writing. His experiences among the working classes in California lent authenticity to his depiction of the lives of the workers who are the central characters of his most important novels. Steinbeck spent much of his life in Monterey County, which later was the setting of some of his fiction.
Steinbeck\'s first novel, "Cup of Gold" was published in 1929, and was followed three years later by "The Pastures of Heaven" and, in 1933, "To a God Unknown". However, these first three novels were unsuccessful both critically and commercially. Steinbeck had his first success with "Tortilla Flat" in 1935, an affectionately told story of Mexican-Americans told with gentle humor. His subsequent novel, "In Dubious Battle" (1936) was marked by an unrelenting grimness. This novel is a classic account of a strike by agricultural laborers and a pair of Marxist labor organizers who engineer it, and is the first Steinbeck novel to encompass the striking social commentary of his most notable work. Steinbeck received even greater acclaim for the novella "Of Mice and Men" (1937), a tragic story about the strange, complex bond between two migrant laborers. His crowning achievement, "The Grapes of Wrath", won Steinbeck the Pulitzer Prize, a National Book Award. It was also adapted into a classic film directed by John Ford that was named one of the American Film Institute\'s one hundred greatest films. The novel describes the migration of a dispossessed family from the Oklahoma Dust Bowl to California and describes their subsequent exploitation by a ruthless system of agricultural economics.
After the best-selling success of "The Grapes of Wrath", Steinbeck went to Mexico to get marine life with the freelance biologist Edward F. Ricketts, and the two men collaborated in writing "Sea of Cortez" (1941), a study of the fauna of the Gulf of California. During the Second World War, Steinbeck wrote some effective pieces of government propaganda, among them "The Moon Is Down" (1942), a novel about Norwegians under the Nazis. He also served as a war correspondent. With the end of World War II and the move from the Great Depression to economic prosperity Steinbeck\'s work did soften somewhat. While containing the elements of social criticism that marked his earlier work, the three novels Steinbeck published immediately following the war ¬ "Cannery Row" (1945), "The Pearl" and "The Bus" (both 1947) were more sentimental and relaxed in approach. Steinbeck also contributed to several screenplays. He wrote the original stories for several films, including "Lifeboat" (1944), directed by Alfred Hitchcock, and "A Medal for Benny", and wrote the screenplay for Elia Kazan\'s "Viva Zapata!", a biographical film about Emiliano Zapata, the Mexican peasant who rose to the presidency. Steinbeck\'s later writings were comparatively slight works of entertainment and journalism, but he did make conscientious attempts to reassert his stature as a major novelist: "Burning Bright" (1950), "East of Eden" (1952), and "The Winter of Our Discontent" (1961). None of these works equaled the critical reputation of his earlier novels. Steinbeck\'s reputation depends mostly on the naturalistic novels with proletarian themes he wrote during the Depression. It is in these works that Steinbeck is not effective in his building of rich symbolic structures and his attempts at conveying the archetypal qualities of his characters. Steinbeck received the Nobel Prize for literature in 1962, and died in New York City in 1968.
Next to "The Grapes of Wrath" also "Mice and Men" and "East of Eden" were turned into famous movies.
John Steinbeck wass married three times. From 1930 till 1942 to Carol Henning, From 1943 till 1948 to Gwyndolyn Conger and from 1950 on to Elaine Scott. With his second wife he also had two sons. Steinbeck liked writing, but he didn´t liked the fame connected with it. He hardly ever gave interviews and never wanted reporters to know anything about his private life. Among his friends there were famous men like Elia Kazan, Arthur Miller and John Houston.