Steinbeck wrote particularly about the Salinas-Monterey area, describing the migrants and Mexican workers, the illiterate and the oppressed. His novels depict the tragedies of the poor with scientific naturalism, but they are also pastoral and imaginative, imbued with nostalgia for a primitive and simple life. His dialogues reflect the speech patterns of the rural labourers while his prose is often lyrical and shows the influence of folk tales in its use of repetition and rhythm.
Steinbeck’s first novel, Cup of Gold was published in 1929, but attracted little attention.
● His two subsequent novels, The Pastures of Heaven (1932) and To a God Unknown (1933), were also poorly received by the literary world.
● Tortilla Flat (1935), a sentimental and humorous tale about the lives of California peasants, marked the turning point in Steinbeck’s literary career.
Of Mice and Men (1937) by John Ernst Steinbeck is about landless rural workers in California during the Great Depression. Two migrant workers come to a ranch near Soledad, south-east of Salinas. They are George Milton, an intelligent and cynical man, and Lennie Small, a kind (gentile), tall man with an immense strength, but mentally retarded. They dream to get enough money to build their own ranch. Lennie in particular hopes to have soft things on the farm, like mice (topi) or rabbits (conigli), to care and look after. The dream seems to become true at the ranch, and also Candy, an old who helps in the ranch, asks them to become their possible future partner. Unfortunately the dream break down (si infrange) because Lennie accidentally kills the young and attractive wife of Curley, the ranch owner’s son, while trying to brush (spazzolare) her hair. Curly wants to get revenge (vendicarsi) and leads a group of violent men against Lenny, so George shoots Lenny to spare him a painful death (per risparmiargli una morte dolorosa).
The novel was adapted into films in 1939 and for Tv in 1981. The last film version was shot in 1992 directed by Gary Sinise – now the protagonist of C.S.I. New York – who also starred with John Malkovich in the role of Lennie.
Of Mice and Men is a 1992 American drama film starring and Gary Sinise, who also directed and produced the film. It is the third movie adaptation of John Steinbeck’s 1937 novel of the same name, and was preceded by the 1939 film version and the 1981 television movie. While it had a poor box office performance, the movie received universal acclaim.
The title of the novel Of Mice and Men is taken from a line of Robert Burns’s poem To a Mouse, On Turning up Her Nest with the Plough (1785), which is often quoted as: “The best-laid plans of mice and men/ often go awry,” though the phrase in the original Scots of the poem is “The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men/ Gang aft agley.”
He continued writing, relying upon extensive research and his personal observation of the human condition for his stories.
● The Grapes of Wrath (1939) won the Pulitzer Prize. It is an account of the efforts of a dispossessed emigrant family from Oklahoma to the promised land of California. Their journey leads to disillusion and exploitation but it also reveals people’s capability for friendship and solidarity.
● Among other novels are The Moon is Down (1942) whose title refers to a phrase spoken by Banquo’s son, Fleance, in Shakespeare’s Macbeth. The story details a military occupation of a small town in Northern Europe by the army of an unnamed nation at war with England and Russia (much like the occupation of Norway by the Germans during World War II).
● The Pearl (1947), is a retelling of a Mexican folk tale;
East of Eden (1955) is about the intricate details of two families, the Trasks and the Hamiltons, and their interwoven stories;
● The Winter of our Discontent (1961) revolves around New Englander Ethan Allen Hawley, who renounces his morals to get rich, but the new-found wealth will not bring happiness.
Grapes of wrath – in Italian: Furore
Tom Joad comes out of prison and goes home. There, he finds his house empty: he is told the family has gone to stay at Uncle John Joad’s home nearby and the banks have expelled all the farmers from their land. At Uncle John’s Tom finds his family while loading (caricando) a truck (un camion) with their poor possessions. They are leaving because of drought (siccità) and economic hardship (difficoltà economiche) and are going to the fruitful state(promettente stato) of California. Tom decides to leave with them even if he is out of prison on parole (rilasciato sulla parola). On Route 66, the family find other families attracted by the same promise. During the journey their grandparents die and some members leave the family. But Mother decides to go on . In California the situation is not as they hoped: there is an oversupply of labor (troppa richiesta di lavoro) and a lack of rights (mancanza di diritti). They go to work at Weedpatch Camp, a camp managed (diretto) by the Resettlement Administration, a New Deal agency which help the migrants. To defend the labourers (lavoratori) some people try to organize union (sindacati) . Casy, a man who joined (si unì) the Joad family in their journey, is involved (è coinvolto) in a violent strike(sciopero) . Tom sees that Casey is in danger (pericolo) and kills one of his attacker becoming a fugitive. The family go to work in a cotton farm where Tom is at risk of being identified for the murder (rischia di sessere identificato come assassin) he committed and leaves his mother, promising he will be a tireless advocate(un difensore instancabile) for the oppressed. Ma Joad remains with the rest of the family and when their land is flooded (allagata), they move to a higher ground (terreno più alto). In 1940 a famous Hollywood film version was directed by John Ford, starring Henry Fonda. In 1989, the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress selected this film – together with other 25 – for preservation as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”
For it he won the annual National Book Award and Pulitzer Prizefor novels and it was cited prominently when he won the Nobel Prize in 1962.