John Ernst Steinbeck (1902 – 1968) described the tragedies of the poor with scientific naturalism. He wrote about the migrants (immigrati) and Mexican workers, the illiterate (analfabeti) and the oppressed. His dialogues reflect the speech patterns (modelli di discorso) of the rural labourers while his prose is often lyrical and shows the influence of folk tales (racconti popolari) in its use of repetition and rhythm (ritmo) revealing the nostalgia for a primitive and simple life. Steinbeck was born in Salinas, California, of German and Irish ancestry (origini). His mother, Olive (Hamilton) Steinbeck, a school teacher, promoted (supportò) Steinbeck’s love of reading and the written word. During summers he worked as a hired hand (bracciante) on ranches, nourishing (arricchendo) his impression of the California countryside and its people. After graduating from Salinas High School in 1919, Steinbeck attended Stanford University for two years. In 1925 he left university to pursue (perseguire) his writing career in New York. During World War II, Steinbeck was a war correspondent for the New York Herald Tribune. Some of his dispatches (dispacci) were later collected (collezionati) and made into Once There Was a War. John Steinbeck was awarded (fu premiato) the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1962. He was a private person who avoided (evitò) publicity.
Grapes of Wrath (1939) is the work for which John Ernst Steinbeck won the annual National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize for novels. It starts with the protagonist, Tom Joad coming out of prison and going 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 (mandato via) 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 essere identificato come assassino) 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.
uomini e topi – un’avventura americana
Of Mice and Men (1937) by John Ernst Steinbeck is about landless rural workers (braccianti) in California during the Great Depression. Two migrant workers (emigrati) 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 (forza enorme), but mentally retarded. They dream to get enough money to build their own ranch (sperano di guadagnare denaro sufficiente per comprarsi un loro ranch). Lennie in particular hopes to have soft things on the farm, like mice (topi) or rabbits (conigli), to look after (di cui occuparsi) . The dream seems to become true (il sogno sembra avverarsi) at the ranch, and also Candy, an old man who helps in the ranch, asks them to become their possible future partner. Unfortunately the dream breaks (si infrange) because Lennie accidentally kills the young and attractive wife of Curley, the ranch owner’s son (il figlio del proprietario), 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 (spara a 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 (1992) was directed by Gary Sinise – now the protagonist of C.S.I. New York – who also played as George with John Malkovich in the role of Lennie.