Literature Spotlight - John Steinbeck



Literature Spotlight - John Steinbeck

                                                                               Written by Philip Foster 



I. Warm-up





A. Conversation 

1.) Who are your favorite American authors?

2.) Have you read any of the novels of author John Stenbeck?

3.) Which novels were your favorite? Have you read The Grapes of Wrath, East of Eden or Of Mice and Men?

4.) What types of themes does John Steinbeck focus on in his novels?


 B. Vocabulary Words 

Take a look at the vocabulary below. Match vocabulary with corresponding definition. Create a sentence of your own using each new vocabulary word. 



1.) Laborer  (noun)

2.) Migration (verb)

3.) Correspondent (noun) 

4.) Novelist (noun)

5.) Modest (adj.)

6.) Famed (adj.)

7.) Account (noun)

8.) Scurried (verb)

9.) Treasurer 

10.) Tepid

11.) Dubious

12.) Freelance




1.) A person doing unskilled manual work for wages.

2.) A person employed to report for a newspaper or broadcasting organization, typically on a particular subject or from a particular country.

3.) Known about by many people. Renowned

4.) A writer of novels.

5.) A report or description of an event or experience.

6.) Not large in size or amount, or not expensive 

7.) Movement from one region to another and often back again, esp. according to the season of the year

8.) To move quickly, with small, short steps:

9.) thought not to be completely true or not able to be trusted

10.) Doing particular pieces of work for different organizations, rather than working all the time for a single organization

11.) unenthusiastic

12.) a person who is responsible for an organization's money


C. Watch Video and Discuss

John Steinbeck: Mini Biography courtesy of Biography Channel 


D. Steinbeck Reading -

Born on 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 1939 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, and was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1962. He died in New York City in 1968.

Early Years

Famed novelist John Ernst Steinbeck Jr. was born on February 27, 1902, in Salinas, California. His books, including his landmark work The Grapes of Wrath (1939), often dealt with social and economic issues. Steinbeck was raised with modest means. His father, John Ernst Steinbeck, tried his hand at several different jobs to keep his family fed: He owned a feed-and-grain store, managed a flour plant and served as treasurer  of Monterey County. His mother, Olive Hamilton Steinbeck, was a former schoolteacher.

For the most part, Steinbeck—who grew up with three sisters—had a happy childhood. He was shy, but smart, and formed an early appreciation for the land, and in particular California's Salinas Valley, which would greatly inform his later writing. According to accounts, Steinbeck decided to become a writer at the age of 14, often locking himself in his bedroom to write poems and stories. In 1919, Steinbeck enrolled at Stanford University—a decision that had more to do with pleasing his parents than anything else—but the budding writer would prove to have little use for college.


Early Career


Following Stanford, Steinbeck tried to make a go of it as a freelance writer. He briefly moved to New York City, where he found work as a construction worker and a newspaper reporter, but then scurried back to California, where he took a job as a caretaker in Lake Tahoe. It was during this time that Steinbeck wrote his first novel, Cup of Gold (1929), and met and married his first wife, Carol Henning. Over the following decade, with Carol's support and paycheck, he continued to pour himself into his writing.


Steinbeck's 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 Monterey region, was released 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.


Widely considered Steinbeck's finest and most ambitious novel, The Grapes of Wrath was published in 1939. Telling the story of a dispossessed Oklahoma family and their struggle to carve out a new life in California at the height of the Great Depression, the book 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 per week. The work eventually earned Steinbeck a Pulitzer Prize in 1940. 


E. Reading Comprehension Questions:

1.) John Steinbeck began attending _______ University in 1919.

2.) The _______ region of California would later become the setting for many of his most-famous novels.

3.) _______ Flats was the first of John Steinbeck's novels to receive critical acclaim. 

4.) In 1937, John Steinbeck's novel, ________, became an immediate best seller. 

5.) Steinbeck reported on migrant farmworkers in 1939, which became the basis for his Pulitzer Prize winning novel, ________.

6.) The film version of "Grapes of Wrath," widely considered to be a masterpiece, was directed by the famous director ________.




Vocabulary Review:

Directions - Create your own sentences using the vocabulary words we learned earlier. 

1.) Famed

2.) Novelist

3.) Laborer

4.) Correspondent 

5.) Account


Read an excerpt from East of Eden


Discussion questions:

1.) Why do you think John Steinbeck focuses on the downtrodden as opposed to the wealthy. 

2.) How is the lower socioeconomic class treated in your country?

3.) Do you think the tenant farmers were treated unfairly during the Dust Bowl?

4.) Do people have to suffer for the sake of progress?


Reading Source


Photo Credits:

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Lessons for Next Time:


Jane Austen 





Grammar Point: