Travels With Charley Steinbeck Essay

There are streaks of honesty and insight in the book, and one chilling and effective look at New Orleans racism.

Steinbeck, John 1902–1968 An American novelist and short story writer, Steinbeck won both the Pulitzer Prize and the Nobel Prize for Literature.

His realistic accounts of rural poverty in the United States, most notably The Grapes of Wrath and Of Mice and Men, are American classics. Travels with Charley in Search of America, a series of travel articles from Holiday that became a leading bestseller…, is a hodge-podge of superficial social criticism, ripe sentimentality, one endless joke about the urination of Steinbeck's dog, bad prose, encounters that surely must have been invented, and factual inaccuracies.

In these two cases the talisman is true to the dictionary definition of a stone, but in other novels the idea is expanded to include anything that men believe in or go to for some kind of nonrational fulfillment, anything that sparks a man to identify with it and project the mystery of his being upon it.

On a larger scale, the idea is manifest in the land in Of Mice and Men and The Grapes of Wrath; on a smaller scale, the talisman is the image of the virgin that Juan Chicoy communes with but does not accept as a Christian symbol in The Wayward Bus, Kino's pearl, Danny's house in Tortilla Flat, and a wide variety of other objects throughout Steinbeck's fiction.

In effect, Steinbeck was arguing, we were using Vietnam simply to establish the continuing virility of our local brand of morality.

In an interview after belatedly receiving the Nobel Prize, Steinbeck observed that it was more difficult in the 1960's than in the 1930's to determine who was an underdog, more difficult—to borrow the title of one of his most famous essays—to tell good guys from bad.Conservative and romantic, Steinbeck stuck to the sturdy rationalism that insists that the old questions will not be wished away, that the old virtues cannot be dispensed with, that the rule of first things first still applies.The direct route is the best, because the best cannot be captured unaware or bought cheap.In the 1960's his novels unintentionally alert us to the dangers that persistence in the stereotyped thinking derived from the privations endured during the Depression and World War II present in coping with the problems of an age of affluence in which economic momentum can be maintained only by a program of controlled waste that is not destructive of human resources.Steinbeck had trouble during the last two decades—as The Winter of Our Discontent especially suggests—because he still saw human problems in the currently irrelevant terms of clashes between exploiter and victim, the ignoble and the noble.He failed to grasp that in an age when a potential threat of atomic destruction hangs over the whole world—when man could annihilate himself—the question of who "wins" this or that particular physical engagement can hardly be a burning issue. The failure of Steinbeck's private politics was to reflect a general failure of American politics. The political fastidiousness of the polite liberal—epitomized by Steinbeck—is surely one of them. 304-05) Warren French, "John Steinbeck (1902–1968)," in The Politics of Twentieth-Century Novelists, edited by George Panichas (reprinted by permission of Hawthorn Books, Inc.; copyright © 1971 by The University of Maryland; all rights reserved), Hawthorn, 1971, pp. Talismanic symbols take many and various forms in Steinbeck's novels.In To A God Unknown the rock in the forest glade is a talisman to Joseph Wayne, and the rock is described much like the pink piece of stone in The Winter of Our Discontent.Stanley Edgar Hyman, "John Steinbeck and the Nobel Prize," in his Standards: A Chronicle of Books for Our Time (© 1966; reprinted by permission of the publisher, Horizon Press, New York), Horizon, 1966, pp. The reason so many of Steinbeck's former admirers no longer enjoy his work is that the weaknesses of the earlier writings, excusable enough in a young novelist, have prevailed: the woodenness and the sentimentalism.Over the years he has become the idol of book clubs and movie audiences, and of a vast uninstructed reading public.So, for that matter, does violence, and Steinbeck knew that there is a love which must take up the knife to slay another, because it is the same love which leads to a knowing willingness to sacrifice the self. 230) Steinbeck is entirely representative of an American type of great influence during the first two decades following World War II, the Stevenson Democrat.Steinbeck was indeed preeminent among the men of letters to whom this label could be applied; he was one of the many who, having lived through the frustrations of the Depression and the horrors of the war, hoped that the direction of the country might at last be entrusted to a quiet, introspective, cautiously idealistic man with roots in a characteristically American agrarian community.


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