The Great Depression and John Steinbeck

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Updated: Oct 20, 2022
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John Steinbeck is one of Americans best selling author. Steinbeck has wrote over 25 books throughout his writing career. Steinbeck traveled around the world to get ideas for his books. He mainly wrote about what it was like to live in the Great Depression and about American life in the 20’s. He wrote about his personal life and the life around him during the Dust Bowl and one of the worst times in American history.

The Great Depression started right after the stock market crashed on October 29, 1929, right after the Roaring 20’s.

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Over 62 percent of American workers were out of jobs, farmers and non farmers. Homelessness increased rapidly, housing prices dropped 30 percent, and prices fell 10 percent per year. African Americans suffered more than whites because whatever jobs they had were taken away from them and given to whites that didn’t have jobs. Men were hit harder than women because they had to provide food and shelter for their family. Due to men not being able to find jobs that would travel far away from their families looking for a better life. Since men were off trying to find new jobs women had to step up and make money. Children ended up suffering from poor diets and lack of health care. Children were forced to work in sweatshops for little money to provide for their family.

Many women sold their kids because they couldn’t take care of them. Most of the kids that were sold became slaves for rich people and were abused. Children also felt like a disgrace to their parent’s which caused them to run away from home and try to provide for themselves. Many people were sold tired and depressed from the Great Depression that they ended up killing themselves, The Great Depression ended in 1939. Eventually in the 1930’s a drought came and devestates the Great Plains. Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, and Colorado became known as the Dust Bowl. Winds and droughts left the land dry and no fertile land was left. These great big winds brought dust and it would travel for miles covering everything in dust. Many people were trapped in their homes or cars from the amount of dust that blew through. If people were trapped in these dust bowls they would suffocate from the amount of dust and sand in the air.

John Ernst Steinbeck was born on February 17, 1902 in Salinas, California, to his mother Olive who was a school teacher. His father, John was a manager at Sperry Flour Mill in Salinas. At the age of four Steinbeck was given his first pony, Jill who was a inspiration for his book “The Red Pony.” At the age of eleven his father lost his job, so he had to step up and try to provide money and food for his family. Steinbeck grew up with two older sisters and one younger sister. His oldest sister, Esther was born in 1892 and died in 1986. His second older sister, Elizabeth was born in 1864 and died on October 20, 1992. His younger sister, Mary was born on January 9, 1905 and died on January 23, 1965. At the age of fourteen Steinbeck decided to become a writer after his high school teacher convinced him to become a writer. To impress his family he enrolled to Stanford University and ended up dropping in and out of college. Steinbeck eventually dropped out in 1925 without a degree and moved to New York too look for a job. He briefly tried to work as a freelance writer, but it did not work out. He finally decided to try to become a writer and would lock himself up in his room to write poems in stories. In 1929 he published his first novel, Cup of Gold. John Steinbeck was married three times, his first wife Carol Henning, got divorced in 1942. Steinbeck’s second wife Gwyndolyn Conger were married from 1943 til 1948, together they had two sons, Thomas and John Steinbeck lV. Thomas was born on August 2, 1944 and died on August 11, 2016 at the age of 72 due to chronic obstructive pulmonary. Their second son John Steinbeck lV was born on June 12, 1946 and died on February 7, 1991 at the age of 44 due to surgical complications. Steinbeck married his third wife, Elaine Anderson Scott in 1950 and remained married until his death in 1968. Steinbeck died on December 20, 1968 in his home in New York due to heart disease.

Steinbeck has had many achievements including writing over 25 books, having best selling books, and winning the Nobel Prize of Literature. John Steinbeck started writing at the age of 14 locking himself in his room to write stories and poems. When he was 27 his first book “Cup of Gold” was published. When he was 37 he wrote, “The Grapes of Wrath” which won the National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize. “The Grapes of Wrath” became his most popular book and it was cited when Steinbeck received the Nobel Prize of Literature in 1962, just 6 years before his death. When he wrote his book “Of Mice and Men”, in 1937 he received the New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award for Best American Play.

Even though John Steinbeck did not graduate from college with a degree, he became on of America’s best selling authors. He proved a lot of people wrong when he was able to become a writer without a college degree. Steinbeck suffered many challenges including, financial problems, two divorces and feeling like he wasn’t good enough to become a author. But he pushed through it and became a author with many achievements and books. 

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The Great Depression and John Steinbeck. (2022, Feb 10). Retrieved from