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What are the common themes used in John Steinbeck's novels?

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gowrirajendran | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 1) Honors

Posted October 31, 2011 at 5:55 AM via web

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What are the common themes used in John Steinbeck's novels?

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e-martin | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted March 11, 2012 at 4:17 AM (Answer #1)

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John Steinbeck was a fairly focused writer in terms of the themes he explored.

In his books To a God Unknown and East of Eden Steinbeck takes up the themes of identity through land ownership as part of the American vision of fulfilling a destiny. In both these works, there are sub-themes dealing with the indifference of nature to man and man's attempts to innovate as a compromise with nature. Each of these novels also presents a character who can be said to express a thematic idea of happiness-by-denial, where a man insists upon maintaining a positive outlook despite many depressing circumstances. Some of these themes can also be found in The Pearl.

In Tortilla Flat, Cannery Row and Of Mice and Men, Steinbeck explores various themes focused on friendship and the moral compromises friendship can create.

Political themes of disenfranchisement, rebellion, and integrity vs. corruption are explored in Of Mice and Men, The Grapes of Wrath, The Pearl and The Moon Is Down.

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theyellowbookworm | College Teacher | (Level 3) Adjunct Educator

Posted December 1, 2014 at 2:00 AM (Answer #2)

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Theme Statements for Of Mice and Men

Friendship:  In Of Mice and Men, Steinbeck shows that friendship is important in preventing loneliness by providing a purpose in life and a sense of companionship.

Loneliness:  In Of Mice and Men, Steinbeck shows that leading a life of loneliness causes isolation and leads a person to build walls instead of bridges. 

Outcast: In Of Mice and Men, Steinbeck shows that being an outcast can cause a person to build walls and leads to a life of loneliness.

Dreams:   In Of Mice and Men, Steinbeck shows that having a dream, which is possibly out of reach, can make life bearable.

In Of Mice and Men, Steinbeck shows that having a dream, which is possibly out of reach, can hurt the dreamer.

Theme Statements for The Pearl

Belonging: In the Pearl, Steinbeck argues that, although man occupies a small space within the larger universe, the desire for roots and a place to call home gives individuals a sense of belonging.

Theme Statements for East of Eden

Happiness: Steinbeck questions if material goods can bring happiness. He argues that true happiness comes from meaningful relationships between individuals.

Other Themes in Steinbeck's Novels

  • The American Dream
  • Desire
  • Self-Deception
  • Mis-Treatment of Women

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