Cannery Row Essay - Critical Evaluation

John Steinbeck

Critical Evaluation

John Steinbeck, one of the most famous and productive American authors, produced twenty-nine novels, short-story collections, journals, films, memoirs, and play-novellas during his writing career. In 1962, he received the Nobel Prize in Literature. Steinbeck spent his youth in Salinas, then a small town in a fertile agricultural valley nestled between two mountain ranges, less than thirty miles from Monterey and the Pacific Ocean. His experiences there provided him with the raw material that would feed a lifetime of fiction about the land and people of central California.

After graduating from high school, Steinbeck enrolled at Stanford University in 1919. He studied intermittently until 1925, when he left the school without completing his degree. In the five years that followed, he supported himself with several jobs including manual laborer, caretaker at a resort in Lake Tahoe, and New York journalist. Along the way, he worked on his first novel, Cup of Gold (1929), an uneven allegorical tale about pirate Henry Morgan. After marrying, he moved to Pacific Grove and published the first of his California fictions, The Pastures of Heaven (1932) and To a God Unknown (1933), and began working on some of the short stories collected later in The Long Valley (1938).

By the time Steinbeck published Cannery Row, he had already sealed his reputation as a significant American writer with such books as Of Mice and Men (1937) and his masterpiece, The Grapes of Wrath (1939). Written as something of a diversion from the exhausting work he performed during World War II, when he wrote everything from press dispatches from North Africa to war propaganda such as Bombs Away (1942) and the antifascist novella The Moon Is Down (1942), Steinbeck conceived Cannery Row as a...

(The entire section is 761 words.)