Term Paper: California Writers John Steinbeck: Native Son

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California Writers

John Steinbeck: Native Son

John Steinbeck was one of the most influential writers of his time and his writing did a great deal to focus attention on the plight of migrant workers. Most were Mexican or Mexican-American or poor people from the mid-west who had been put off their farms. Middle class people in particular were really quite unaware of the terrible conditions under which they worked, due to the heavy propaganda campaign by the land owners. The accessibility of Steinbeck's language and his talent with character portrayal brought this theme close to the hearts of readers. Steinbeck's prestige as a writer gave him more credibility, making these novels very important in California's history.

In Dubious Battle is an early book about several members of the American Communist Party who try to help the workers who are picking apples in Torgas Valley. It follows the actions of Jim Nolan, a new member, and Mac Mcloud, a party organizer, as they stimulate a strike for better conditions, right after the orchard owners decree a 15 cent decrease in wages per box. The novel covers the methods of the party members and the owners association as they struggle over the strike. Steinbeck portrayed these people and their action very realistically, and we really understand their suffering, and identify with Jim and Mac, and even the doctor, who says he is only there, because he wants to watch. There is much violence, and Jim dies at the end, but his death and that of others works to the advantage of the party agitators and we get a definite feeling that the workers will benefit.

The Red Pony is a story about a boy on a farm with his father, and his colt, Gabilan, which was delivered caesarian after his father killed the mare. Jody learns hard lessons as his pony gets out in the rain and contracts pneumonia and dies. This novella or long short story is a little grisly and disturbing, but one of Steinbeck's most popular for its realism.

The Pearl is a story about a poor couple who find a "pearl of great price," and their troubles adjusting to the huge change it makes in their lives. This may be Steinbeck's most well-known work, though it is not Californian, but takes place in Mexico. It is often in the same book with The Red Pony.

The Grapes of Wrath is the story of the Joad family, who migrate in an old truck to California after losing their Oklahoma farm. This novel most impressed me with its descriptions, especially of the dust and the poverty. Some of the scenes, like the death of the turtle are really disturbing, but hold the interest of the reader on what seems to be something ordinary. The family endures many hardships on the way, only to discover [END OF PREVIEW]

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