John Steinbeck is a Nobel Laureate who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1962. I considered two of his books, Of Mice and Men (1937) and The Grapes of Wrath (1929) as two of the greatest books of North American literature. The Grapes of Wrath won the Pulitzer Price in 1940.
Steinbeck wrote about true heroes and the indomitable human spirit against impossible odds. This is what makes his books so worth the reading. Of Mice and Men is about the dreams of two poor ranch workers, George and Lenny, trying to earn enough money to buy their own ranch. One of the men is mentally retarded. The novel is about racism, prejudice, injustice, bigotry and the struggle for personal independence. The Grapes of Wrath describes the struggles of a family of sharecroppers, the Joads, who were driven from their land due to the dust storms of the Dust Bowl during the Great Depression. There are eerily echoes of the present economic meltdown. Steinbeck, himself no stranger to poverty narrates these lives well. I remember crying when I read certain portion of the novels and even today, I cannot bring myself to reread these portions.
I believe Steinbeck believed that he was called to write of these sufferings so that it will never be forgotten. In his Nobel Prize acceptance speech, he said,
the writer is delegated to declare and to celebrate man’s proven capacity for
greatness of heart and spirit—for gallantry in defeat, for courage, compassion
and love. In the endless war against weakness and despair, these are the bright
rally flags of hope and of emulation. I hold that a writer who does not believe
in the perfectibility of man has no dedication nor any membership in literature.
Truly a great champion of the spirit of man.