On this day, John Steinbeck’s novella Of Mice and Men, the story of the bond between two migrant workers, is published. He adapted the book into a three-act play, which was produced the same year. The story brought national attention to Steinbeck’s work, which had started to catch on in 1935 with the publication of his first successful novel, Tortilla Flat.
Steinbeck was born and raised in the Salinas Valley, where his father was a county official and his mother a former schoolteacher. A good student and president of his senior class in high school, Steinbeck attended Stanford intermittently in the early 1920s. In 1925, he moved to New York City, where he worked as a manual laborer and a journalist while writing stories and novels. His first two novels were not successful.
In 1930, he married Carol Henning, the first of his three wives, and moved to Pacific Grove, California. Steinbeck’s father gave the couple a house and a small income while Steinbeck continued to write. His third novel, Tortilla Flat (1935), was a critical and financial success, as were such subsequent books as In Dubious Battle (1935) and Of Mice and Men (1937), both of which offered social commentaries on injustices of various types.
In 1939, Steinbeck won the Pulitzer Prize for The Grapes of Wrath, a novel tracing a fictional Oklahoma family as they lose their family farm in the Depression and move to California seeking a better life.
His work after World War II, including Cannery Row and The Pearl, continued to offer social criticism but became more sentimental. Steinbeck tried his hand at movie scripts in the 1940s, writing successful films like Forgotten Village (1941) and Viva Zapata (1952). He also took up the serious study of marine biology and published a nonfiction book, The Sea of Cortez, in 1941. His 1962 nonfiction book, Travels with Charlie, describes his travels across the United States in a camper truck with his poodle, Charlie. Steinbeck won the Nobel Prize in 1962 and died in New York in 1968.