Historical Context


This section of the website is a collection of essays that provide an introduction/review of the historical events and social issues surrounding the works of John Steinbeck. Use the navigation panel to the right as a timeline and jump straight to the time period needed.

Steinbeck's writing was deeply connected to the time and place in which it was set. The characters and events portrayed in his fiction were meant to be realistic, "...I must get into it the feeling of movement and of life....Make them live. But my people must be more than people. They must be an over-essence of people," Steinbeck wrote in his journal Working Days which chronicled his writing of The Grapes of Wrath. Understanding the time period in which Steinbeck was writing in and about creates a deeper connection to the characters and the issues Steinbeck illuminated in his writing.

Steinbeck's nonfiction was even more closely tied to the world around it. Although he would often take great creative license in his nonfiction, Steinbeck's overall message was still intimately related to the people and events of the world. In Steinbeck's World War II correspondences, the story of Sligo pretending to be an Italian prisoner of war in order to be shipped back home may have been mostly a work of fiction, but the message behind that story was tied closely to American soldiers and their experiences during the war.

The Common Core Standards focus a great deal on nonfiction and skills-building. This section of the website is meant to serve as a resource to teachers working to contextualize Steinbeck's works and to meet the new requirements of the Common Core.