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John Ernst Steinbeck Edit Profile

also known as John Ernst Steinbeck, Jr.

novelist , short-story writer

John Ernst Steinbeck, Jr. was an American writer. He is widely known for the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Grapes of Wrath (1939), East of Eden (1952) and the novella Of Mice and Men (1937). He is the author of twenty-seven books, including sixteen novels, six non-fiction books, and five collections of short stories. He was a leading writer of novels about the working class and was a major spokesman for the victims of the Great Depression.


Ethnicity: He was of German American and Irish American descent.

Steinbeck, John Ernst was born on February 27, 1902 in Salinas, California, United States. Son of John Ernst and Olive (Hamilton) Steinbeck.

His father, John Steinbeck, Sr., served as the Monterey County Treasurer while his mother, Olive (Hamilton) Steinbeck, a former school teacher, fostered Steinbeck's love of reading and writing.

Johann Adolf Großsteinbeck, Steinbeck's paternal grandfather, had shortened the family name to Steinbeck when he immigrated to the United States. The family farm in Heiligenhaus, Mettmann, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany, is still today named "Großsteinbeck".


Graduate Salinas High School, 1918. Student Stanford University, 1919.

John was good at English, literature and biology at school. He published a school newspaper.

John studied for five years at the university. He published poems and stories in the university magazine "Spectator". Steinbeck didn't get the university diploma.


John worked hard to earn money and did it with pleasure. Steinbeck went on a cruise on board the ship ‘Katrina’ which brought him to New York. There Steinbeck worked as a journalist for some time, took part in the building of a well-known Madison Square Garden – and at the same time continued to write.

In 1926 Steinbeck returned to the west coast and got a place of a caretaker in a manor on the lake Tagus. The first novel of the writer ‘Cup of Gold’ was born there.

In 1928 Steinbeck appeared in San Francisco, where he started dating with Carol Henning.

Soon his parents suggested him to live in their house in Pacific - Grove and provided him with a small allowance. Steinbeck started writing ‘To A God Unknown’. During that time he got acquainted with the scientist Edward Ricketts. Inspiration and plots for such Steinbeck’s new works as: "The Pastures of Heaven", ‘Tortilla Flat’ were taken from reality surrounding him.

The Great depression, poverty and unemployment were raging in the country. This situation was reflected by John Steinbeck in the novel ‘In Dubious Battle’. This book was as successful as ‘Of Mice and Men’ which was published in 1937.

Soon Steinbeck went to Europe. When he returned to the USA in August 1937, he started writing a novel ‘The Grapes of Wrath’ which became one of his best creations.

After the book had been published, Steinbeck went on a trip with Ricketts, the events of which became the basis for the book ‘Sea of Cortez’.

The Second World War was raging hard. Steinbeck joined the committee of writers, wrote ‘Bombs Away’ and "The Moon Is Down", and soon he appeared in Europe as a war correspondent who worked for the New York Herald Tribune.

Steinbeck returned to the United States in autumn 1943. The book ‘Cannery Row’ was published in 1945. He worked for the cinema and theatre and even thought about the creation of his own TV company.

1948 became a difficult year for Steinbeck: his friend Edd Ricketts died, and his wife John Gwyn asked for a divorce.

Nevertheless, Steinbeck wrote a movie script about a revolutionary ‘Viva Zapata!’.

Steinbeck finished the next novel ‘East of Eden’ in February 1952.

In early sixties there were two large writer's works – ‘The Winter of Our Discontent’ and ‘Travels with Charley. In Search of America’. In 1962 the Nobel Prize was awarded to the writer.


  • In 1962, Steinbeck won the Nobel Prize for literature for his "realistic and imaginative writing, combining as it does sympathetic humor and keen social perception."

    Won the California Commonwealth Club's Gold Medal.The Grapes of Wrath won a Pulitzer Prize and a National Book Award and was made into a notable film in 1940.


  • novel

    • Cup of Gold

    • The Moon Is Down

    • The Winter of Our Discontent

  • play

    • Burning Bright

  • Script

    • Viva Zapata!

  • stories

    • The Pastures of Heaven

    • "California novels"


The Steinbecks were members of the Episcopal Church.


Steinbeck's contacts with leftist authors, journalists, and labor union figures may have influenced his writing and he joined the League of American Writers, a Communist organization, in 1935.Through Francis Whitaker, a member of the United States Communist Party’s John Reed Club for writers, Steinbeck met with strike organizers from the Cannery and Agricultural Workers' Industrial Union.


Moral philosophy


  • League of American Writers , United States



  • Philosophers & Thinkers

    Kant, Spinoza

  • Politicians

    President Lyndon B. Johnson

  • Other Interests

    Collection of biological specimens,marine biology, history, and mythology.


In 1943, after thirteen years of marriage, Steinbeck divorced his first wife, Carol Henning. He married Gwyn Conger that same year, a union which produced Steinbeck's only children, Thomas ("Thom") Myles Steinbeck in 1944 and John Steinbeck IV (Catbird), in 1946. They divorced in 1948. Two years later, Steinbeck married Elaine (Anderson) Scott, the ex-wife of actor Zachary Scott. They would remain married until his death in 1968. She died in 2003 in New York.

John Ernst Steinbeck - German - Treasurer

He was variously a bookkeeper, accountant, and manager, and he eventually became the treasurer of Monterey County. The elder Steinbeck was an avid gardener.

Olive Hamilton - Irish - teacher

Steinbeck’s mother was of Irish descent, a woman of energy and determination, emotional and sensitive to art, and fond of stories of fantasy and enchantment.

first wife:
Carol Henning
Carol Henning - first wife of John Steinbeck

Carol Henning Steinbeck, writer John Steinbeck’s first wife, was his creative anchor, the inspiration for his great work of the 1930s, culminating in The Grapes of Wrath. Meeting at Lake Tahoe in 1928, their attachment was immediate, their personalities meshing in creative synergy. Carol was unconventional, artistic, and compelling. In the formative years of Steinbeck’s career, living in San Francisco, Pacific Grove, Los Gatos, and Monterey, their Modernist circle included Ed Ricketts, Joseph Campbell, and Lincoln Steffens. In many ways Carol’s story is all too familiar: a creative and intelligent woman subsumes her own life and work into that of her husband. Together, they brought forth one of the enduring novels of the 20th century.

second wife:
Gwyndolyn Conger - a professional singer
Gwyndolyn Conger - second wife of John Steinbeck

Steinbeck met Gwyndolyn Conger (d. 1975), a professional singer nearly 20 years his junior, in Hollywood while still married to Carol. They married in 1943, had two children Thomas (Thom) Steinbeck and John Steinbeck IV, and divorced in 1948. They moved to Monterey for a few months in 1944 but lived in New York for most of their marriage. Cathy, the evil force of East of Eden, is based on his sense of betrayal over Gwyn’s infidelity.

third wife:
Elaine Anderson Scott - Actress and stage manager
Elaine Anderson Scott - third wife of John Steinbeck

Actress and stage manager Elaine Anderson Scott (1914-2003) was married to movie actor Zachary Scott when she met Steinbeck in Carmel in 1949. They married in 1950 and remained together, living in Manhattan and Sag Harbor, until his death. As executor of the Steinbeck estate, Elaine worked to keep his books in print and edited a volume of his letters. She is buried with other members of the Steinbeck family in the Garden of Memories, Salinas.

First son:
Thomas M. Steinbeck
Thomas M. Steinbeck - First son of John Steinbeck

Steinbeck’s first son, Thomas M. Steinbeck, was born to Gwyndolyn and John Steinbeck in 1944 in New York. They lived for a few months in Monterey where has was baptized in 1945. His younger brother John Steinbeck IV was born two years later. Differences over parenting styles and custody issues remained a constant source of friction between their parents after they divorced in 1948. As Sam Hamilton observed, “It takes courage to raise children.”

According to Thom, as he was known in the family, he “ultimately spent a great deal of time with his father and credits him for his passion for the works of the world’s great writers.” He became a photographer and journalist, has written numerous screenplays and authored original works including Down to a Soundless Sea (2002) and In the Shadow of the Cypress (2010).

second son :
John Steinbeck IV
John Steinbeck IV - second son  of John Steinbeck

John Steinbeck IV (1946-1991) was drafted into the U. S. Army in 1965 and served in Vietnam. He worked as a journalist for Armed Forces Radio and TV and a war correspondent for the Department of Defense. He died following an operation. His posthumous memoir, co-written with his wife Nancy, The Other Side of Eden: Life with John Steinbeck (2001) includes recollections on his alcoholic mother, his battle with drug addiction, and his strained relationship with his father.

Ed Ricketts - United States - an American marine biologist, ecologist, and philosopher.
Ed Ricketts - friend of John Steinbeck

Ed had been a major influence on John since the beginning of his literary career. Ricketts was a naturalist, and his love of ecology had affected John thoroughly, at least four of the John Steinbeck novels featured a character that was based entirely upon the very real Ed Ricketts. When Ricketts passed away - the writing of Steinbeck declined considerably.