Though I could not say John Steinbeck is my favorite author of all time, I have long appreciated his unique writing style, his focus on people who make up the outskirts of society, and the fact that many of his stories are set in the very state in which I live.
Visit any town in the Monterey Peninsula (most especially Monterey and Salinas) and you will be inundated with plaques and museums dedicated to the prolific writer. Though very touristy, after I read Cannery Row I visited the historic Cannery Row of Monterey to have the unique experience of seeing the actual buildings and places the characters of the book visited.
Seeing the places that inspired Steinbeck’s subjects and characters drives home the notion that one must understand the deep-seated roots of an author like Steinbeck to fully understand the issues grappled with in his books. His novel Tortilla Flat received attention for focusing on Monterey inhabitants of Mexican descent, a character unique to that time and place. His own real life interactions with marine biologist Ed Rickets set the stage for Cannery Row and several of his forays into non-fiction works highlighting local marine life.
When I entered college with no idea what I wanted to do with my life, I naturally gravitated towards majoring in English. Books are the one subject I always enjoy studying. Even still, I struggled with the decision because the popular perception of majoring in English is that you can’t do anything with the degree. Upon entering the job field, I found this not to be the case. Majoring in English taught me how to write well, evaluate ideas and think critically and many of the jobs I’ve gotten have been based on those skills. Further, in depth analysis of famous works and their authors lead me to a deeper understanding of the issues facing our world and for that I will always be grateful.