Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.)



First Advisor

Charles Clerc

First Committee Member

Paul Withemington [?]

Second Committee Member

Robert Knighton


The purpose of this thesis, if with respect only to the short fiction, will be to provide some measure of resurrection for a much-ignored and much-maligned talent. Scholarly interest in John Steinbeck has been distinctly minimal and even his admirers admit his artistic decline of recent years. Unlike the attention lavished upon his illustrious contemporaries, William Faulkner and Ernest Hemingway, the number of major critical surveys of Steinbeck's works can be counted upon the fingers of one's hand. It has been customary to regard Hemingway and Faulkner, usually in company with F. Scott Fitzgerald, as titans, while John Steinbeck's, cast as a johnny-come-lately, tends to be regarded as a dwarf among mammoths, an intruder among the immortals. Even those critics who, like so many readers, have enjoyed the gifted storytelling of the man, whose intentions are kind, and who come to praise, often stay, in the word of F. W. Watt, "to damn, or at least to remonstrate with the author on the theme of artistic seriousness and moral responsibility."2 Steinbeck is peculiarly annoying to his friends for the precise reason that many of his party have expected much more from him than he was perhaps able or capable of giving, especially after his departure from California. Certainly one of the most popular and repeated criticisms is that Steinbeck has never lived up to his potential, that he has never lived up to the promise he displayed in his "golden age" of the 'thirties, and that far greater things should have come from him to sustain a critical reputation which has suffered, especially in the post-war years, a steepening decline. Such indictments ignore the fact that by 1945 the expatriate and the southerner, like the man of the West, had already written the bes of what was within them. Thereafter, Hemingway, Faulkner, and Steinbeck continued to write; but what they wrote, most agree, was not the measure of what had gone before.