31 John Steinbeck Quotes
To make you think

It’s no secret John Steinbeck is one of my favorite writers.  Hell, the blog name Of Whiskey and Words isn’t too far off one of his most popular books Of Mice and Men.   East of Eden is my favorite book of all time and I decided recently to reread it.  The reread got me thinking about Steinbeck’s other books, short stories, and letters.

John Steinbeck Background

Born on February 27, 1902 in Salinas, CaliforniaJohn Ernst Steinbeck Jr. was brought up with modest means. John Ernst Steinbeck, his father, had several jobs to make ends meet. The senior Steinbeck ran a flour plant, was a Monterey County treasurer, and once owned a feed-and-grain store. Olive Hamilton Steinbeck, his mother, was a former teacher. John Jr. grew up with his three sisters.

Steinbeck was described as a shy but smart kid. At a young age, he fell in love with the land, particularly Salinas Valley, which was often the setting of his novels. He started writing short stories and poems at 14. In 1919, to please his parents more than anything else, Steinbeck enrolled at Stanford University. But for the next six years, he would drift in and out of school. Eventually, in 1925, Steinbeck left college without a degree.

After dropping out, he tried to do freelance work as a writer. He moved to New York for a brief time. He took a job at a construction company while being a newspaper reporter at the same time. Not long after, Steinbeck went back to California and worked as a caretaker for Lake Tahoe.

It was during this period when he wrote his first novel, Cup of Gold, then met and married Carol Henning. She was his first wife. Over the next decade, with the financial and emotional support of Henning, Steinbeck proceeded to work on his writing.

His first couple of books received lukewarm reviews. It was when he published the humorous novel Tortilla Flat in 1935 that Steinbeck achieved real success. Ironically, he adopted a more serious tone for his next books.

In 1939, Steinbeck published The Grapes of Wrath. It told a story of a dispossessed family in Oklahoma who had to relocate to California during the Great Depression. At the height of its popularity, the novel sold over 10,000 copies on a weekly basis. In 1940, Steinbeck received the Pulitzer Prize for that particular work.

On December 20, 1962, at the age of 66, Steinbeck died in New York City.

31 John Steinbeck Quotes to make you think

“And now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good.”

“I wonder how many people I’ve looked at all my life and never seen.”

“All great and precious things are lonely.””

“And this I believe: that the free, exploring mind of the individual human is the most valuable thing in the world. And this I would fight for: the freedom of the mind to take any direction it wishes, undirected. And this I must fight against: any idea, religion, or government which limits or destroys the individual. This is what I am and what I am about.”

“I was born lost and take no pleasure in being found.”

Related: What does Timshel Mean?

“When a child first catches adults out — when it first walks into his grave little head that adults do not always have divine intelligence, that their judgments are not always wise, their thinking true, their sentences just — his world falls into panic desolation. The gods are fallen and all safety gone. And there is one sure thing about the fall of gods: they do not fall a little; they crash and shatter or sink deeply into green muck. It is a tedious job to build them up again; they never quite shine. And the child’s world is never quite whole again. It is an aching kind of growing.”

 

“To be alive at all is to have scars. ”

 

“Anything that just costs money is cheap.”

 

“It would be absurd if we did not understand both angels and devils, since we invented them.”

 

“I shall revenge myself in the cruelest way you can imagine. I shall forget it.”

 

“Don’t worry about losing. If it is right, it happens – The main thing is not to hurry. Nothing good gets away.”

 

“But I have a new love for that glittering instrument, the human soul. It is a lovely and unique thing in the universe. It is always attacked and never destroyed – because ‘Thou mayest.”

 

“You can only understand people if you feel them in yourself.”

 

“And this I believe: that the free, exploring mind of the individual human is the most valuable thing in the world. And this I would fight for: the freedom of the mind to take any direction it wishes, undirected.”

 

“I guess I’m trying to say, Grab anything that goes by. It may not come around again.”

 

“For it is said that humans are never satisfied, that you give them one thing and they want something more. And this is said in disparagement, whereas it is one of the greatest talents the species has and one that has made it superior to animals that are satisfied with what they have.”

 

“Don’t make everyone know about your sadness.”

“When I was very young and the urge to be someplace else was on me, I was assured by mature people that maturity would this itch. When years described me as mature, the remedy prescribed was middle age.In middle age I was assured greater age would calm my fever and now that I am fifty-eight perhaps senility will do the job. Nothing has worked. Four hoarse blasts of a ships’s whistle still raise the hair on my neck and set my feet to tapping. The sound of a jet, an engine warming up, even the clopping of shod hooves on pavement brings on the ancient shudder, the dry mouth and vacant eye, the hot palms and the churn of stomach high up under the rib cage. In other words, once a bum always a bum. I fear this disease incurable. I set this matter down not to instruct others but to inform myself….A journey is a person in itself; no two are alike. And all plans, safeguards, policing, and coercion are fruitless. We find after years of struggle that we not take a trip; a trip takes us.”

Related: East of Eden Book Review

“There ain’t no sin and there ain’t no virtue. There’s just stuff people do.”

 

“It’s all fine to say, “Time will heal everything, this too shall pass away. People will forget”—and things like that when you are not involved, but when you are there is no passage of time, people do not forget and you are in the middle of something that does not change.”

 

“Somewhere in the world there is a defeat for everyone. Some are destroyed by defeat, and some made small and mean by victory. Greatness lives in one who triumphs equally over defeat and victory.”

 

“You can boast about anything if it’s all you have. Maybe the less you have, the more you are required to boast.”

 

“He had an idea that even when beaten he could steal a little victory by laughing at defeat.”

 

“Perhaps the best conversationalist in the world is the man who helps others to talk.”

 

“No one wants advice – only corroboration. ”

“It is true that we are weak and sick and ugly and quarrelsome but if that is all we ever were, we would millenniums ago have disappeared from the face of the earth.”

“There’s a responsibility in being a person. It’s more than just taking up space where air would be.”

“Money does not change the sickness, only the symptoms.”

“Try to understand men, if you understand each other you will be kind to each other. Knowing a man well never leads to hate and nearly always leads to love.”

“Don’t you love Jesus?’ Well, I thought an’ I thought an’ finally I says, ‘No, I don’t know nobody name’ Jesus. I know a bunch of stories, but I only love people.”

“It’s all fine to say, “Time will heal everything, this too shall pass away. People will forget”—and things like that when you are not involved, but when you are there is no passage of time, people do not forget and you are in the middle of something that does not change.”

 

Those are my favorite John Steinbeck quotes.  Which one is your favorite?  Are there any you like that I missed?

 

Stay Gold.

About Todd Smidt

Todd is a man of simple tastes: traveling, words, whiskey, & dad jokes. He enjoys first-rate banter, long walks along the coast, High West, and Vonnegut. He spends his free time traveling the world, drinking whiskey, and writing about it.

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