John Ernst Steinbeck, Jr. (1902-1968), considered “a giant of American letters”, is an important American writer of novels, short stories and non-fiction. Thought by many to be one of the foremost figures in Western literature, he has become famous by works such as The Grapes of Wrath (Pulitzer Prize winner), as well as Of Mice and Men, East of Eden and In Dubious Battle. In 1962 he received the Nobel Prize in Literature.


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

2.”To finish is sadness to a writer—a little death. He puts the last word down and it is done. But it isn’t really done. The story goes on and leaves the writer behind, for no story is ever done.”

3.”Man, unlike anything organic or inorganic in the universe, grows beyond his work, walks up the stairs of his concepts, emerges ahead of his accomplishments.”

4.”His ear heard more than was said to him, and his slow speech had overtones not of thought, but of understanding beyond thought.”

5.”Give a critic an inch, he’ll write a play.”

6.”It’s so much darker when a light goes out than it would have been if it had never shone.”

7.”Certain events such as love, or a national calamity, or May, bring pressure to bear on the individual, and if the pressure is strong enough, something in the form of verse is bound to be squeezed out.”

8.”It takes great courage to back truth unacceptable to our times. There’s a punishment for it, and it’s usually crucifixion.”

9.”The discipline of the written word punishes both stupidity and dishonesty.”

10.”If I wanted to destroy a nation, I would give it too much and I would have it on its knees, miserable, greedy and sick.”

11.”I guess this is why I hate governments. It is always the rule, the fine print, carried out by the fine print men. There’s nothing to fight, no wall to hammer with frustrated fists.”


12.”No one wants advice, only corroboration.”

13.”Sometimes a man wants to be stupid if it lets him do a thing his cleverness forbids.”

14.”It is a common experience that a problem difficult at night is resolved in the morning after the committee of sleep has worked on it.”

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

16.”No man really knows about other human beings. The best he can do is to suppose that they are like himself.”

17.”Power does not corrupt. Fear corrupts … perhaps the fear of a loss of power.”

18.”Knowing a man well never leads to hate and nearly always leads to love.”

19.”Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen.”

20.”What a frightening thing is the human, a mass of gauges and dials and registers, and we can read only a few and those perhaps not accurately.”

21.”People like you to be something, preferably what they are.

22.”It has always seemed strange to me … the things we admire in men, kindness and generosity, openness, honesty, understanding and feeling are the concomitants of failure in our system. And those traits we detest, sharpness, greed, acquisitiveness, meanness, egotism and self-interest are the traits of success.”

23.”All war is a symptom of man’s failure as a thinking animal.”