Steinbeck inspired fellow writers through The Grapes of Wrath. One such author, T.C. Boyle, published a book in 1995 called The Tortilla Curtain, which focuses on the lives of contemporary Mexican immigrants instead of the Dust Bowl migrant workers in The Grapes of Wrath. Boyle said that “the effort Steinbeck made to remedy injustice” inspired him to write about similar reality in the world (Naylor). Steinbeck also motivated another well-known writer, Stephen King, even though they belong to very different genres. King reflected:
As a high school kid struggling to write fiction, some books meant more than others, and some burst upon me with the power of a thunderbolt. John Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath was one of those. The humanity of the story lifted me as a reader, but as an apprentice in the craft of writing, I was excited--almost breathless, really--with the audacity of Steinbeck's technique. He shifts, especially in the early going, from the wide focus (as the Okies stream west toward California) to the narrow with the aplomb of an acrobat. Probably the best example of Steinbeck working in tight focus is the turtle-crossing-the-road segment in Grapes...I was moved by his ability to indicate the eternal by delineating the prosaic (“The Grapes of Wrath (Penguin Great Books of the 20th Century)”).
The Literary World (Through Social Commentary)As for Steinbeck’s effects in the literary world, he is known for focusing on characters “that talked and lived through the society rather than having characters that only described or commented on the significance of the action” (“American Writers: Interactive Scrapbook”). The books that stand out most with social commentary from Steinbeck are The Grapes of Wrath, The Pearl, and Of Mice and Men. “All three books examine the morality and necessity of actions the characters choose as they pursue their dreams” (“Selection for Discussion The Grapes of Wrath, Of Mice and Men, and The Pearl by John Steinbeck”). In The Pearl, there is a poor fisherman named Kino and he has dreams of his son being educated and bringing salvation to his people. The story questions, “our relationship to nature, the human need for spiritual connection and the cost of resistant in justice” (“Selection for Discussion The Grapes of Wrath, Of Mice and Men, and The Pearl by John Steinbeck”). In The Grapes of Wrath spontaneous acts of kindness arise out of bitter and cruel situations created from human greed and inhumanity towards their own society. These two books also portray their female characters in a certain light and challenge gender and family roles. In contrast, in Of Mice and Men, the main character Curley’s wife “leaves only shattered dreams in her wake” whereas the other two books “suggest hope in even the bleakest of circumstances” (“Selection for Discussion The Grapes of Wrath, Of Mice and Men, and The Pearl by John Steinbeck”). “From the questions his characters pose about what it means to be fully human, Steinbeck may be understood to charge literature with serving not only as a call to action, but as an expression and acceptance of paradox in our world” (“Selection for Discussion The Grapes of Wrath, Of Mice and Men, and The Pearl by John Steinbeck”).
The “Common Man”John Steinbeck, often spoken of as “the author of the common man,” is just this. He is the voice of the common man that struggles throughout life to make just a simple living. His works create a bastion of faith show his relation and sympathy with others. His style of writing reaches out to others not only because of its worldly language, but also because of how he strongly rebukes the causes to the common man’s struggles. Although he connects with readers through these very things, this is not all he does. He does not just make a huge impact on American literature; his impact reaches aspects of life from American history to the way the world acts, reacts, and thinks through issues.
By being an American author, he is important in the fact that he has reached out to all types of people, differences and all. “From friendship to handicapped people, every story gives people an insight on human nature and how people act” (Bryan, et al). His works are the cause to discussions that connect people, despite their differences, on all different levels. He has become so influential that “(He) has a Center for Steinbeck studies…” that “…hosts monthly discussion groups” (Bryan, et al). Specifically, he has reached the hearts of many Indian and Eastern people. In his works, the “…protagonist is generally a depraved individual who fights courageously for his needs as well as to retain his integrity and dignity. This 'underdog' condition/status has always a particular appeal to the Indian/Eastern sensibility due to their own colonized existence for more than 300 years” (Cox). Even more so, an issue that was broached in certain communities has forever changed their views and thoughts about it as well. “The migrant condition became the focus of many social gatherings as Californians wanted to learn more about them and their lifestyle…Community organizations, such as church groups, women's groups, and adult education classes listened to public talks on the migrants by knowledgeable experts” (Cox). Thus, the average man came to respect and sympathize with the disadvantaged, instead of shun them from the unity of life.
John Steinbeck as an American author has notably been politically involved and has achieved what many authors have either long struggled for or have not achieved at all: international acclaim. As a behind-the-scenes figure of politics, when writing such novels as Cannery Row, many have taken his works to be hinting influential opinions about the shifty World War II; the oddity, however, lies in the fact that his only intention here was to portray the residential lives at the Row of Monterey (Reuben). Continuing his string of political involvement, Steinbeck assisted in writing presidential campaign speeches in the 1950s, and even more impressively, hereafter is appointed as President Johnson’s right-hand man in making decisions for the Vietnam War (Reuben). His international popularity was furthered when Bruce Springsteen, a worldwide-known music artist, is inspired enough by his works to use them springboard for the famous album “The Ghost of Tom Joad,” where “Bruce Springsteen pays tribute to the power of those interior landscapes-characters whose lives are often desolate, besieged, unacknowledged” (Shillinglaw). Aside from affecting how artists of the music world think, he even becomes more and more appealing even to the common people of other countries. It is reported that “The Japanese have a vigorous Steinbeck Society, over 150 strong” (Shillinglaw). As many international readers express their liking for his works, the “American psyche: bonds to land, the need for a place” content that pulls them in becomes more evident (Shillinglaw).