It was the purpose of my thesis to trace the evolution of Steinbeck's view, in his non-fiction of what the conflict between good and evil consists, along with the development of this concern, and its related stylistic influence, on his fiction, in order to show that Steinbeck's major concern was for man's relationship to this conflict.

I was alerted to the existence of an evolution in view in Steinbeck by the chance reading of his last novel, The Winter of Our Discontent, in juxtaposition with several early novels. In order best to follow this change, then, I read all of Steinbeck's works in the order of their publication, and then as near to all as possible of the Steinbeck criticism available at the U.C. Berkeley library. The lack of a thorough study of any of Steinbeck's philosophical changes became apparent as a result of my systematic reading.

In my thesis, I first noted difficulties critics have had due to the author's reticence to discuss his books or personal life, his sometime lack of clarity, and his gradual change in both philosophy and style which affected author critic relations during his lifetime. I stated a wish to explore further the third Steinbeckian trait, that of his gradual change in philosophy and style, especially in terms of his attitude towards the great human problem of the conflict between good and evil.

I then cited two highly diverse comments upon Steinbeck's relationship to Christianity, one saying that he was absolutely opposed to all that is Christian in his writings, and the other saying that he was a highly moral, scriptural, and (somewhat unorthodox) Christian writer. I purposed to show that both critics were extreme, but that both were right: about different times in the author's life.

The bulk of the paper consists of a study of Steinbeck's development in attitude towards the problem of the choice between good and evil, a.s stated in his non-fictional Sea of Cortez (1941), his Journal of a Novel: The East of Eden Letters (posthumously published in 1969 but written in 1951), and his Nobel Prize acceptance speech (1962); and as evidenced in his major fictional works, The Grapes of Wrath (1939), East of Eden (1952), and The Winter of Our Discontent (1961). I showed that his attitude towards good and evil changed from his early to his late years from chiefly Darwinist to humanist to essentially Christian, and that Grapes of Wrath parallels Sea of Cortez; the transitional East of Eden, the Journal of a Bovel; and The Winter of Our Discontent, the acceptance speech.

LLU Discipline





Graduate School

First Advisor

Lawrence E. Mobley

Second Advisor

Delmer I. Davis

Third Advisor

Robert P. Dunn

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Degree Level


Year Degree Awarded


Date (Title Page)




Library of Congress/MESH Subject Headings

Steinbeck; John; 1902-1968 -- Criticism and interpretation; Good in literature; Evil in literature

Subject - Local

Loma Linda University. English Program -- Theses.



Page Count

iv; 83

Digital Format


Digital Publisher

Loma Linda University Libraries

Usage Rights

This title appears here courtesy of the author, who has granted Loma Linda University a limited, non-exclusive right to make this publication available to the public. The author retains all other copyrights.


Loma Linda University Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Collection Website



Loma Linda University. Del E. Webb Memorial Library. University Archives