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The Short Novels of John Steinbeck: Tortilla…

The Short Novels of John Steinbeck: Tortilla Flat/The Red Pony/Of Mice and…

by John Steinbeck

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John Steinbeck: The Red Pony

This is one of Steinbeck's shorter novels. It revolves around the life of Jody, a boy of ten years (although constantly referred to as 'the young boy" despite the passage of time), his mother (always referred to as 'her', 'his mother', or 'Mrs.Tiflin'), his father, Carl, (a taciturn, strict disciplinarian), and a ranch hand, Billy Buck ("...a broad, bandy-legged little man with a walrus mustache, with square hands, puffed and muscled on the palms".) Only two other characters appear, briefly. One is Gitano, an old paisano who shows up one day because he was born on the property and wants to die there to complete the circle of his life, and Grandfather, Mrs.Tiflin's father, who comes for a visit, and who lives in the memories of his glory days as the leader of settlers pushing westward to the sea.

Not a great deal happens in the story; it is like a miniature painting that illuminates life and lives. Perspective in life matters, and a child like Jody, is sensitive to every nuance of attitude and behaviour, how a word of praise can please and promise, while criticism confounds and confuses. The flip-side of perspective is empathy: understanding another's hope and fears, cares and hurts. Carl is not a bad father, but he lacks empathy and even Billy remonstrates against him a couple of times concerning Jody. At the end of the story, it is interesting that Grandfather and Jody both find, and extend important empathise to each other.

The story is also about the hard lesson that loving and caring for another person, or creature, are no guarantees of happiness because death is part of life; it is inescapable, but at times worse because it seems arbitrary and unjust. Steinbeck's miniature includes death in life, life from death and, while it can still be embraced, death as a fitting end to life. There is also the hard lesson for Jody that even a seemingly omnipotent adult cannot control fate and circumstance.

Grandfather lives for his past and laments that "Westering" has died out in people. For Grandfather, this refers to his leading "a bunch of people made into one big crawling beast" in the push westward to to the sea. For Steinbeck, I think Grandfather's "Westering" is a metaphor for the human search for something bigger, the power of a common cause that binds people together to pursue a common goal.

There is a line in the story that a reader could almost skip over, but I think it encapsulates Steinbeck's themes of perspective, empathy, and understanding, and, more perniciously, their complete absence when dealing with an 'other', especially from the perspective of a "big crawling beast". Grandfather is speaking: "...later, when the troops were hunting Indians and shooting children and burning teepees, it wasn't much different from your mouse hunt."

Steinbeck is a writer concerned with life, with the interactions of family and others in society, set in the simple environments of ordinary people. The people are not rich, not upwardly mobile, not obsessed with status, nor material symbols, nor conspicuous consumption, nor with any of the pressures attendant to these. Strip all of this away, and you have the unadorned lives of ordinary people trying to survive, to live, to manage the pleasures and pains of life.
1 vote John | Jun 28, 2017 |
The book contains the short stories; Tortilla Flat, The Red Pony, Of Mice and Men, The Moon is Down, Cannery Row and The Pearl.

While I prefer his longer novels these stories capture Steinbecks characteristic style the struggle of the poor man set against the harsh background of the landscape in which they live in, the language and descriptions are stark almost poetical and as usual beautiful written, capturing within a few short chapters mans existence. ( )
1 vote BookWormM | Jan 15, 2016 |
A great collection of short stories by the great John Steinbeck.

One thing I re-realized while reading this collection was that all good things should be taken in moderation. The same goes for good books. As much as I love the work of Steinbeck, it's nice to read something else every once in a while, if only to have the desire for exceptional writing to gnaw at you once again, forcing you to go back to a favorite author. What I mean is that instead of reading this within the time frame that I did, I should have read a different book in between each of the shorter stories. I think it would have given me time to digest each individual novel on its own before delving into another classic tale.

Regardless, this is a great collection of stories that I absolutely loved. Other than [b:Of Mice and Men|890|Of Mice and Men|John Steinbeck|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1367951092s/890.jpg|40283], I had never read any of these other stories. I'm happy to have read each and every one of them. I think I'll read a couple other books for now…and then go back to reading another Steinbeck novel in the near future. ( )
1 vote jms001 | Jun 14, 2015 |
Picked up the collection so I could read Cannery Row while visiting Monterey. Imagining the old Cannery Row while visiting the tourist trap it has become was a little bewildering, but fun, too, with the tasteful placards and quotes from the book along the recreation trail. I got a real kick out of the story, though was sent off balance by the finish.

Started The Pearl and was captivated, but ran out of time on this book borrowed from the local library. ( )
  scott.r | Jan 9, 2015 |
I read The Pearl many years ago. Recently I read Of Mice and Men and I think I can see some theatrical/cinematic influence on the writing. I think I might want to pick up Cannery Row next at some point, thinking back to a visit we made a while back to the John Steinbeck museum in Salinas. ( )
  rmagahiz | Dec 21, 2013 |
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- Intro by Joseph Henry Jackson
- Tortilla Flat
- The Red Pony
- Of Mice and Men
- The Moon is Down
- Cannery Row
- The Pearl
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0143105779, Roughcut)

Collected here for the first time in a deluxe paperback volume are six of John Steinbeck’s most widely read and beloved novels—Tortilla Flat, The Red Pony, Of Mice and Men, The Moon Is Down, Cannery Row, and The Pearl. From Steinbeck’s tale of commitment, loneliness, and hope in Of Mice and Men, to his tough yet charming portrait of people on the margins of society in Cannery Row, to The Pearl’s examination of the fallacy of the American dream, Steinbeck created stories that were realistic, rugged, and imbued with energy and resilience.

@IAmWithSam Lennie came back into the cabin with that look on his face and I said, Lennie, did you kill another woman?

He told me he had done it again, he thought. Why do I get stuck with the dangerously disabled? Did Forrest Gump ever hurt anyone?

From Twitterature: The World's Greatest Books in Twenty Tweets or Less

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:16:52 -0400)

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Collects six short novels from one of the most influential authors of the twentieth century.

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