John Steinbeck: Overview

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Author: Roy S. Simmonds
Editor: Aruna Vasudevan
Date: 1994
Publisher: Gale
Series: Twentieth-Century Writers Series
Document Type: Critical essay
Length: 766 words

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John Steinbeck's chief claim to fame is as a writer of the realist school, and as a chronicler of the contemporary American scene of the 1920s and 1930s. He did, however, write two historical novels. These two works stand at the beginning and the end of a distinguished literary career: Cup of Gold, loosely based on the life of the 17th-century buccaneer Henry Morgan, was published in 1929, and The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights, a modern version of Malory's Le Morte D'Arthur, was published posthumously in an unfinished state in 1976.

Cup of Gold is very much an apprentice work. Sub-titled A Life of Henry Morgan, Buccaneer, with Occasional Reference to History, it is a hybrid production which arguably not only fails in many respects as fictionalized history, but also fails as an excursion into the fabular genre. Steinbeck's lifelong fascination with Arthurian legend is early established in the book with the introduction of the old Welsh seer, Merlin, to whom the young Henry goes to seek advice before embarking on his adventures in the West Indies. The Arthurian theme is perpetuated when Morgan's unformulated longings finally...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|H1420007682