Steinbeck’s fiction was intended primarily for adults, but young adults often read his books as high school assignments. Although its attitude toward Hispanic-Americans seems patronizing, Steinbeck’s comic Tortilla Flat provides entertaining reading, as do its sequels, Cannery Row and Sweet Thursday (1954). Several stories in The Long Valley are often collected in anthologies, most notably “Flight,” a harsh story of initiation. Of Mice and Men is also harsh and realistic, but its beautiful evocation of friendship and dreams makes it a timeless American classic. Another classic is Steinbeck’s symbolic tale of a Mexican fisherman, The Pearl. Although Steinbeck’s epic, The Grapes of Wrath, is somewhat long and complex, the mature young person will enjoy and profit from reading it. Steinbeck also wrote some fine works of nonfiction, such as Log from the Sea of Cortez (1941) and Travels with Charley in Search of America.
Steinbeck has fared better at the hands of Hollywood than have most classic American writers. Of Mice and Men has received two fine film treatments (1939, 1973). Director John Ford’s film version of The Grapes of Wrath (1940) remains as much a part of Americana as the novel, and the film version of The Pearl (1947) is adequate. Steinbeck wrote the screenplay for the successful 1949 film treatment of The Red Pony, and Lewis Milestone produced and directed the film, which starred Robert Mitchum and Peter Miles. A 1973 production of The Red Pony, directed by Robert Totten and starring Henry Fonda and Maureen O’Hara, received favorable reviews. One of Steinbeck’s best works of the postwar period was the script for the powerful film Viva Zapata! (1952), which was directed by Elia Kazan and starred Marlon Brando. Many of the films based on Steinbeck’s work continue to appear on television.