"John Steinbeck was one of the greatest American authors of his time- (Spiller, ), and will, contrary to many skeptics beliefs, be known for his use of sentimentalism, realism, and " his ability to envelop the feelings of Americans." (Wooley, Newsbank) He did this through diligent research in discovering the true America in its rawest form. The product of this research was some of the most popular and widely criticized books in all of Americas literary history. One of the most prominent aspects of his greater works were the setting. Steinbeck drew on the personal experience of being born and raised in the California agricultural area of Salinas Valley to compose many of his most famous books.
Steinbeck was born on February 27, 1902 in Salinas California. "The two important facts about the first phase of his life are that he was a Californian and the he wanted to be a serious writer." (French, 19) California was a great place for a young and aspiring writer to grow up. It had so many tumultuous periods in it's history; the Spanish settlers, the Gold Rush, the building of the transcontinental railroad, and the hardships of migrant workers. These epic events made California almost a legend in itself. His family came to Salinas as conquerors of the frontier. His grandfather migrated to California straight from Ireland, and his father moved there from Florida at the time of the Civil War. Steinbeck's father, John Ernst, Sr., was the treasurer of Monterey County for many years and was also a miller. His mother, Olive Hamilton, taught at many schools in the Salinas area. He also had three sisters. .
Steinbeck had ample access to the three things Emerson said went into the making of a scholar; nature, books, action. Steinbeck was a small town boy, but he lived close to the country and spent much time around the farms just outside of Salinas. He also had access to a large number of books by many authors.