In much of his work Steinbeck championed what in The Grapes of Wrath he called "man's proven capacity for greatness of heart and spirit." Man, says Steinbeck, "grows beyond his work, walks up the stairs of his concepts, emerges ahead of his accomplishments." And yet, he was sensitive to "a strange duality in the human." In the narrative portion of Sea of Cortez (1941), he says that man "might be described fairly adequately, if simply, as a two-legged paradox. He has never become accustomed to the tragic miracle of consciousness. Perhaps, as has been suggested, his species is not set, has not jelled, but is still in a state of becoming, bound by his physical memories to a past of struggle and survival, limited in his futures by the uneasiness of thought and consciousness."
The "tragic miracle of consciousness" is, for Steinbeck, man's greatest burden and his greatest glory. And the way in which Steinbeck portrays this burden and this glory in his novels and short stories is the source of his greatest strength as a writer. It accounts for the feeling, the... [continues]
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