Photo: National Steinbeck Center
Pat Hathaway collection
The Myth, The Legend
Steinbeck lived a life of active observation. He was intensely curious and also intensely private. Many of his closest relationships were strained by his unwavering commitment to his work. Steinbeck's friendship with marine biologist and philosopher Edward F. Ricketts ("Doc," as he is portrayed in a number of Steinbeck's works) was profoundly influential in shaping his views (together they wrote Sea of Cortez in 1941) and the loss of his friend to a train accident in 1948 left him bereft, without the intellectual companion whose friendship he'd long cherished.
Steinbeck married three times. His first wife Carol was very involved at the beginning of his career; she provided editorial advice, unwavering support and hours of commitment typing his hand-written notes into finished drafts. Gwyn Conger, his second wife, was the mother of his sons Thom and John. In 1949 he met his third wife, Elaine. Steinbeck and Elaine, who were very bonded, remained together for the rest of his life, spending most of their time in New York and Sag Harbor. His later years were spent writing and traveling extensively; he was recognized as one of America's most beloved writers. One of the pinnacles of his career was accepting the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1962, where he paid tribute to the written word and his literary debt to contemporary William Faulkner. John Steinbeck died in New York City on December 20, 1968. Steinbeck's ashes are buried in his family plot in Salinas, California.