Although Steinbeck loved the landscape around his hometown, he had an uneasy relationship with Salinas. He felt that many who lived there were smug and self-satisfied. Steinbeck defined himself against "Salinas thinking" at an early age. In turn, denizens of Salinas were bitter towards Steinbeck for his portrayal of landowners in The Grapes of Wrath
and for telling much of the town's gossip in his short stories and later in East of Eden
. Indeed, many in California did not like Steinbeck's depiction of the state's powerful elite: California's indignant Kern County, a seat of the state's migrant population, banned The Grapes of Wrath
well into World War II.
"Don't think for a moment that you will ever be forgiven for being what they call 'different.' You won't! I still have not been forgiven. Only when I am delivered in a pine box will I be considered 'safe.' After I had written the Grapes of Wrath and it had been to a large extent read and sometimes burned, the librarians at the Salinas Public Library, who had known my folks, remarked that is was lucky my parents were dead so that they did not have to suffer this shame."
— From Steinbeck's letter to an aspiring writer in Salinas, CA