Five Famous Quotes From John Steinbeck

Five Famous Quotes From John Steinbeck

Last update: 06 January, 2022

John Steinbeck was born in 1902. Despite working extremely hard to survive from a young age, writing was his one true passion. It was at the age of 33 that he was first recognized by the critics with his novel, Tortilla Flat, which later led him to create other works such as Of Mice and Men and The Grapes of Wrath. One thing that’s prevalent in his writing is his spirituality. Today, we take a look at five of his most interesting quotes.

Steinbeck’s reflections allow us to get closer to a writer whose works stand out for their toughness and their realism. Sometimes, the way in which he expressed his ideas could be quite hard-hitting, because if there was one thing that characterized Steinbeck it was his candor. Indeed, he didn’t hide the truth under flowery phrases. All this earned him the Nobel Prize for Literature. Here are five of his most famous quotes.

A book by John Steinbeck.

1. The needs of man

“Of all the animals of creation, man is the only one who drinks without being thirsty, eats without being hungry, and speaks without having anything to say”.

This first of our five famous quotes of John Steinbeck is a strong criticism of the human being. In fact, he claims that we don’t do what we do because our body asks us to, but for no real reason whatsoever. Indeed, often, when you meet with your family and friends, you also have some food. This means that without really wanting to eat, you end up doing so. Likewise, drinking a soda isn’t always done to quench your thirst, you drink it for the taste and the sugar content.

Steinbeck also claims we talk for the sake of talking. For example, we use empty words that lack real meaning and are merely sounds that come out of our mouths. We talk to avoid feeling uncomfortable, because we don’t like silence, and to make ourselves interesting. We’re the only animal that does this.

Friends talking

2. Truths that hurt

“An unbelieved truth can hurt a man much more than a lie”.

This second of John Steinbeck’s famous quotes also implies a critique of our way of understanding truth. After all, how many times do you ask others to tell you the truth and not to lie to you? However, when they do, you often feel offended, since the feelings of rejection you experience when you find yourself at the end of a certain wake-up call or a statement about yourself that you don’t like is worse than a lie. That’s because it’s true! Without a doubt, this phrase hints at the hypocrisy of the human being.

3. Rest is also an art

“The art of rest is a part of the art of working”.

Even in Steinbeck’s time, rest was considered to be an important part of work. This is something that you continue to read on your social networks today and that people close to you often advise you to do.

However, working hard still tends to be viewed positively and rest is often seen as a waste of time. This is a big mistake because without rest your work gets worse and worse. In fact, your productivity diminishes and you’ll quickly find yourself a victim of burnout syndrome. 

Resting doesn’t mean that you become lazy or too comfortable. As a matter of fact, rest is necessary, since you’re not a machine and you need to relax, sleep well, and spend time with your loved ones. Then, you’re able to return to your work tasks with renewed strength. Indeed, as Steinbeck said, rest is most certainly a part of the art of working.

4. A trip is like marriage

“A journey is like marriage. The certain way to be wrong is to think you can control it”.

This phrase is extremely revealing, as it talks about control. Steinbeck uses the concept of life as a journey, one in which unpredictable events can arise as well as difficult situations that you may not like so much.

Thinking that you have everything under your control is a mistake and can frustrate you. For this reason, just as you can’t control others in your relationships, particularly marriage, it’s also not possible to control the behavior or trajectory of other elements in your life.

Nevertheless, letting go of control isn’t usually easy, but it can be done. However, it takes a lot of work to make things flow rather than trying to control everything.

Woman walking

5. There’s only one life to live

“Up ahead they’s a thousan’ lives we might live, but when it comes, it’ll on’y be one.”

We end with one of John Steinbeck’s famous phrases that could be said to be the most beautiful. With it, this author allows you to see how many possibilities and paths there are available in your life for you to choose from.

You have many options to live the life you really want. However, you can only make one choice. Indeed, although there are a thousand and one possibilities in front of you, in the end, you can only choose one of them. Therefore, you have to do it right.

Hopefully, these famous phrases by John Steinbeck have brought you a little closer to this author who, for many people, remains unknown. In fact, they allow you to take a glimpse at what you’ll find in his books and a little about his spiritual and reflective personality as well. His books are well worth a read.

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  • Steinbeck, J. (2019). De ratones y hombres. Edhasa.
  • Steinbeck, J. (2019). Las uvas de la ira. Ediciones Cátedra.
  • Steinbeck, J. (2018). El invierno de mi desazón. Nordica.
  • Steinbeck, J. (2002). Al Este del Edén, ed. Tusquets, Barcelona.
  • Steinbeck, J. (1997). Tortilla flat. Penguin.