Literary Quotations
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JOHN STEINBECK QUOTES


East of Eden (1952)

Perhaps the best conversationalist in the world is the man who helps others to talk.

I believe there are monsters born in the world to human parents.... The face and body may be perfect, but if a twisted gene or a malformed egg can produce physical monsters, may not the same process produce a malformed soul?

Nothing was ever created by two men. There are no good collaborations, whether in art, in music, in poetry, in mathematics, in philosophy. Once the miracle of creation has taken place, the group can build and extend it, but the group never invents anything. The preciousness lies in the lonely mind of a man.

And this I believe: that the free, exploring mind of the individual human is the most valuable thing in the world. And this I would fight for: the freedom of the mind to take any direction it wishes, undirected. And this I must fight against: any religion, or government which limits or destroys the individual. This is what I am and what I am about. I can understand why a system built on a pattern must try to destroy the free mind, for it is the one thing which can by inspection destroy such a system.

No one who is young is ever going to be old.

Some men are friends with the whole world in their hearts, and there are others that hate themselves and spread their hatred around like butter on hot bread.

War ... a reversal of the rules where a man is permitted to kill all the humans he can.

I guess if a man had go shuck off everything he had, inside and out, he'd manage to hide a few little sins somewhere for his discomfort. They're the last things we'll give up.

So often, men trip by being in a rush. If one were properly to perform a difficult and subtle act, he should first inspect the end to be achieved and then, once he had accepted the end as desirable, he should forget it completely and concentrate solely on the means. By this method he would not be moved by false action by anxiety or hurry or fear. Very few people learn this.

There are techniques of the human mind whereby, in its dark deep, problems are examined, rejected or accepted. Such activities sometimes concern facets a man does not know he had. How often one goes to sleep troubled and full of pain, not knowing what causes the travail, and in the morning a whole new direction and clearness is there, maybe the result of the black reasoning.

I believe that there is one story in the world, and only one. . . . Humans are caught—in their lives, in their thoughts, in their hungers and ambitions, in their avarice and cruelty, and in their kindness and generosity too—in a net of good and evil. . . . There is no other story. A man, after he has brushed off the dust and chips of his life, will have left only the hard, clean questions: Was it good or was it evil? Have I done well—or ill?

It seems to me that if you or I must choose between two courses of thought or action, we should remember our dying and try so to live that our death brings no pleasure on the world.

The Grapes of Wrath (1939)

Man, unlike anything organic or inorganic in the universe, grows beyond his work, walks up the stairs of his concepts, emerges ahead of his accomplishments.

The bank is something more than men, I tell you. It's the monster. Men made it, but they can't control it.

Salesmen, neat, deadly, small intent eyes watching for weakness.

You're not buying only junk, you're buying junked lives. And more - you'll see - you're buying bitterness. Buying a plow to plow your own children under, buying the arms and spirits that might have saved you.

The quality of owning freezes you forever into "I," and cuts you off forever from the "we."

If he needs a million acres to make him feel rich, seems to me he needs it 'cause he feels awful poor inside hisself, and if he's poor in hisself, there ain't no million acres gonna make him feel rich, an' maybe he's disappointed that nothin' he can do 'll make him feel rich.

It ain't that big. The whole United States ain't that big. It ain't that big. It ain't big enough. There ain't room enough for you an' me, for your kind an' my kind, for rich and poor together all in one country, for thieves and honest men. For hunger and fat.

On the highways the people moved like ants and searched for work, for food. And the anger began to ferment.

Wisht I knowed what all the sins was, so I could do 'em. The migrants looked humbly for pleasure on the roads.

It don't take no nerve to do somepin when there ain't nothin' else you can do.

That man who is more than his elements knows the land that is more than its analysis. But the machine man, driving the dead tractor on land he does not know and love, understands only chemistry.

All that lives is holy.

Gonna get me a whole big bunch of grapes off a bush, or whatever, an' I'm gonna squash 'em on my face an' let 'em run offen my chin.

A vacant house falls quickly apart.

How can we live without our lives? How will we know it’s us without our past? No. Leave it. Burn it.

I'm learnin' one thing good ... If you're in trouble or hurt or need - go to the poor people. They're the only ones that'll help - the only ones.

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, the one will lif' up his fellow, but woe to him that is alone when he falleth, for he hath not another to help him up.

A fella ain't got a soul of his own, but on'y a piece of a big one.

Fear the time when Manself will not suffer and die for a concept, for this one quality is man, distinctive in the universe.

Men who have created new fruits in the world cannot create a system whereby their fruits may be eaten. And the failure hangs over the State like a great sorrow.

There ain't no sin and there ain't no virtue. There is just stuff people do.

In the souls of the people the grapes of wrath are filling and growing heavy, growing heavy for the vintage.

Of Mice and Men (1937)

Evening of a hot day started the little wind to moving among the leaves. The shade climbed up the hills toward the top. On the sand banks the rabbits sat as quietly as little gray, sculptured stones.

Lord knows you don't need no brains to buck barley.

I ain't got no people. I seen the guys that go around on the ranches alone. That ain't no good. They don't have no fun. After a long time they get mean. They get wantin' to fight all the time. . . 'Course Lennie's a God damn nuisance most of the time, but you get used to goin' around with a guy an' you can't get rid of him.

Whatever we ain't got, that's what you want. God a'mighty, if I was alone I could live so easy. I could go get a job an' work, an no trouble. No mess at all, and when the end of the month come I could take my fifty bucks and go into town and get whatever I want.

You'd drink out of a gutter if you was thirsty.

Curley's like a lot of little guys. He hates big guys. He's alla time picking scraps with big guys. Kind of like he's mad at 'em because he ain't a big guy.

I seen hunderds of men come by on the road an' on the ranches, with their bindles on their back an' that same damn thing in their heads. Hunderds of them. They come, an' they quit an' go on; an' every damn one of 'em's got a little piece of land in his head. An' never a God damn one of 'em ever gets it. Just like heaven. Everybody wants a little piece of lan'. I read plenty of books out here. Nobody never gets to heaven, and nobody gets no land. It's just in their head. They're all the time talkin' about it, but it's jus' in their head.

Guys like us, that work on ranches, are the loneliest guys in the world. They got no family. They don't belong no place.... With us it ain't like that. We got a future. We got somebody to talk to that gives a damn about us.

As happens sometimes, a moment settled and hovered and remained for much more than a moment. And sound stopped and movement stopped for much, much more than a moment.

A guy needs somebody — to be near him. A guy goes nuts if he ain’t got nobody. Don't make no difference who the guy is, long's he's with you. I tell ya, I tell ya a guy gets too lonely an' he gets sick.