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The Final Crossing

Death and Dying in Literature

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Edited By John J. Han and Clark C. Triplett

Since ancient times, writers and poets have grappled with death, dying, grief, and mourning in their works. The Final Crossing: Death and Dying in Literature compiles fifteen in-depth, scholarly, and original essays on death and dying in literature from around the globe and from different time periods. Written from a variety of critical perspectives, the essays target both scholars and serious students. Death and dying is an important area of study for a variety of disciplines, including psychology, psychiatry, sociology, gerontology, medical ethics, healthcare science, health law, and literary studies. The Final Crossing is a landmark compendium of academic essays on death and dying in literary texts, such as the Iliad, Ḥayy ibn Yaqẓān, Hamlet, The Secret Garden, and The Grapes of Wrath. This collection of essays not only brings an international flavor, but also a unique angularity to the discourse on thanatology. The novelty of perspectives reflects the diverse cultural and intellectual backgrounds of the contributors. This diversity opens up a fresh conversation on a number of age-old questions related to «the final crossing.» In this volume, readers will find an intriguing array of topics for further reflection and research.
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Chapter Fourteen: Quick and Long-Lasting: Death and Dying in John Steinbeck’s Fiction

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CHAPTER FOURTEEN

Quick AND Long-Lasting

Death and Dying in John Steinbeck’s Fiction1

JOHN J. HAN



INTRODUCTION

For decades, studies of John Steinbeck’s (1902–68) fiction have tended to center on sociological or moral issues. The name Steinbeck is popularly linked to two of his novels that reflect the politico-economic milieu of the 1930s: Of Mice and Men and The Grapes of Wrath, which have earned him various labels such as “a proletarian novelist,” “a social novelist,” and “a radical novelist.” The 2013 publication of the volume A Political Companion to John Steinbeck evidences that many scholars still view him as an ideological writer. An increasing number of scholars are also paying attention to him as a moralist. The Moral Philosophy of John Steinbeck (2005), edited by Stephen K. George, is a case in point. The volume collects essays on Steinbeck’s ideas on various issues, such as business ethics, utilitarianism, and multiculturalism. Approaching Steinbeck’s work as a moral text has been encouraged by the author himself, who openly advocates morality and ethics in his fiction. His didactic novella The Pearl (1947) is an allegory whose teachings, he says, are open to diverse interpretations. One of his later novels, The Winter of Our Discontent (1961), also contains the author’s criticism of the decline of morality in American society.

However, the heavy emphasis on Steinbeck’s political, economic, and moral ideas has sometimes slighted an important aspect...

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