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The Student News Site of Fresno Christian High School

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Museum alters literary impressions through historical displays

This past summer, I decided to read John Steinbeck’s Cannery Row, since it is a classic novel and because of my own interest in the California coastline. Before I began reading, I had high expectations for the book as well as anticipation to learn more about a popular tourist attraction’s history from an acclaimed American author.

After reading the novel, I felt as if I would not appreciate any other work by Steinbeck since Cannery Row did not captivate my interest, despite its popularity.

Setting aside my preconceived notions about Cannery Row, I decided to travel to the National Steinbeck Center in Salinas to learn more about him and his successful career. Even though Cannery Row would not be considered one of my favorite books, I decided that, by visiting the museum, I would be able to see firsthand where Steinbeck was coming from when writing the novel, while learning more about California’s coastal history. To my surprise, the museum is larger that I expected, filled with information regarding Steinbeck throughout his life as well as local history.

Throughout the museum I learned potent information that inspired Steinbeck to write bestsellers such as The Grapes of Wrath, East of Eden and Of Mice and Men. During my visit, I was informed that Steinbeck’s novels have been translated into over 60 different languages, inspiring individuals worldwide.

One of my favorite displays was for the novel The Grapes of Wrath because I learned about individuals who traveled from the Midwest and settled in the Salians Valley. Aside from some stories, the museum also presented intriguing artifacts as well as a life-size display of what migrants’ homes looked like once they settled in California.

While at the museum, I was able to visually see artifacts described in Steinbeck’s novels, such as a Model T car, horse saddle and sail boat. This ultimately made the experience much more enjoyable, as it allowed me to understand the culture of that time period.

Even if an individual has not read a Steinbeck novel, the museum provides background information about Salinas and Steinbeck’s works transforming into Hollywood blockbusters. Although I have not seen any movies based on Steinbeck’s books, it was still interesting to learn more about the historical background each movie depicts. Over the years, there have been various adaptations of Steinbeck novels into both television and silver screen films.

Another interesting aspect about the museum was learning about the individuals who Steinbeck based his characters on; a group ranging from family members to local residents. Within the museum there are also artifacts that were mentioned in the novels, such as specimens of bullfrogs and jellyfish, which enabled me to visibly see what I was reading.

A week after I visited the Steinbeck museum I traveled to Monterey for a family vacation. While in Monterey, I revisited the actual location of Cannery Row for the first time in years. To my surprise, it felt like I was seeing Cannery Row for the first time, and immediately I had an appreciation for the historical site.

Despite my previous aversions towards the book, I cannot wait to reread it with a new perspective, immersing myself in the cultures and characters of Steinbeck’s novels. It amazes me how I can change my opinion about a book after gaining background knowledge on an author. Overall, I have learned to not dismiss something without gaining a further understanding of the subject.

I encourage others to not immediately disregard a book because of simply “not liking it,” but to learn about the author’s background and why they wrote the book the way they did. Although there is not a museum for every published author, just a simple internet search can quickly change your mind.

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