John Steinbeck Quotes

100+ of the best book quotes from John Steinbeck
  1. #1
    “Readers seeking to identify the fictional people and places here described would do better to inspect their own communities and search their own hearts, for this book is about a large part of America today.”
  2. #2
    “Men don’t get knocked out, or I mean they can fight back against big things. What kills them is erosion; they get nudged into failure. They get slowly scared. I’m scared.”
  3. #3
    “Sometimes a man seems to reverse himself so you would say, ‘he can’t do that. It’s out of character’. Maybe it’s not. It could just be another angle, or it might be that the pressures above or below have changed his shape. You see it in war a lot - a coward turning a hero and a brave man crashing in flames.”
  4. #4
    “Like most modern people, I don’t believe in prophecy or magic and then spend half my time practicing it.”
  5. #5
    “A man who tells secrets or stories must think of who is hearing or reading, for a story has as many versions as it has readers. Everyone takes what he wants or can from it and thus changes it to his measure. Some pick out parts and reject the rest, some strain the story through their mesh of prejudice, some paint it with their own delight. ”
  6. #6
    “Any man of reasonable intelligence can make money if that’s what he wants. Mostly it’s women or clothes or admiration he really wants and they deflect him.”
  7. #7
    “We can shoot rockets into space but we can’t cure anger or discontent.”
  8. #8
    “I know three things will never be believed - the true, the probable, and the logical.”
  9. #9
    “I shall revenge myself in the cruelest way you can imagine. I shall forget it.”
  10. #10
    “Misfortune is a fact of nature acceptable to women, especially when it falls on other women.”
  11. #11
    “To be alive at all is to have scars.”
  12. #12
    “Only God sees the sparrow fall, but even God doesn’t do anything about it.”
  13. #13
    “Nobody changes. Nobody gets hurt.”
  14. #14
    “In poverty she is envious. In riches she may be a snob. Money does not change the sickness, only the symptoms.“
  15. #15
    “So many old and lovely things are stored in the world’s attic because we don’t want them around us and we don’t dare throw them out.”
  16. #16
    “You know most people live ninety per cent in the past, seven per cent in the present, and that only leaves them three per cent for the future.”
  17. #17
    “Failure is a state of mind. It’s like one of those sand traps an ant lion digs. You keep sliding back. Takes one hell of a jump to get out of it.”
  1. #18
    “You know how advice is. You only want it if it agrees with what you wanted to do anyway.”
  2. #19
    “When two people meet, each one is changed by the other so you’ve got two new people. Maybe that means — hell, it’s complicated.”
  3. #20
    “For the most part people are not curious except about themselves.“
  4. #21
    “She seemed to know, to accept, to welcome her position, the citadel of the family, the strong place that could not be taken. And since Tom and the children could not know hurt or fear unless she acknowledged hurt and fear, she has practiced denying them in herself.”
  5. #22
    “Death was a friend, and sleep was death’s brother.”
  6. #23
    “How can we live without our lives? How will we know it’s us without our past?”
  7. #24
    “Perhaps it takes courage to raise children.”
  8. #25
    “It is not good to want a thing too much. It sometimes drives the luck away. You must want it just enough . . . ”
  9. #26
    “But now, by saying what his future was going to be like, he had created it. A plan is a real thing, and things projected are experienced. A plan once made and visualized becomes a reality along with other realities—never to be destroyed but easily to be attacked.”
    John Steinbeck
    The Pearl
  10. #27
    “But I have a new love for that glittering instrument, the human soul. It is a lovely and unique thing in the universe.”
    John Steinbeck
    East of Eden
  11. #28
    “It takes great courage to back truth unacceptable to our times.”
  12. #29
    “People like you to be something, preferably what they are.”
  13. #30
    “Perhaps the less we have, the more we are required to brag.”
  14. #31
    “I believe a strong woman may be stronger than a man, particularly if she happens to have love in her heart. I guess a loving woman is indestructible.”
  15. #32
    “For it is said that humans are never satisfied, that you give them one thing and they want something more. And this is said in disparagement, whereas it is one of the greatest talents the species has and one that has made it superior to animals that are satisfied with what they have.”
  16. #33
    “Up ahead they’s a thousan’ lives we might live, but when it comes it’ll on’y be one.”
  17. #34
    “There ain’t no sin and there ain’t no virtue. There’s just stuff people do.”

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  1. #35
    “I’m jus’ pain covered with skin.”
  2. #36
    “I’m gettin’ tired way past where sleep rests me.”
  3. #37
    “I nearly always write just as I nearly always breathe.”
  4. #38
    “Our people are good people; our people are kind people. Pray God some day kind people won’t all be poor.”
  5. #39
    “A large drop of sun lingered on the horizon and then dripped over and was gone, and the sky was brilliant over the spot where it had gone, and a torn cloud, like a bloody rag, hung over the spot of its going. And dusk crept over the sky from the eastern horizon, and darkness crept over the land from the east.”
  6. #40
    “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.”
  7. #41
    “And her joy was nearly like sorrow.”
  8. #42
    “The clouds appeared and went away, and in a while they did not try anymore.”
  9. #43
    “They’s times when how you feel got to be kep’ to yourself.”
  10. #44
    “I gotta think about that. We was always gonna do it by ourselves.”
  11. #45
    “But you get used to goin’ around with a guy an’ you can’t get rid of him.”
  12. #46
    “George said wonderingly, ‘S’pose they was a carnival or a circus come to town, or a ball game, . . . We’d just go to her . . . We wouldn’t ask nobody if we could. Jus’ say, ‘We’ll go to her,’ an’ we would. Jus’ milk the cow and sling some grain to the chickens an’ go to her.‘”
  13. #47
    “And it’d be our own, an’ nobody could can us. . . . An’ if a fren’ come along, why we’d have an extra bunk, an’ we’d say, ‘Why don’t you spen’ the night?′ An’ . . . he would.”
  14. #48
    “But you jus’ tell an’ try to get this guy canned and we’ll tell ever’body, an’ then will you get the laugh.”
  15. #49
    “For two bits I’d shove out of here. If we can get jus’ a few dollars in the poke we’ll shove off and go up the American River and pan gold. We can make maybe a couple of dollars a day there, and we might hit a pocket.”
  16. #50
    “O.K.,” said George. “An’ you ain’t gonna do no bad things like you done in Weed, neither.”
    Lennie looked puzzled. “Like I done in Weed?”
    “Oh, so ya forgot that too, did ya? Well, I ain’t gonna remind ya, fear ya do it again.”
    A light of understanding broke on Lennie’s face.
    “They run us outa Weed,” he exploded triumphantly.
    “Run us out, hell,” said George disgustedly. “We run. They was lookin’ for us, but they didn’t catch us.”
    Lennie giggled happily. “I didn’t forget that, you bet.”
  17. #51
    “Lennie—if you jus’ happen to get in trouble like you always done before, I want you to come right here an’ hide in the brush… Hide in the brush till I come for you.”
  1. #52
    “It ain’t so funny, him an’ me goin’ aroun’ together,” George said at last. “Him and me was both born in Auburn. I knowed his Aunt Clara. She took him when he was a baby and raised him up. When his Aunt Clara died, Lennie just come along with me out workin’. Got kinda used to each other after a little while.”
  2. #53
    “To a criminal, honesty is foolish.”
  3. #54
    “I’m scared of stuff so nice. I ain’t got faith. I’m scared somepin ain’t so nice about it.”
  4. #55
    “Her hazel eyes seemed to have experienced all possible tragedy and to have mounted pain and suffering like steps into a high calm and a superhuman understanding.”
  5. #56
    “She seemed to know, to accept, to welcome her position, the citadel of the family, the strong place that could not be taken.”
  6. #57
    “And since, when a joyful thing happened, they looked to see whether joy was on her, it was her habit to build up laughter out of inadequate materials.”
  7. #58
    “But better than joy was calm. Imperturbability could be depended upon.”
  8. #59
    “And from her great and humble position in the family she had taken dignity and a clean calm beauty. From her position as healer, her hands had grown sure and cool and quiet; from her position as arbiter she had become as remote and faultless in judgment as a goddess. She seemed to know that if she swayed the family shook, and if she ever really deeply wavered or despaired the family would fall, the family will to function would be gone.”
  9. #60
    “There’s more beauty in truth, even if it is dreadful beauty.”
  10. #61
    “She seemed to know that if she swayed the family shook, and if she ever really deeply wavered or despaired the family would fall, the family will to function would be gone.”
  11. #62
    “You’re bound to get idears if you go thinkin’ about stuff.”
  12. #63
    “The last clear definite function of man—muscles aching to work, minds aching to create . . . ”
  13. #64
    “And now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good.”
  14. #65
    “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?”
  15. #66
    “Luck, you see, brings bitter friends.”
  16. #67
    “Man, unlike any other thing organic or inorganic in the universe, grows beyond his work, walks up the stairs of his concepts, and emerges ahead of his accomplishments.”
  17. #68
    “If you’re in trouble or hurt or need–go to poor people. They’re the only ones that’ll help–the only ones.”

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  1. #69
    “I got you to look after me, and you got me to look after you, and that’s why.”
  2. #70
    “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.”
  3. #71
    “Guy don’t need no sense to be a nice fella. Seems to me sometimes it jus’ works the other way around. Take a real smart guy and he ain’t hardly ever a nice fella.”
  4. #72
    “His ear heard more than was said to him, and his slow speech had overtones not of thought, but of understanding beyond thought.”
  5. #73
    “We could live offa the fatta the lan’.”
  6. #74
    “Try to understand men, if you understand each other you will be kind to each other.”
  7. #75
    “Knowing a man well never leads to hate and nearly always leads to love.”
  8. #76
    “It ain’t no lie. We’re gonna do it. Gonna get a little place an’ live on the fatta the lan’.”
  9. #77
    “You never oughta drink water when it ain’t runnin’.”
  10. #78
    “They fell into a silence. They looked at one another, amazed. This thing they had never really believed in was coming true.”
  11. #79
    “We got a future.”
  12. #80
    “A guy sets alone out here at night, maybe readin’ books or thinkin’ or stuff like that.”
  13. #81
    “Lennie, who had been watching, imitated George exactly. He pushed himself back, drew up his knees, embraced them, looked over to George to see whether he had it just right.”
  14. #82
    “When his Aunt Clara died, Lennie just come along with me out workin’. Got kinda used to each other after a little while.”
  15. #83
    ″‘Come on in and set a while,’ Crooks said. ‘Long as you won’t get out and leave me alone, you might as well set down.‘”
  16. #84
    “George can tell you screwy things, and it don’t matter. It’s just the talking. . . . That’s all.”
  17. #85
    ″‘I said what stake you got in this guy? You takin’ his pay away from him?′
    ‘No, ‘course I ain’t. Why you think I’m sellin’ him out?′
    ‘Well, I never seen one guy take so much trouble for another guy. I just like to know what your interest is.‘”
  1. #86
    “A guy on a ranch don’t never listen nor he don’t ast no questions.”
  2. #87
    “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.”
  3. #88
    “Tonight I’m gonna lay right here and look up. I like it.”
  4. #89
    “Behind him walked his opposite, a huge man, shapeless of face, with large, pale eyes, and wide, sloping shoulders; and he walked heavily, dragging his feet a little, the way a bear drags his paws. His arms did not swing at his sides, but hung loosely. ”
  5. #90
    “Lennie said, ‘I thought you was mad at me, George.’ ”
    ‘No,’ said George. ‘No, Lennie, I ain’t mad. I never been mad, and I ain’ now. That’s a thing I want ya to know.′ ”
  6. #91
    “Lennie dabbled his big paw in the water and wiggled his fingers so the water arose in little splashes; rings widened across the pool o the other side and came back again. Lennie watched them go. ‘Look, George. Look what I done.’ ”
  7. #92
    “I was only foolin’, George. I don’t want no ketchup. I wouldn’t eat no ketchup if it was right here beside me.”
    “If it was here, you could have some.”
    “But I wouldn’t eat none, George. I’d leave it all for you. You could cover your beans with it and I wouldn’t touch none of it.
  8. #93
    “But the Hebrew word, the word timshel—‘Thou mayest’—that gives a choice.”
    John Steinbeck
    East of Eden
  9. #94
    “Maybe we all have in us a secret pond where evil and ugly things germinate and grow strong. But this culture is fenced, and the swimming brood climbs up only to fall back. Might it not be that in the dark pools of some men the evil grows strong enough to wriggle over the fence and swim free?”
  10. #95
    “Even God can have a preference, can he? Let’s suppose God liked lamb better than vegetables. I think I do myself. Cain brought him a bunch of carrots maybe. And God said, ‘I don’t like this. Try again. Bring me something I like and I’ll set you up alongside your brother.’ But Cain got mad. His feelings were hurt. And when a man’s feelings are hurt he wants to strike at something, and Abel was in the way of his anger.”
  11. #96
    “Sometimes a man wants to be stupid if it lets him do a thing his cleverness forbids.”
  12. #97
    “When a child first catches adults out—when it first walks into his grave little head that adults do not have divine intelligence, that their judgments are not always wise, their thinking true, their sentences just—his world falls into panic desolation. The gods are fallen and all safety gone. ”
  13. #98
    “Monsters are variations from the accepted normal to a greater or a less degree. As a child may be born without an arm, so one may be born without kindness or the potential of conscience.”
  14. #99
    “We have only one story. All novels, all poetry, are built on the never-ending contest in ourselves of good and evil. And it occurs to me that evil must constantly respawn, while good, while virtue, is immortal.”
  15. #100
    “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 idea, religion, or government which limits or destroys the individual.”
  16. #101
    “I thought I had inherited both the scars of the fire and the impurities which made the fire necessary—all inherited, I thought. All inherited.”
  17. #102
    “There’s a gentility on the road. A direct or personal question is out of bounds. But this is simple good manners anywhere in the world.”
  1. #103
    “There is absolutely nothing to take the place of a good man.”
  2. #104
    “The great get-together symbol is the cup of coffee. ”
  3. #105
    “I find out of long experience that I admire all nations and hate all governments, and nowhere is my natural anarchism more aroused than at national borders”
  4. #106
    “I know people who are so immersed in road maps that they never see the countryside they pass through, and others who, having traced a route, are held to it as through held by flanged wheels to rails.”
  5. #107
    “Everything in the world must have design or the human mind rejects it. But in addition it must have purpose or the human conscience shies away from it.”
  6. #108
    “This journey has been like a full dinner of many courses, set before a starving man. At first he tries to eat all of everything, but as the meal progresses he finds he must forgo some things to keep his appetite and his taste buds functioning. ”
  7. #109
    “It is the nature of a man as he grows older, a small bride in time, to protest against change, particularly change for the better.”
  8. #110
    “Only through imitation do we develop toward originality.”
  9. #111
    “I suppose our capacity for self-delusion is boundless.”
  10. #112
    “And all plans, safeguards, policing, and coercion are fruitless. We find after years of struggle that we do not take a trip; a trip takes us.”
  11. #113
    “We value virtue but do not discuss it. The honest bookkeeper, the faithful wife, the earnest scholar get little of our attention compared to the embezzler, the tramp, the cheat.”
  12. #114
    “A journey is a person itself; no two are alike.”
  13. #115
    “Who has not known a journey to be over and done before the traveler returns? The reverse is also true: many a trip continues long after movement in time and space have ceased.”
  14. #116
    “A dog, particularly an exotic like Charley, is a bond between strangers.”
  15. #117
    “A sad soul can kill you quicker, far quicker, than a germ.”
  16. #118
    “How the myth wipes out the fact.”
  17. #119
    “Curious how a place unvisited can take such hold on the mind so that the very name sets up a ringing.”
  1. #120
    “When people are engaged in something they are not proud of, they do not welcome witnesses.”
  2. #121
    “I wonder why progress looks so much like destruction.”
  3. #122
    “All of the time Juana had been trying to rescue something of the old peace, of the time before the pearl. But now it was gone, and there was no retrieving it. And knowing this, she abandoned the past instantly.”
  4. #123
    “In the pearl he saw Coyotito sitting at a little desk in a school, just as Kino had once seen it through an open door. And Coyotito was dressed in a jacket, and he had on a white collar and a broad silken tie
  5. #124
    “But the pearls were accidents, and the finding of one was luck, a little pat on the back by God or the gods or both.”
  6. #125
    “In his mind a new song had come, the Song of Evil, the music of the enemy, of any foe of the family, a savage, secret, dangerous melody, and underneath, the Song of the Family cried plaintively.”
  7. #126
    “In the town they tell the story of the great pearl—how it was found and how it was lost again.”
  8. #127
    “My son will read and open the books, and my son will write and will know writing. And my son will make numbers, and these things will make us free because he will know—he will know and through him we will know.”
  9. #128
    ″... the music of the pearl was shrilling with triumph in Kino.”
  10. #129
    ″... this was part of the family song too. It was all part. Sometimes it rose to an aching chord that caught the throat, saying this is safety, this is warmth, this is the Whole.”
  11. #130
    “It was the greatest pearl in the world.”
  12. #131
    “All manner of people grew interested in Kino – people with things to sell and people with favors to ask.”
  13. #132
    “In the surface of the great pearl he could see dreams form. He picked the pearl from the dying flesh and held it in his palm, and he turned it over and saw that its curve was perfect.”
  14. #133
    “And then Kino’s brain cleared from its red concentration and he knew the sound – the keening, moaning, rising hysterical cry from the little cave in the side of the stone mountain, the cry of death.”
  15. #134
    “She looked up at him, her eyes as cold as the eyes of a lioness. This was Juana’s first baby – this was nearly everything there was in Juana’s world. And Kino saw her determination and the music of the family sounded in his head with a steely tone.”
  16. #135
    “The people say that the two seemed to be removed from human experience; that they had gone through pain and had come out on the other side; that there was almost a magical protection about them.”
  17. #136
    “Here is your pearl. I found it in the path. Can you hear me now? Here is your pearl. Can you understand? You have killed a man. We must go away. They will come for us, can you understand? We must be gone before daylight comes.”
  18. #137
    “Oh, my brother, an insult has been put on me that is deeper than my life. For on the beach my canoe is broken, my house is burned, and in the brush a dead man lies. Every escape is cut off. You must hide us, my brother.”
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