Rebel Figure in American Literature and Film: The Interconnectedness of John Steinbeck and James Dean

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This study examines the educational, professional and social similarities in the backgrounds of John Steinbeck and James Dean. Both men struggled with the intellectual limits of small towns, and difficult relations with their parents.


“In short, each artist is portrayed as a lonely isolated figure who somehow never quite fit into the societies they interacted with and sought acceptance from. Though more time is spent on Steinbeck because he lived 44 years more than Dean (who unfortunately died at age twenty-four in a tragic car wreck) the details presented in this study successfully link the two men and are impressive indeed. This is entertaining reading to be sure, and it is guaranteed to raise eyebrows at some places. Though at first glance, the connections may seem minimal, the links build until a reader looks back in amazement at how similar these two famous men were.” – Prof. Michael J. Mayer, DePaul University

“This is a book that needed to be written, for the topic of Steinbeck’s encounter with James Dean has tantalized many while remaining indefinite in its implications. The parallels Audry Lynch discovers between these two lives show that the film of East of Eden encapsulated the angst and suffering of both men—with the added dimension that Steinbeck re-encountered himself as a rebellious youth in the performance Dean gave as Cal Trask. The echoes across generations serve to highlight the fact that youthful rebellion, with or without a rationalized “cause,” is an archetypal theme that Steinbeck captured in his writing and that Dean epitomizes. Thus, the odd fact that Steinbeck played a crucial role in Dean’s rise to an icon of rebellion turns out to have a rational cause after all: Steinbeck was so very much like Dean in so very many ways, and so much like the millions of young men and women who later recognized themselves in the character of Cal.” – Prof. Paul Douglass, San Jose State University

Table of Contents

Foreword by Michael Meyer
1. The Life Changing Meeting of the Two Rebels
2. The Family Sows the Seeds of Fame and Rebellion
3. The Influence of the Fathers
4. Their Origins-Small Farm Towns
5. The Rebel Natures Find Outlets in Favorite Books
6. The Rebels in High School
7. The Rebels in College
8. The Rebels in Love
9. The Rebels at Work
10. The Rebels at Rest
Appendix A: A John Steinbeck Bibliography

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