The department recently purchased John Steinbeck’s 4-page manuscript for the semi-autobiographical short story “His Father,” which was first published in the September 1949 issue of Reader’s Digest. It tells the story of a young boy who is bullied by neighborhood children, demanding to know where his father is.
From the bookseller’s description:
This Steinbeck story chronicles a young child’s concerns regarding his absent father. The young man, approaching seven, lives in a large city, and is tormented by other neighborhood children who taunt the boy, ‘demanding to know where his father has gone. The boy lamely says his father is working indoors or on long trips,’ but the other kids, exhibiting cruelty only children can display, finally extort a confession that the father is gone due to divorce. The lad finally, driven to respond with more than words, replies physically to his assailants, but the taunting continues, albeit in a more subtle fashion. At last, one day, the boy’s father appears, and in the concluding line of the story, the boy screams at the neighborhood, ‘He’s here. You want to see him?’
This poignant piece was written by Steinbeck shortly after his divorce from Gwyndolyn, his second wife; as such, the work no doubt reflects not only the author’s anxieties about being separated from his own sons, John IV and Thom, but also the effects on his two sons of his prior family absences, as necessitated by his work.
Steinbeck is the Nobel Prize-winning author of Of Mice and Men (1937), The Grapes of Wrath (1939), and East of Eden (1952). Special Collections is home to a number of Steinbeck first editions, the film script for Cannery Row, and galley proofs for Of Mice and Men.