Abstract

In the epilogue to John Steinbeck’s The Pastures of Heaven, a sightseeing bus carries a group of passengers above the Salinas Valley to gaze on the pastoral scene. The view of the valley below affords contrasting perspectives regarding the future development of the landscape and thus reflects explicitly on conflicts portrayed throughout stories within the main text. One tourist sees the development of economic modernity and prophesizes an encroaching capitalist system that would destroy the environment for the pursuit of economic gain. Another onlooker imagines the continuation of a pastoral way of life, of local communities living in concert with the landscape. According to Sara Blair’s theory of cultural geography, localities become “specific places . . . where individuals negotiate definitively social relations” such as between these global and regional forces (545). In Pastures, this clash of the regional and global affects characters living in the quiet agricultural community as they suffer under the pressure of the encroaching economic perspective brought into the valley by the Munroe family. As in Cannery Row, Steinbeck portrays individuals struggling against the pressures of global capitalization in regional landscapes. This paper will explore how small groups of misfit communities in Steinbeck’s works attempt to survive apart from greater economic forces impinging on them. Steinbeck reveals that individuals who come to uphold regional values that protect the environment against economic exploitation serve as the antidote to encroaching global forces and exemplify a potential way to navigate conflicting economic perspectives.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1938-6214
Print ISSN
1546-007x
Pages
pp. 175-189
Launched on MUSE
2015-12-08
Open Access
No
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