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Overview of The Long Valley: A Timeless Collection of Steinbeck’s Short Works

The Long Valley book cover

John Steinbeck's The Long Valley is comprised of eleven unrelated short stories and The Red Pony series (See The Red Pony for further discussion). Unlike The Pastures of Heaven and The Red Pony, the eleven stories do not constitute a unified whole and were actually written and published in various magazines and newspapers at different times before they were finally collected into one volume. Nonetheless the stories share common themes and character types that also resemble some of the characters and themes in Steinbeck's other well-known works.

The Long Valley is therefore a useful early introduction to important aspects of Steinbeck's later fiction. A few primary themes in The Long Valley are loneliness, emotional isolation, repressed sexuality, unfulfilling marital relationships, collective behavior and mob mentality, and violence. Some familiar characters are the communist organizers in The Raid, which are similar to the organizers in In Dubious Battle, the migrant workers in Breakfast, which are similar to characters in The Grapes of Wrath, and the mental defective in Johnny Bear who, like Lennie in Of Mice and Men and Tularecito in The Pastures of Heaven, cannot function normally in conventional society. Additionally, most of the stories are set in the Salinas Valley in California, the setting for many of Steinbeck's most popular works.

The Long Valley was published by The Viking Press in 1938.