the Pastures

of Heaven

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Overview of The Pastures of Heaven: A Story Cycle about Steinbeck Country

Painting of Pastures of Heaven/Las Pasturas del Cielo/Corral de Tierra, looking down-valley, by David Ligare (circa 1998).

John Steinbeck's first short story collection, The Pastures of Heaven, is a cycle of loosely connected short stories typifying Steinbeck's early writing style. Each story in the text is linked to the others by setting and the appearance of the Munroes, a family that comes to live on the abandoned and seemingly cursed Battle farm in the Pastures. The text offers an in-depth exploration of individual and family problems against a backdrop of farming in rural central California.

Steinbeck's objective narration allows readers to enter the psyche of the characters and to judge the actions and decisions of those characters for themselves. Throughout the book, Steinbeck explores themes familiar to his later works, such as farming in rural America, the importance of landscape, human frailties, and family and marital relationships. He also delves into controversial subject matter such as mental instability and the oppression of Native Americans. He uses the fertile valley named Las Pasturas del Cielo, or the Pastures of Heaven, not simply as a backdrop, but as an entity that plays an integral role in the success or failure of the residents.

The Pastures of Heaven was first published in the United States by Robert O. Ballou, Inc. in 1932.