This article historicizes John Steinbeck's ecological consciousness, providing a detailed account of the history and philosophy of ecology in order to present a picture of the field at the particular moment in which Steinbeck encountered and internalized it. An explication of the ecological paradigm that reigned in Steinbeck's day advances the article's overall argument that Steinbeck's early works are informed by holistic ecology, as is evident in both their content and form. Steinbeck's first novel, To a God Unknown, exemplifies Steinbeck's holistic content, while the short story sequence, The Pastures of Heaven, illustrates his holistic form. Furthermore, Grapes of Wrath's ecological approach extends to both the novel's content and form. An assessment of these texts calls attention to Steinbeck's advancement of his own ecological ethic, and thus positions him not only as Aldo Leopold's contemporary but as an individual grappling with a similar interest in extending ethics to reach beyond the relation of individuals to other individuals and society, but to the land as well.

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