Abstract

Since shortly after its publication in 1957, The Short Reign of Pippin IV has been considered Steinbeck’s least characteristic work and is universally viewed as standing squarely at the bottom of his canon of fiction. This article argues for a reevaluation of the consensus view, arguing that Pippin is a crucial part of Steinbeck’s artistic oeuvre not only on its own merits but more importantly when viewed in literary sequence as his penultimate novel. Before his fictional work draws to a dissonant close in 1961, in Pippin Steinbeck draws a comparison to a musical coda that achieves an artistic effect of finality by altering the main themes of a movement through changes in tone, tempo, or key. Pippin is the last time Steinbeck expresses in fiction a fundamentally optimistic orientation toward the human condition,

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