Wednesday, August 24, 2011

"Flight" - The Steinbeck Classics Circuit Tour

I am honored to be a part of the The Classics Circuit Tour on literary master, John Steinbeck. I have read and enjoyed several of his novels including East of Eden, Of Mice and Men, and The Red Pony. I must admit that I had a love/hate (mostly hate) relationship with The Grapes of Wrath in high school. I really need to reread it again now that I'm older .. . but I just can't quite convince myself!

I enjoyed Steinbeck's story "Flight" in high school, college, and in several short story collections I've read since then. In order to prepare myself for this tour, I reread the story and also looked for my review that I typed up for my American Literature class in at Michigan Technological University back in 1999. I loved American Lit as we had an awesome professor. As part of the class, you had to write a brief summary of each story/poem/book that we read in class. I enjoyed doing it and it was part of the reason I wanted to start my blog many years later. I enjoyed my impressions from 1999 and decided that my retro review would be interesting to post . . .

Flight Review from 1999

Steinbeck was a writer that carried on the naturalistic tradition from the previous century. In other words, he wrote about how a person’s life is shaped by the world in which they live in, that there is nothing that one can do to stop events from occuring, and that nature is indifferent. I believe that these are all characteristics in Steinbeck’s story, “Flight,” and in his novel, The Grapes of Wrath.

Even the beginning of Steinbeck’s story, “Flight” seemed reminiscent of earlier naturalist authors such as Ambrose Bierce and Stephan Crane in that in each of their stories, they start by setting up a scene with complete and vivid description. I really like this as it allow the reader to understand what naturalistic environment the main character is coming from. In “Flight,” the beginning scenery sets up the fact that Pepe`, the main character has come from a poor, and harsh environment.

This story seemed to be a story of Pepe`’s journey from boyhood to manhood, which is facilitated by a cold and indifferent world. At the beginning of the story, Pepe` is cheerful and good-natured boy with a knife as his only valuable possession. After a dispute, he kills a man who was making fun of him, and in running of his life, he becomes a cold and serious man. In the harsh environment of the mountains to which he tries to escape in, it is easy to see that nature has no sympathy for him, a rattlesnake tries to bite him, and a mountain lion watches him as though Pepe` might make a nice snack. Also, the men who are chasing him seem to have no sympathy to Pepe` as a human being, they never try to offer him an alternative rather than death.

I liked this story with its stark naturalistic description and story line. I also like how Steinbeck ended it with Pepe` standing up bravely against the forces that were out to get him. This seemed to complete Pepe`’s transition to manhood.

Thoughts from 2011
I agree with my previous review of Flight. As I read the story this time around, I was struck by the many start contrasts that Steinbeck has written into the description in this story. Everything is white and black visually, but the story itself is a shade of grey. True Pepe' did kill a man in anger after being provoked, but did he deserve to then be brutally killed himself?

As a mother, I thought about Pepe's mother and how she said he was now a man after killing another and how she helped him go on the run. I wonder if I would saddle one of my sons up after such a crime knowing that they would not get a fair shot in the justice system . . . . and maybe I've just answered my own question!

I also thought this story was very similar to the Johnny Cash song, "Don't Take Your Guns to Town, " although Pepe' had a knife rather than a gun. It could be Pepe's theme song.

I think overall, "Flight" is a riveting story that truly represents Steinbeck's style artistically and also on a social justice front.

Have you read "Flight?" What are your thoughts?


  1. Laura, I have not read Flight. Your review compels me to read it though. Congrats on being part of this literary tour!


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  4. I haven't read this story, but I certainly do want to read more Steinbeck! How intriguing, although comparing the style to Stephen Crane is a turn off; I really didn't like Red Badge of courage! but, talking naturalism, yeah, I can see that. Love the nature in East of Eden and Grapes of Wrath.

  5. How interesting to review your thought on the story from yor college class--I like the positioning of Steinbeck in the naturalistic tradition. Now that I'm on a Steinbeck kick, I'm sure I'llbe reading this story before long, though I confess that I'm disappointed to hear that it's not about literal flight :)