What is John Steinbeck’s purpose in writing the essay “Symptoms”
The essay, “Symptoms” was written by John Steinbeck in 1943. It is an excerpt from an un-finished book of essays titled “Published Essays.” In this particular essay, Steinbeck discusses the trends he has observed in people throughout his life and how many of them might be classified as symptoms of a deeper problem. This appears to be his purpose for writing the article. Steinbeck does not outright state that there is a specific issue with society but instead gives examples of different social maladies such as greed and hatred which appear to lead to our current condition. He also describes how these issues are spread through education, media, and other forms of communication. The example he uses repeatedly is that information (which itself can be distorted or incorrect) is being passed from generation to generation and the message received in subsequent generations becomes watered down as it spreads.
At times, Steinbeck comes across as a bit condescending or overly critical of people but he does not seem to have any specific group in mind when writing this essay. No examples are given of particular groups with which he might share this opinion. So it seems that his purpose was simply to observe and comment on the trends he has observed throughout his life. He leaves the reader to draw their own conclusions about what can be done to remedy these problems. This appears to be all that Steinbeck intended for readers of “Symptoms” to take away from reading his article. There is no obvious suggestion offered at the end of the article about what should be done or how one might go about doing it. Instead, Steinbeck presents a case for why societal problems exist and why they need to be with us still. He leaves attributing causes and solutions to the reader.