Throughout history, humans have mastered the art of storytelling. Through images, oration and literature, authors have told unique stories that reflect their culture and experiences. Books endow readers with the gift of understanding another perspective. While some authors have enjoyed lavish lifestyles, others traveled down a rugged road with only a dream. These are five authors who dealt with poverty.
5 Authors Who Dealt With Poverty
- John Steinbeck: Born in 1902 in the rural Salinas Valley in California, Steinbeck was neither rich nor poor. At a young age, Steinbeck became fond of writing. After a brief tenure at Stanford, Steinbeck went to New York. An inability to secure employment paired with abysmal living conditions compelled him to return to California. In Lake Tahoe, he worked as a caretaker for an estate and as an employee at a fish hatchery. He bore extensive hours of work with unbearable temperatures. After multiple unsuccessful attempts as a writer, Steinbeck wrote his first successful novel, “Tortilla Flat,” in 1935. He went on to author “Of Mice and Men” and “The Grapes of Wrath” which both highlight the difficulties of migrant workers during the Great Depression. “The Grapes of Wrath” went on to win the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize in 1940. In 1962, John Steinbeck won the Nobel Prize in literature.
- J.K. Rowling: The acclaimed author of the Harry Potter series, Rowling did not come from humble beginnings. After a brutal divorce in 1994, Rowling became a single parent to her daughter. She had no money or job, forcing her to rely on British welfare. In 1997, Rowling’s life changed with the publishing of her book, “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.” She went on to write six more books in the series that sold upwards of 400 million copies. Her net worth today sits at around $1 billion. The Harry Potter series manifests some of the struggles in Rowling’s life, most profoundly, death. Her struggles in early adulthood stemmed from her mother’s death after a long battle with multiple sclerosis. After this trauma, Rowling was indecisive about the path she should take, similar to Harry Potter throughout the series.
- Stephen King: Regarded as one of the greatest horror writers of all time, Stephen King is another author that did not have an easy upbringing. At the age of 2, King’s father abandoned his family, leaving them in utter poverty. King’s mother took multiple low paying jobs in an effort to make ends meet. When he reached adulthood, King became employed at a textile mill in Maine. He worked outrageous 20-hour shifts with minimal pay. This work inspired him to write his first piece, “Graveyard Shifts.” After graduating from college, King took a low paying job at a laundromat and later secured a demanding teaching position hoping to provide for his family. During this time, King began writing “Carrie.” Upon finishing “Carrie,” publishers rejected it 30 times before publishing it. The novel helped King earn over $200,000 and jumpstart his writing career. He went on to write bestsellers such as “The Shining” and “It.” King was always interested in the horror genre because he had experienced a great deal of trauma during his life. King’s novels such as “The Mangler,” “Salem’s Lot” and “Duma’s Key” all include elements of his struggles throughout life
- Charles Dickens: One of the most influential writers of the Victorian Era, Dickens has constructed a plethora of acclaimed novels. Born in 1812, Dickens was the second oldest of eight children. While his parents worked to provide the best life possible, the family remained poor. In 1822, the family moved to the poor neighborhood of Camden Town in London. Dickens’ father went to prison for being in debt shortly after in 1824. As a result, Dickens had to leave school and work at a run-down shoe polishing factory. He worked strenuous hours to only earn six shillings per week. Dickens was able to return to school when his father paid his debts and left prison but he ended up working again at the age of 15 to help his family. In 1836, Dickens published his first book, “Sketches by Boz.” He married soon thereafter and went on to publish stellar novels such as “Oliver Twist,” “A Christmas Carol” and “Great Expectations.” Dickens’ early life played an integral role in shaping his works. His feelings of being usurped of his childhood and education are evident in books such as “Hard Times” and “Oliver Twist.”
- George Orwell: Born in 1903 in Bengal, India, people have lauded George Orwell for his creative works based on his societal observations. Orwell characterizes his parents as those with wealthy attitudes without substance. In 1911, Orwell returned to England with his parents and began attending boarding school. Despite being brilliant, people ostracized Orwell due to his poverty. In 1928, he went to live among the poor for over a year in London and, later, Paris. In Paris, he worked as a dishwasher and attempted to understand the lives and values of the poor. Orwell’s disdain for imperialism prompted him to write “Down and Out in Paris and London,” a fictional recount of his time in Paris and London. In 1946, Orwell began writing “1984,” which describes a future dystopia where the entire world succumbs to poverty due to governmental repression. Other famous works include “The Road to Wigan Pier,” which highlights the life of impoverished mine workers in England, and “Animal Farm,” an allegorical satire of communism and the Soviet Union.
These five authors who dealt with poverty are examples of people who did not give in to the demeaning nature of poverty. They used literature as an outlet to convey their deepest emotions. Books entail more than fictional elements. They are a reflection of the events and hardships in the author’s life with perennial lessons, and these authors are an exemplification of this.
– Jai Shah