What I learned from Steinbeck’s first divorce…

I was thinking about why marriages fail the other day, because of something I read about John Steinbeck. Steinbeck was the author of The Grapes of Wrath and Of Mice and Men, among other things. I always loved the title The Grapes of Wrath. I thought it was brilliant and only something a genius like Steinbeck could invent for the title of this book. But I was wrong. He didn’t invent it. His first wife, Carol, did. A few years later, he divorced her.

Success destroyed their marriage. They had been dirt poor before the publication of Of Mice and Men, but they were happy. They had nothing. They lived in a miserable little cabin owned by Steinbeck’s father, drank cheap wine with their friends, and stole food when the little money they earned or borrowed ran out, but they both remembered those times as the happiest of their lives. They only had each other, but having each other was enough.

But then, Of Mice and Men became a big success and The Grapes of Wrath an even bigger one, and suddenly, money poured in and the Steinbecks had more than just each other to make them happy. Now, they had countless other possibilities pulling at them, until the bond that connected them stretched and weakened and finally snapped.

When they were poor, they valued what they had, and what they had was each other. With success, they valued each other less and less until there was nothing holding them together.

I’m sure there’s a lesson in there somewhere.     

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