Steinbeck devoted the final years of his life to traveling and writing. While he never achieved the same level of critical success that he did with The Grapes of Wrath, he continued to challenge himself in his work. In 1952 he published East of Eden, an epic novel that spans American history from the Civil War to World War I. Steinbeck considered it to be his masterpiece. Steinbeck wrote about the Trask family's battles with good and evil after an extremely difficult period in his life in which he divorced his second wife and his close friend Ed Ricketts died. He called it "the story of my country and the story of me," adding that in previous novels he had always "held something back for later. Nothing is held back here."
On 20 December 20 1968, John Steinbeck died of a heart attack in New York City. His ashes were buried in Salinas, California. Forty years after his death, it's clear that mankind is far from achieving the ideals of perfection and understanding that Steinbeck advocated in his work. But maybe, thanks to his words, we're all just the tiniest bit closer.