John Steinbeck in Jeopardy?

Image of Jeopardy game show host Alex Trebek

What does it mean when John Steinbeck is the category but contestants on Jeopardy! don’t know the answers? That was the $64,000 question raised by a recent episode of “America’s favorite quiz show,” hosted since 1984 by Alex Trebek. The quiz show scandals of the 1950s bothered Steinbeck so badly that he used game show rigging as an example of American decline in The Winter of Our Discontent. But the final round questions on December 14, 2017 were about the novels by Steinbeck that had been made into movies, and it was clear from their answers that the contestants on this show hadn’t been coached. All guys and all under 40, they batted their way through sports, food, weather, world facts, and things called David, then stumbled and choked on characters from books by Steinbeck, with slow recall on The Grapes of Wrath and Of Mice and Men and no recall at all of The Red Pony, Cannery Row, or East of Eden. As David Wrobel notes, “it’s a nice confirmation of how deeply embedded Steinbeck is in American culture” when he’s a game show category. It’s less inspiring when the contestants can’t answer the questions. (Skip to 8 in the video to view the final round.)

About Administrative Team

The Administrative Team at Steinbeck Now includes international volunteers, collaborators, and developers working to augment and support the authors, contributors, and users at Join us today.


  1. Wes Stillwagon says:

    I went to college at a later age than most and only because my boss at RCA Astro Electronics Division, Harry P. Howard, threatened to “fire my ass” if I didn’t go. I was already a book lover and deeply impressed by Steinbeck. My classes were mainly populated by individuals in their late teens and early twenties. When my fellow students learned of my Steinbeck interest, several stated that Steinbeck was the only work that they actually read when assigned while other reading assignments were completed using popular condensed exam preparation offerings available in those days. At the time I felt their statement was a testimony to Steinbeck’s writing gift. My opinion about Steinbeck work has steadily strengthened in the forty years since I left college campuses as a student. My awakening to the influence of Jung, William James, and other intellectual giants on Steinbeck solidified my admiration for the man.

  2. I could understand missing the Red Pony characters, but missing Cannery Row is probably a crime of some sort.


Speak Your Mind