by Grace Smith, Class of 2020
It is a rare experience to be able to take education beyond the classroom and encounter the world an author lived in – to see the places and culture that impacted his works. This fall at Providence, our Honors class had the privilege of enjoying that experience together. In the class, we have been reading various works of literature and analyzing the theological implications and symbolism in the stories we are reading. Our greatest focus has been on East of Eden written by John Steinbeck who lived in the Salinas Valley in California. The book itself is set in Salinas and contains members of Steinbeck’s family as characters. Once we completed the book after discussing it week after week and growing attached to these characters, the story, and Steinbeck, we were excited to visit the place of Steinbeck’s inspiration.
After driving a few hours north up the beautiful coast of California, we reached the Steinbeck National Center in Old Town Salinas. The museum offered a glimpse into the life of this author whose book we have spent a month analyzing and discussing. We learned about his personal life, the books he wrote, and his many achievements in the literary world. After leaving the museum we were able to walk down the block to the Steinbeck house where he was born and raised. Steinbeck included his house in the setting of the novel so to see the house and walk the streets of Salinas felt as though we were hopping into the story and walking where the characters walked. To see the world of Steinbeck and East of Eden, the book we have come to love, was a great delight for a class of literature lovers and deepened my appreciation of the novel and author.
The following day, we explored the unique city of San Francisco, specifically looking at its role in American Literature. We toured iconic parts of the city and learned about the birth of San Francisco. Due to the gold rush, the young city attracted many young Americans from across the country. Among those who came to San Francisco was Mark Twain, who came to the city while it was young and published Jim Smiley and His Jumping Frog, which launched his career. We also walked to the City Lights Bookstore, a hub for many literary revolutionaries. Founded by poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti, the bookstore and publishing house attracted many influential writers from the Beat Generation, such as Jack Kerouac.
Because of its excellent location and smaller size, Providence was able to offer the Honors Class a one of a kind experience traveling through California and learning outside of the classroom. Connecting what we have learned in class with what we learned on the trip made for a more holistic and enjoyable learning experience. Above all, we as a class are fortunate to be in relationship with one another which cultivated a trip filled with fellowship and rich discussions. Going on this trip with this community of people, I created memories and learning experiences that I will carry through life.