To a God Unknown is a novel written by John Steinbeck and published in 1933. To a God Unknown is Steinbeck’s third novel, but he found that this novel was one of the most difficult ones to write. It took him over five years to finish it, making it the most time consuming one even though it is not his longest novel. Set on a ranch in California, To a God Unknown explores how humans respond to and what happens to their faith in times of difficulty.
The protagonist of To a God Unknown is named Joseph Wayne. He and his brothers own the ranch in California. Joseph is the third son, and his two older brothers Burton and Thomas are already married. Joseph and his younger brother Benjy are not. When Joseph moves to his land in the Nuestra Senora valley, he meets Juanito, an Indian who will be Joseph’s vaquero in exchange for his friendship. Joseph becomes increasingly confident in the land, despite nearby farmers who warn him against the periodic droughts. He tells his brothers to come with him to California and they do so.
Joseph and Juanito find a mossy rock and a spring in the middle of the nearby forest, and the atmosphere around it is sacred and frightening, and Joseph believes it to be the heart of the land. The relationship between a man and his land is extremely important and sacred, and in To a God Unknown, Steinbeck writes about how people respond to a loss of faith and realizations that come too late.