Historical Context of Of Mice and Men
John Steinbeck, 1937
settingTime: @1932-1937Place: Soledad, Salinas Valley, Monterey CountyConflict: Great Plains migrants seeking work
Salinas, CaliforniaCentral California Coast (West of Monterey, East of Fresno, South of San Jose)Economy: Salad Bowl of the World, vineyards, cattle ranchesWithin 20 miles of the Pacific
Steinbecks Family and InfluencesB. 1902Parents = educatedDad moved West after civil war & bought landMom read to him as child: King Arthur, The Bible, Treasure IslandLoved nature, observed mans relationship to the land
Steinbecks ChildhoodGrew up in SalinasWork on cattle ranches as teenWorked on farms as a college studentSaw lives of itinerant workers first hand
The DepressionPublished his 1st book 2 months before the stock market crash
Time: 1933-1935The Great Depression begins on October 24, 1929 with the stock market crash
Inquiry QuestionWhat would be an affect of the stock market crash for wealthy people?
For average people?
By January 1933, unemployment reached 14,597,000.
Inquiry Question: How is this graph related to the previous one of the stock market crash?
Inquiry Question: What does this photo say about the Great Depression? How is it ironic?
The land had been over-farmed for decades, then drought that began in the early 1930s that created even more issues on the Great Plains.Inquiry Question: What is the effect of overworked and moisture poor land?
As a result of drought and over-farming, the soil was dry and unanchored with crops. Great dust storms (literally) erupted several times. One even traveled from the Midwest to Washington D.C.
Last weekend was the worst dust storm we ever had. Many days this spring the air is just full of dirt coming, literally hundreds of miles. After we wash dishes and put them away, so much dust sifts into the cupboards we must wash them again before the next meal.
-Ann Marie Low, from Dust Bowl Diary
After the soil was eroded, rain did as much damage to the land as the wind storms.
In South and Great Plains hundreds of thousands of people were evicted from their homes and farms because of the economy or drought.
Inquiry QuestionWhat was the total affect of the Dust Bowl on the farmers?
What do you think your reaction would have been?
HoovervillesMany evictees lived in random towns of tents and shacks made of cardboard, tar paper, scrap wood or metal called Hoovervilles.
Here were all these people living in old, rusted-out car bodies. . . . There were peopleliving in shacks made of orange crates. One family with a whole lot of kids were living in a piano box. --a visitor to a shantytown outside of Oklahoma City
MigrationApproximately two million menmany who had left families behindwandered the country, hitching rides on the box cars of railroads (Hobo) and sleeping under bridges.Soon Families began to leave as well
Great migrations started out of towards the West and Northwest.
Inquiry QuestionIn what ways did migrating to California give people hope?
In what ways were their hopes crushed?
Itinerant WorkersSalinas Valley used itinerant labor (Hispanic, Japanese, white) before the DepressionLabor market flooded afterwardSteinbeck saw these people working himself on ranches and farms
Inquiry QuestionWhat is the result of a flooded labor market?
Labor ClashesWages droppedUnfair working conditionsOver-abundance of laborIncreased use of technology
Inquiry QuestionAs a writer, how do you think Steinbeck makes his story so real and authentic?
Steinbecks RsumSteinbeck watched hundreds of people from the Great Plains and South migrate to CA looking for work.He wrote articles for newspapers on the itinerant workers while writing Of Mice and Men and The Grapes of Wrath.He lived in Hoovervilles and traveled across the country with them.Once in California, he literally lived the life of an itinerant farm laborer.
Why Read the book?An accurate portrayal of the lives of itinerant workers of the Great DepressionDemonstrates history of labor vs. employerShows loss of the small, family owned farms and growth of vast, corporate farms
SummaryWrite a minimum 6 sentence summary of the information in this PowerPoint and class discussion. Include specific information and vocabulary. Write your summary in context, no as a list of facts, dates, and/or definitions.
Put kids in groups. Groups discuss and take notes on inquiry questionsthen share with class.*Insert picture of map*Hooverville*Dorthea Lange--photographer