Of Mice and Menby John SteinbeckBackground Information
John SteinbeckBorn on February 27th, 1902 in Salinas, CA.The works he is best known for are Of Mice and Men (1937), and The Grapes of Wrath (1939), both of which focus on the lives of the working-class poor during the Great Depression. He wrote using a very natural, realistic style. In 1962, he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.He died on December 20th, 1968.He had 30 novels published, three of which came out after his death.
Of Mice and MenOf Mice and Men was written in 1937.It tells the story of George and Lennie, two migrant farm workers during the Great Depression. The title refers to a line in the poem "To a Mouse" by Robert Burns.The story was originally intended to be a play, and is in many ways structured like one, with several long scenes, stage-direction like descriptions, and large amounts of dialogue. The novel has been banned periodically in the United States for a variety of reasons, including "profane" language, morality, violence, and the depiction of the mentally challenged.
Setting of Of Mice and MenThe novel is set in the farmland of the Salinas valley, where John Steinbeck was bornThe ranch in the novel is near Soledad, which is south-east of Salinas on the Salinas river.The countryside described at the beginning of the novel, and the ranch itself is based on Steinbecks own experiences.
Historical Background to Migrant WorkersBefore technology created farm machinery, humans had to do a lot of the farm work by hand.Between the 1880s and the 1930s thousands of men would travel the countryside in search of work, including the harvesting of wheat.These workers would earn $2.50 or $3.00 a day, plus food and shelter.During the 1930s, the unemployment rate was high in the U.S., and with so many men searching for work, agencies were set up to send farmworkers to where they were needed.In the novel, George and Lennie (the two main characters) were given work cards from Murray and Readys, which was one of the farmwork agencies.
The American DreamFrom the 17th Century onwards, immigrants have dreamed of a better life in America.Many people immigrated to America in search of a new life for themselves or their families.Many others immigrated to escape persecution or poverty in their homeland.
American Dream contdThese immigrants dreamed of making their fortunes in America. For many this dream of riches became a nightmare. There were horrors of slavery.There were horrors of the American Civil War.There was a growing number of slums that were just as bad as those in Europe.There was also great corruption in the American political system which led to many shattered hopes.
The Great Depression and Dust BowlThe idea of an American Dream for many was broken when in 1929, the Wall Street crashed, marking the beginning of the Great Depression In addition, terrible drought and environmental conditions created the turmoil for farmers known as the Dust Bowl.
The Great DepressionBefore the 1930s, America was enjoying economic triumph.The idea of credit buy now, pay later was introduced and people bought everything they could.Unfortunately, this time of enjoyment and prosper would soon be over.
The Great DepressionOne of the major causes of the Great Depression was the collapse of the Stock Market on Black Tuesday, October 29th , 1929.In a single day, sixteen million shares were traded--a record--and thirty billion dollars vanished into thin air.Two months after the original crash in October, stockholders had lost more than $40 billion dollars.
The Great DepressionAnother cause of the Great Depression was bank failures.Throughout the 1930s over 9,000 banks failed. Bank deposits were uninsured and thus as banks failed people simply lost their savings. Surviving banks, unsure of the economic situation and concerned for their own survival, stopped being as willing to create new loans.
The Great DepressionWith the stock market crash and the fears of further economic woes, individuals from all classes stopped purchasing items. This then led to a reduction in the number of items produced and thus a reduction in the workforce. As people lost their jobs, they were unable to keep up with paying for items they had bought through credit and their items were repossessed.The unemployment rate rose above 25% which meant, of course, even less spending to help alleviate the economic situation.
The Dust BowlIn addition to the Great Depression, the Dust Bowl was also causing the morale of the country to become increasingly despair.Throughout the late 1920s and early 1930s, the Great Plains suffered a severe drought.In 1934, windstorms covered the Great Plains. They easily uplifted the soil, blowing massive clouds of dust all over the plains.Thousands of people were forced to leave their homes because of the Dust Bowl. 89 million acres of land were severely damaged or destroyed. Most people traveled to California to restart their lives.
The Dust Bowl