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John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men - detailed study

Updated on November 14, 2012

John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men

John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men is the sad story of two intimate friends - built in the setting of The Great Depression of the United States. The story presents the dreams and aspirations of American working class. The novel presents the difficult life of the poor during the difficult period of the Great Depression. The story of George and Lennie is the story of the unfortunate people of that period. George and Lennie sincerely believed in their humble dream. They dreamt of owning a piece of land, grow crops, and breed rabbits. Their life, relationship and dreams show the period the story highlights. Their dream is the American dream. Their small desires and plans are the plans and desires of the people of 1930s. This sad novel makes the readers understand the unreachable dreams of the people who lived the life of sufferings. The impossible dreams of George and Lennie symbolizes the Depression period, when dreams always failed to be a reality.

Of Mice and Men Setting

Salinas Valley of central California is the setting for the novel. It was the Great Depression years. During that time it was not unusual for jobless men traveling in search of a job to sustain themselves. The economic decline made people wander for jobs. The plight of George and Lennie is the picture of the period of difficulties. George and Lennie desired nothing more than owning a land. Period of that period had similar dreams. They used to leave their families and native place, wandering for a job. The sad and touching tale of the two workers is a story of struggle, difficulties, discrimination and shattered dreams. The novel wonderfully shows the stories of different workers and their different personalities. The lives of workers of ranch present the pain, struggle, dreams and tears of the poor class who suffered during the Great Depression. The powerful ending of the story makes readers understand the helplessness of the people of that period. The tragic and unexpected ending of the story takes readers to tears. Readers understand through the story the tragedy of life. Sufferings and struggles of George and Lennie is well presented in the story. Dreams, discrimination, friendship and loneliness are some of the themes that illustrate the period of the Great Depression. The story can be seen through a historical lens as a story of the 1930s America. The life of the workers is the life of migratory workers of the Great Depression period

Of Mice and Men background

Of Mice and Men was born in the 1930s as the author noticed the struggle of the period. The lives of two men finding work are a picture of the period. The difficulties and struggles of the period made novelist pour out his emotions through a novel. The novel is wet with the tears and sweat of the suffering people of the period. During the last years of 1930s, California was caught with economic problems and heavy labor troubles. Labor problems were frequent in fields, sheds and docks. The struggles of farm workers were caught in the eyes of the novelist. He presented their difficult life through his novels like Of Mice and and Dubious Battle. The novelist captured the reality and presented it wonderfully.

Great Depression and the struggles of Lennie and George

The Great Depression is comparable to the struggles of Lennie and George. During the Depression period people had to travel together, sharing duties and activities. They had to suffer and somehow make a living until some good things pass by. George and Lennie traveled together sharing their pain and dreams. They shared things taking care of each other. George always took care of Lennie as Lennie always got into troubles. During the Depression period people had to adjust and live with other workers so that they earn some money to survive. The characters of Of Mice and Men were in that situation. The workers of the Depression period lived difficult life in their workplaces. They had to suffer for earning something that would make them survive. Prices were continuously rising during the Depression Period. People had to carefully budget their money as money was scarce. They had to live with scanty money and work hard to earn money. During that period people had to work on farms as there was a scarcity of farm goods. People understood that stock market crashed because of the lack of farm goods. This made them do farm activities. They worked in farms to help all. We find in the novel farm workers who are efficient enough to do all types of farm activities.

George and Lennie

George and Lennie worked in ranches and fields. The life of Lennie and George, their works and sufferings have much in common with the lives of the people of the Great Depression. Their struggles show the struggles of the people of that period. Both Lennie and George were outcasts. George was sharp-minded though small in size. Lennie, however, was powerful and well-built. He could do any job, but was of average intelligence. Lennie was of a retarded mind. Lennie therefore always failed to understands the things around him. He was silly-minded so that he could not understand the surroundings and people. For example, if he becomes unhappy about something he could suddenly become violent and grab and squeeze that object. Lennie would thus harm that thing and this would take him to trouble. George would later somehow bring him out of the trouble. This happened again and again. George and Lennie had such a friendship that George could not see his friend suffering. These types of ties and friendships were very common during the Depression period as they were completely unsettled in their lives. People had to make relationships and friendships as they lived together in their workplaces. Struggles and difficulties also made them find comfort in friendship.

The friendship and love of Lennie and George

The friendship and love of Lennie and George is thus a page from the lives of the people of the 1930s. Apart from that, people of the Great Depression were struggling as they were losing the money they earned through extreme hard work. As the banks closed they lost everything. They were in a difficult state. When people face big problems in a farm or ranch they had to move to some other working place. People wandered from place to place. They lost their earnings and suffered much. The life of George and Lennie is an example of the lives of people of that period. During the Great Depression people faced troubles wherever they turned. Joblessness, poverty, struggles and difficulties filled everywhere. People did everything to earn some money. They did strange jobs also to earn something and make a living. The novel is a perfect picture of the life during the Great Depression.

The Great Depression and the lives of people

The Great Depression was a period of hardship for all people. Ranch workers were one of the most unfortunate people. Struggles prevented people from living a good life. They struggled with poverty, and bartered between jobs. Unfortunate ones like George and Lennie wandered for jobs in California. Thousands fled to California. People sought jobs as migrant workers for farms, fruit fields and vegetable fields. When there is a vacancy for one man, several men would be seeking that job. They were ready to work for small wages, just for stomach-full food. We find George and Lennie somehow keeping their job for earning something to keep them alive. This was the life of the people of the 1930s who suffered in the Great Depression. The author of Of Mice and Men John Steinbeck, having witnessed the Great Depression prepared a great novel that makes even the readers of the modern age understand the painful story of the Great Depression (Maunder, 2011). The novel is a true depiction of the Depression period.


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