The Novel of Mice and Men and the Great Depression

John Earnest Steinbeckr’s Of Mice and Men is a widely read period piece from the Great Depression. The bleak themes, while not entirely accurate to Steinbeckr’s life, are a spectacular example of the mind of America as a whole at the time. Steinbeck wrote a menagerie of literature placed during the Great Depression. For many readers, Of Mice and Men is the first taste of this literary movement. While it is unlikely Steinbeck could have known this at the time, his writing, on occasion, certainly makes it seem like he did.

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John Steinbeck was born to a modestly well off family. His father worked plenty of different jobs and his mother was a teacher. From a young age, he enjoyed being outdoors. He particularly enjoyed the Salinas Valley. This came to mold much of the descriptive passages in his writing. In 1919, Steinbeck enrolled at Stanford University and he left the college in 1925, still with no degree. He travelled to New York and worked quite a few different jobs while writing on the side. Some (less reliable) sources say he was a manual laborer, and while he did work in construction, the term manual labor often brings different jobs to mind, particularly when one is speaking of the Great Depression. While Steinbeck was clearly influenced by his home town of Salinas, his other influences are a bit more nuanced one could say the bleak style of his writing came from living in the Great Depression, or one could say it stemmed from believing his work would never be published.

The protagonist of Of Mice and Men is one George Milton. He and his partner, Lennie Smalls, are migrant workers. They had been run out of their previous town because of something Lennie did. George and Lennie squabble over a dead mouse, lay out their plans for the next morning, and end the day with George telling Lennie what theyll do when they have enough money for their very own farm. The next day, George and Lennie go to the new ranch. They meet the other characters who work at the farm. They get on well with Slim and Candy. Curly is immediately introduced as a troublemaker.The bond between George and Lennie seems to be confusing for most on the ranch. Curleyr’s flirtatious wife appears and flirts with them. George, warns Lennie to stay away from her. Carlson shoots Candyr’s dog. Candy overhears Lennie and George talking about their wishes to get their own farm and wants to join in on the plan. Things appear to be going well, but eventually Lennie kills a puppy and Curleyr’s wife. He doesnt know his own strength. He goes back to the brush to wait for George. And George, out of mercy, shoots Lennie in the back of the head.

In Of Mice and Men the readers are introduced immediately to the scenery, then, secondarily they are introduced to the main characters. It is the first example into a recurring theme that the land shapes the people living on it.

Works Cited

“John Steinbeck.” EXPLORING Novels, Gale, 2003. Student Resources in Context, Accessed 30 Nov. 2018.

Lisca, Peter. “Motif and Pattern in Of Mice and Men.” EXPLORING Novels, Gale, 2003. Student Resources in Context, Accessed 30 Nov. 2018.

“Of Mice and Men.” Novels for Students, edited by Diane Telgen, vol. 1, Gale, 1997, pp. 240-262. Gale Virtual Reference Library, Accessed 30 Nov. 2018.

Owens, Louis. “John Steinbeck.” DISCovering Authors, Gale, 2003. Student Resources in Context, Accessed 30 Nov. 2018.

Steinbeck, John. Of Mice and Men ; Cannery Row. Penguin, 1987.

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The novel Of Mice and Men and the Great Depression. (2019, May 29). Retrieved January 20, 2022 , from
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