What does John Stienbeck's Of Mice and Men tell us about life in
America in the 1930s?
John Steinbeck's novels can all be classified as social novels
dealing with the economic problems of rural labour in America during
the 1920s and 30s. Steinbeck uses setting, theme, characterisation,
and a modernist simple style to portray a 1930s American society,
which was isolating, alienating and prejudiced
His frequent topics were the plight of the misfits, (the character of
Lennie in the novel) the homeless and the migrant farm workers. The
countryside described in the opening chapter of the novel and the
ranch itself would have been familiar to John Stienkbeck. The imagery
he uses gives us a sense of empty landscapes, long well trod roads. "
beaten hard by tramps who come wearily down from the highway".
Already Steinbeck is introducing us to the lonely and isolated life
the workers encountered. They would often move from one farm to
another looking for work. His use of "tramp" suggests that the farm
workers were often alienated and looked upon with prejudice in a
society that regarded social standing by wealth and possessions. Many
farmers lost their farms due to the depression that hit America during
His descriptive style gives us an idea what conditions were like on
the farms for the workers: very basic accommodation, three meals a day
and a minimum wage. Steinbeck uses these images well to help us
understand why they yearned for "The American Dream" where many
aspired to obtaining a better life, buying their own land to work
... middle of paper ...
understand the concept of being alone he shows some understanding.
The end of the only good friendship in the book compounds the tragedy
of Lennie's death.
In the closing chapter of the book Steinbeck uses his skill with
imagery well. We are back to the same peaceful spot at the river the
story began. We understand George has no other choice but to kill his
friend. He would not want him to suffer at the hands of Curly and the
farm hands, even though he knows with the death of Lennie their dream
will die with him.
Steinbeck makes it clear in his novel that the glittering, moneyed
America of the 1920s, which for example the American modernist
F.Scott. Fitzgerald portrayed in the novel "The Great Gatsby," has
utterly vanished to be replaced with a society of depression,
loneliness and alienation.
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