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Applying Marxist Literary Criticism to 'Of Mice and Men'

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Introduction

Applying MLC to ?Of Mice and Men? ________________ Steinbeck?s ?Of Mice and Men? is a microcosm of reality for the working classes during the great economic depression in the U.S.A. Through the use of generic characters which represent the different echelons that existed at the bottom of society during a period of economic instability ? Steinbeck?s novel resists dominant ideologies at the time of publication as the bleak portrayal of the lives of itinerant workers could be interpreted as a statement against capitalism. Karl Marx saw political devices such as ?The American Dream? as oppressing the proletariat by giving them false hope. This idea of a false consciousness is evident throughout the novel as Steinbeck uses the recurring theme of dreams in ?Of Mice and Men? to illustrate the unsatisfying nature of the lives that the ranch members lived. The fact that all the characters have idealistic dreams of a better life highlights their dissatisfaction with their current predicament. ...read more.

Middle

the novel as all of the characters are subjected to hardship, tragedy and loneliness yet none are presented as facing a better outlook. This theme of loneliness and isolation also supports the Marxist theory of ?The forces of production?. Whilst most of the characters in the novel are working at an unforgiving labour intensive job - they are still at the bottom of the economic hierarchy. Steinbeck constantly reiterates the loneliness of the characters? lives in order to highlight that although they are a major force of production there is an absence of enjoyment in the lives of the itinerant workers as they are not properly rewarded for their contributions to the economy. Coupled with the temporary nature of their employment, the workers are shown to be dislocated from reality and other people, living lonely existences and spending what little they earn on perverse pleasures such as gambling and prostitutes. This desire for false gratification could be a symbol for the lack of substance in the workers lives, or in other words Steinbeck?s perceived alienation of ranch workers. ...read more.

Conclusion

Curley?s wife could be seen as a symbol for those crushed by dominant ideologies and bourgeoisie values. Curley?s wife is portrayed as a vain and attention seeking character in life yet after her tragic death she is also a source of sympathy as Steinbeck shows her in a different light. ?She was pretty and simple, and her face was sweet and young? contrasts with the flirtatious, provocative and callous woman who endangered Lennie and cruelly threatened to have Crook?s hanged. Steinbeck is implying that the flaws in her character were created and compounded by the system she was born into. The fact that she is not named in the novel is an overt statement of how undervalued she is in society and this contrasts with the dominant ideology at time which is that everybody has equal opportunities to become ?successful?. Instead of attempting to make the best of life within her means, she dreamed of the ?high life? - advertised by purveyors of bourgeoisie values in order to preserve a capitalistic state. This meant she accepted the harsh reality of her predicament in the belief she would soon escape it. ...read more.

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