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Discuss the social and historical implications of the dreams of American migrant workers in the 1930s and compare the ways these are expressed through the media of Steinbeck's novel, cinema, stage and contemporary country music.

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Introduction

Discuss the social and historical implications of the dreams of American migrant workers in the 1930s and compare the ways these are expressed through the media of Steinbeck's novel, cinema, stage and contemporary country music In the 1930s, a Great Depression spread across America, dominating the political landscape. Thousands of Americans lost their jobs as banks collapsed and industries closed. Many men turned to, what the critic Morseburger calls, "Jeffersonian agrarianism"; they roved west, seeking jobs on farms. Jefferson was an American President who believed that many opportunities were to be taken in the West. These were known as the migrant farm workers. Many families and friends were pulled apart, rendering many people lonely and cynical about success and dreams. However, many people shared a dream: the American Dream - the dream of getting your own land and living happily and comfortably on your own ranch. In Steinbeck's novel, two main characters share this dream - Lennie and George. Lennie and George are different from most migrant farm workers in that they travel together, almost as brothers, and protect each other. They plan to "get the jack together" and "have a little house and a couple of acres". The most dramatically significant part of their dream is Lennie's wish to "tend the rabbits". Steinbeck energises this semantic field around animals throughout the novel to create a sense of fate and tragedy. Lennie's dream is very childlike, but it also has tragic undertones. During the course of the novel, we meet a character called Candy, a "tall, stoop-shouldered old man". ...read more.

Middle

Jonathan Church produced the stage production I went to see, and Matthew Kelly played the part of Lennie. Church stuck closely with Steinbeck's script, but due to the limitations of stage, he was not able to re-create the dreamy opening sequence that is present in the novel. Instead, Simon Higlett's setting at the beginning consisted of six stacks of hay and a water pool (which remained there throughout the production) in the foreground. I think he was trying to establish the farming environment where much of the events take place, making everything clear to the audience early on. Jonathon attempted to recreate the fire that George and Lennie sit around. The fire has some significance to the narrative in that it represents the beginning and end of something, in this case, the start of the tragedy and the destruction of the dream. However, this did not work particularly well in the theatre as other lighting was dominant and it was small - not much emphasis was placed on it. Despite this, Tim Mitchell followed Steinbeck's lighting very carefully. For example, when the tragedy of Curley's wife occurs, the source of light was very low, casting long, gloomy shadows across the stage. The effective use of this lighting added to the mood of the play and emphasised the failure of the American Dream. The setting and lighting throughout the novel was extremely effective and helpful for the audience to recognise the wider significance of the dreams and events that occur in the production. ...read more.

Conclusion

The people who sang these folk songs did so right from their hearts. The song I listened to was called 'The Big Rock Candy Mountain', which on the surface appeared to be very child-like, just like Lennie - "The cops have wooden legs, The bulldogs all have rubber teeth". The singer is mocking the American dream. This mockery sheds light on where Steinbeck began with his novel; he started writing for children and the song is apparently for children. The singer is also very mocking of the dream of Heaven - "streams of alkyhol, Come trickling down the rocks". This semantic field links in with when God told Moses to strike the rock so streams of milk will come down. Also, the 'big rock candy mountain', can be seen as a metaphor for heaven. The singer evidently does not care much for law and order - "The cops have wooden legs", and his hopes about the weather are very unrealistic - "Where there ain't no snow, Where the sleet don't fall, And the winds don't blow". He is saying that the law doesn't exist in dreams, and the weather is not an issue at all in dreams! The impossibility of these hopes backs up the idea that the American dream can never be achieved. I find that novel and song are the most effective ways of expressing the tragedy of the American dream. However, all of the dreams evoked from all kinds of media are tragic, and it is upsetting how so many people need to believe in a dream to find something to live for. All of the media deliver one message: dreams don't come true. Andrew Evans 11O set 1 Media Assignment ...read more.

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