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It can be argued that prejudice is the central theme in

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It can be argued that prejudice is the central theme in "Of Mice and Men". Explore how this reflects the historical and cultural climate of 1930s America. The 1930s were a time of hardship for the American people. The Wall Street Crash of 1929 and subsequent depression meant that many people were homeless and unemployed. This led to widespread migration to the farmlands of California. Migrant workers flocked to the ranches, desperate for work. When they arrived at a ranch many felt intimidated and overwhelmed by the situation. Those in positions of power looked down on the migrant workers and treated them with little or no respect simply because of their lifestyle and poverty. There was also a lot of prejudice towards the black population of America. White people saw themselves as being more important, and thus treated black people with disrespect. In more extreme cases physical violence towards the black people displayed the superiority of the white people. The Klu Klux Klan was the most extreme group opposing black people; they were fighting for white supremacy in America. Because they could not get convicted for crimes, they were very powerful. This led to the increase in prejudice towards black people, as white Americans were made to believe that they were superior to black people. The novel "Of Mice and Men" is centred around the lives of American migrant workers in the 1930s with particular focus on George and Lennie, and the prejudice they face whilst working on a ranch. Within the ranch environment other characters such as Crooks, Curley's wife and Candy and his dog are subjected to prejudice. The reasons for this are very varied; being 'big', black, old, female or disabled all make a character vulnerable to prejudice. The extent of this prejudice is immense, thus giving us the impression that it could well be the central theme of the novel, as so many events are affected by it. ...read more.


The only way she can get attention from the men is by flirting with them. If any of the men were caught responding to this behaviour, they would lose their jobs. The economic situation in America in the 1930s meant that the workers could not afford to lose their jobs, so they avoided the problem be ignoring Curley's wife. However, because Lennie is so intellectually disabled, he does not see her actions as flirting and does not realise the implications of responding to this behaviour, so he is therefore in a very vulnerable situation. When Lennie goes into Crooks room in Chapter 4 he finds he is very unwelcome. Immediately Crooks tells Lennie that he's "got no right to come in ...[his] room" and becomes very defensive. This reaction is a result of the prejudice he has been subjected to throughout his life, as he immediately assumes that the only reason that Lennie would want to see him would be to laugh at him. Despite the fact that he has not met Lennie previously, he automatically assumes that, like the other migrant workers, Lennie is very prejudiced towards black people, and Crooks therefore despises him. Crooks has already decided what Lennie is like before he has even spoken to him; this decision is based on his past experiences with other white men as opposed to the reality. The migrant workers all see Crooks as being inferior because he is black. Because of this he "ain't wanted in the bunkhouse" because "they say ... [he] stink[s]". Because he is black he is seen as being different and is therefore socially segregated. This division causes Crooks to be treated differently to the other workers, because by being isolated he is made to be different. This ends up as a vicious cycle because the more he is treated differently, the more acceptable this different treatment becomes, indeed it has become accepted as a way of life by both Crooks and the workers. ...read more.


This tells the reader that people who are prejudiced refuse to admit that the people they are prejudiced against are not people in their own right, but either possessions or 'things'. This means that, to them, their prejudiced is justified, which is why it is always accepted without question. The amount of prejudice present on the ranch is enormous, however, the seriousness of the prejudice varies immensely. At the beginning of the novel, the workers are simply looked down upon because they are desperate for work and money. As the storyline progresses, so does the complexity and seriousness of the prejudice. By the end of the novel, the consequences of the prejudice are far more drastic, and the novel culminates in the death of Lennie and Curley's wife. I think that prejudice is the main theme of the novel "Of Mice and Men" due to the fact that it dictates all the events of the novel. Simple things, such as the way the characters treat one another are all affected by prejudice. The lifestyle of the migrant workers and the way they see one another are also affected by prejudice. However, possibly the most important event in the novel is the death of Curley's wife, which culminates in the death of Lennie. Both of these deaths were a direct consequence of prejudice. However, if the prejudice towards Curley's wife had not existed, Lennie would not have felt that she had to be silenced, so would probably never have killed her. Curley's prejudice towards Lennie meant that he was not going to be lenient. Because he saw Lennie as a threat, he wanted to get rid of him, and this was the ideal opportunity. The death of Lennie is the climax to the prejudice that builds up throughout the novel, and the fact that prejudice was the cause of his death sums up in one event the main theme of the novel. Emma Thomas 10F 04/05/07 Page 1 of 5 ...read more.

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