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of mice and men

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Introduction

At one level Steinbeck's novel has been described as a protest statement. To what extent do you think this is true? Which attitudes and values do you think it is protesting against? John Steinbeck set his novel- 'Of Mice and Men'- in America during the Great Depression of the 1930s. The Great Depression was a period of economic hardship where whole families had to move and many headed west in search for work. Refugee camps were created and emergency accommodation sprang up. There was no system of state relief, so many were forced to beg for the means to live because of mass unemployment. Many became migrant workers moving from ranch to ranch for work. Steinbeck's novel is about these workers and the extremely lonely lives they led. These were depressing and desperate times when the workers had no hope and no future to look forward to. John Steinbeck uses his novel to highlight the problems caused by the great depression and protest against the treatment of 'different' people in society. 'Of Mice and Men' is a novel set in North California during the era of the depression which explores the life of migrant farm workers and similarly their struggle to be accepted in society. It also reveals their desire to establish themselves in society through owning their own ranch and having their own home. ...read more.

Middle

When Candy loses his dog-the only companionship he has enjoyed- it is almost the end of his life as he 'ain't much good with o'ny one hand' and now has 'no relative nor nothing' left. However Candy is given a renewed comfort, strength and self-respect by the prospect of a part-ownership of the dream farm with Lennie and George. Of Mice and Men teaches a grim lesson about the nature of human existence. Nearly all of the characters, including George, Lennie, Candy, Crooks, and Curley's wife, admit, at one time or another, to having a profound sense of loneliness and isolation. Each desires the comfort of a friend, but will settle for the attentive ear of a stranger. Curley's wife admits to Candy, Crooks, and Lennie that she is unhappily married and Crooks tells Lennie that life is no good without a companion to turn to in times of confusion and how 'A guy goes nuts if he ain't got nobody'. The characters are rendered helpless by their isolation, and yet, even at their weakest, they seek to destroy those who are even weaker than they. One example of this is the shooting of Candy's old dog but perhaps the most powerful example of this cruel tendency is when Crooks criticizes Lennie's dream of the farm and his dependence on George. Having just admitted his own vulnerabilities-he is a black man with a crooked back who longs for companionship in 1900s America-Crooks attacks Lennie's own weaknesses. ...read more.

Conclusion

Curley's wife seems almost desperate to tell Lennie about her dreams. It is ironic that she confides in someone who appears to have no interest or understanding of what she is saying. This emphasises the deep loneliness she experiences on the ranch that is full of lonely guys. Steinbeck attracts the reader's interest by exploring different kinds of themes. It is obvious that these themes are primarily negative, for example loneliness and isolation, broken dreams, prejudice and outcast, exploitation, victims of the time and insecurity. All of these themes give the impression that this book is about sadness and loneliness. A key feature of the book is the balance between the good and bad. The dream is never realised yet much has been generated by the dreaming. Its ending is unhappy yet much in it is optimistic. George's love for Lennie, Lennie's adoration of George and the natural dignity of Slim are all positive, good things. Nor is Lennie's death wholly pessimistic. Lennie dies at the hand of the one man he trusts, painlessly, happy, free in the open and still believing in his dream as perhaps he might have died on the farm had they ever bought it. Many characters are lonely and this motivates them to look for an alternative way of life. They are continually searching, often without knowing what they are looking for. Different characters seek comfort in different things- for loneliness. Loneliness is shown in various ways in this novel through poverty (George and Lennie), race (Crooks), gender (Curley's wife) and age (Candy). ...read more.

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