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What does John Stienbeck's Of Mice and Men tell us about life in America in the 1930s

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Jayne Stupple 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. ...read more.


Steinbeck has interwoven the idea from the very beginning of the novel. The dead mouse Lennie had in his pocket, the death of Candy's dog, and the accidental killing of the puppy. All these incidents pre-figure the tragedy in the climax of the novel. Lennie, childlike and "As strong as a bull," will ultimately be the reason their dream will fail Steinbeck makes us aware of the prejudice that would have been common during this period. Through Crooks we learn of how the black ranch- hand was treated. Steinbeck uses dialogue "well, you keep your place then, Nigger. I could get you strung up on a tree so easy it ain't funny." The irony here is that this was said by Curly's wife. Through her character Steinbeck shows us was a victim of another kind of prejudice; sexism. "Jesus, what a tramp" "so that's what Curly picks for a wife" Jayne Stupple (George remarks after meeting her.) Steinbeck doesn't even give her a name. We later see, she too is isolated and alienated. ...read more.


Stienbeck uses these two characters to show us that they are both aware that Jayne Stupple without each other they would be just like the others, alone in a very dysfunctional society. When Crooks teases Lennie that George may not be coming back from town. Lennie said miserably "George wun't go away and leave me. I know George wun't do that" Although Lennie cannot 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. ...read more.

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