Explore the significance of discrimination in 'Of Mice and Men'

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Explore the significance of discrimination in ‘Of Mice and Men’

The concept of discrimination occupies a significant place in Of Mice and Men. Steinbeck deals with this theme of discrimination in the backdrop of the circumstances that were unfolding in 1930s America. He is depicting that the discrimination that runs through society can either be beneficial or detrimental for the people at large. Steinbeck conveys that discrimination is present in different types and dimensions. This phenomenon, whatever type it may be, has far-reaching consequences on the lives of people.  

Discrimination is when someone is treated differently on the basis of historical, psychological, social or cultural factors. However being treated differently doesn’t always necessarily mean being treated unjustly. For example, Curley commands the obedience of the people on the ranch even though he is not held in any respect or esteem by them just because he is the son of the owner, the Boss. This is evident in the conversation between Candy and George where the former says, “Don’t tell Curley I said none of this. He’d slough me. He just don’t give a damn. Won’t ever get canned ‘cause his old man’s the boss”. The fact that he “just don’t give a damn” proves that Curley is unconcerned about the things he says and does, as he knows that no harm will come to him. He is sure of his inviolable status and that acts as a sense of security and satisfaction for him. This type of discrimination allows him to reap the benefits of a situation without putting in any effort to earn it. The ranch workers don’t speak up against this as the Great Depression of the 1930s exacerbated the socio - economic conditions of the poor, much was at stake for them. In order to keep themselves afloat they had to bear with the predicaments that they were thrown into. They couldn’t muster enough courage to protest against unfair treatment in fear of losing what little they had.

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Society is afflicted with many types of discrimination. Racial discrimination was invariably present in 1930s American society. Steinbeck poignantly represents this using the character of Crooks. Throughout the whole novel, Crooks is isolated from the rest of the workers as if he has been quarantined. He is even denied the means of simple recreational purposes because of his skin colour. This can be seen in the line, “ ‘Cause I’m black. They play cards in there, but I can’t play because I’m black. They say I stink”. This shows how discrimination on the basis of skin colour was a ...

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