The birthdate of John Steinbeck is February 27, 1902; the time when tensions were arising from interstate competition in SouthWestern United States (rush gold). His father was John Ernst II; his mother Olive Steinbeck, whom he derived his surname (for which no biographer could explain the “why” of the story).
In 1915, he attended highschool (up until 1919). In the same year of his graduation from highschool, he took steps to enter Stanford University, where he was periodically employed to many jobs. He left the university without a degree. In 1925 he went to New York City to find job, first as a construction worker, second as writer for the New York American.
After he went back to the state of California, he wrote his first novel, Cup of Gold, and later married Carol Henning. In two years time, he was able to write two more novels, entitled The Pastures of Heaven and To A God Unknown. Both novels gained nominal success. During the next years, he was busy gathering information on farm and labor disputes, and statistics on poverty and unemployment. From 1935 to 1940, Steinbeck wrote at least 7 novels, most of which became a phenomenal success in the literary world, and most deals with the problems of unemployment, poverty, and other related issues.
Novels include Tortilla Flat, In Dubious Battle, Of Mice and Men, The Red Pony, Their Blood is Strong, The Grapes of Wrath, and many others. Some of his novels were translated into films. From 1941 to 1946, his life was focused more on his family and less on writing. His first son was born in 1944, his second in 1946. Some films based from his novels were released during that time. From 1947 to 1957, he wrote several novels; of which some were transformed into films.
Some of which are as follows: The Wayward Bus, A Russian Journal, Burning Bright, The Log from the Sea of Cortez, Sweet Thursday, and many others.From 1958 to 1967, his novels were focused on the political issues of that time. These included Once There Was War, The Winter of Our Discontent, Travels With Charley, America and Americans, and many others. In December 20, 1968, he died of arteriosclerosis. A wave of awards followed after his death, including the establishment of a national center dedicated to him and his writings.
Background of the Book The “Book of Mice and Men” was written during the great depression, and as such imbibes the social, economic and political atmosphere of the time.In California, the effects of the Great Depression were severely felt. Poverty and unemployment was the norm. Psychological disorders arising from these economic problems were prevalent.
It was as if the land was devastated since food was scarce. People had to fall in line just to get food. It was a typical European phenomenon, but never a concerting one. People in the United States during the post-World War I (1920s) were eager to get the best possible in the marketplace.
During the Great Depression, they had to fall in line to government food stations, just like their European brothers, to get food.It was definitely a time of prudence and hardship (Heer 587). People in the countryside have to be vigilant about finding work; for work or job is a scarce one. Even if an individual landed to a certain job, the assurance of high salary, or salary above the subsistence level had a slim chance.
But before the effects of the Great Depression be explored, it is customary to define and cite its history. To cite and describe its history is tantamount to proofreading the novel itself. If the novel fails its background, then it does not represent reality but clear manipulation of reality itself.The Great Depression was defined as the decaying element of the modern world; political and economic forces surging the individual, paralyzing them, and setting them apart from the society (Toynbee 78). Economist unlike historians like Toynbee defined the Great Depression as the reduction of economic output due to overproduction; and the impending effect is general unemployment for the working class (Keynes XX).
It is by no means that only one of the two sides is correct. It is possible that one side is talking of causes and the other one the effects. They may be two sides of the same coin.The book is not only a literary piece; it is an exposition to the realities of life, realities that are not isolated from the effects of timely events. As I have said earlier, the Book of Mice and Men is a general critic of the conditions of California during the Great Depression.
The effect on the individual was the preferred target for the themes in the novel, for the real individuals of that time were incorporated in the characters of the novel. It was no coincidence that such characters seemed real and not engrossed in fantasy. The novel is a description of life, real situated life.Social Issues in the Novel Conflict between Man and Society There is definitely in the novel a conflict between man and society. Take for example the case of Lennie and George.
Because of Lennie’s impulsive behavior, he dared to touch a woman’s dress. The woman cried for raped. Because of the incident, the town people drove the two out of the town, believing the girl who cried for rape. Lennie’s dependence on George always put George on a bad position. Lennie was always involved in acts that can be considered not normal. The common reaction of the people they meet is disgust and loathing (http://www.
ellmore-merrick. k12. ny. us/mice2. html).
Nowhere in the novel that Lennie was liked by anyone, or if there was such case, only momentarily. This made George more anxious to get rid of Lennie, whenever the opportune time comes. The opposing ideals of society and that of the impulsive of Lennie put the two individuals in a bad light. Not only were they labeled as “destructive” (or for that matter only Lennie), they were also exposed to the danger of alienation. The benefits of social integration like love, brotherhood, neighborly ordeal, and the like were cast to the sea.They were individuals far from the respect of their peers (co-workers).
Discrimination Prejudice and discrimination in the novel were attributed to two characters; namely Crooks and Lennie. Prejudice in sociological terms is defined as the “an inner form of substantial negative thought directed to" (Light 154). Discrimination, on the other hand refers “an expressed action, attitude, often coalesced with some form of disagreement to a particular ethnic group or political ideology” (Light 154). Prejudice can be translated in layman’s term as “negative feeling” and discrimination “negative response”.In the novel, Lennie faced both prejudice and discrimination both his peers and the townspeople.
His stature always provoked deep-seated negative feelings towards him. The novel described him as heavy and tall "...
and he walked heavily, dragging his feet a little, the way a bear drags his paws"(Steinbeck, I 2). Even George, his friend had certain prejudice on him. He would rather see the day when they were separated than the day when people laughed at them. He said, “Made me seem God damn smart alongside of him" (Steinbeck III 40).
Curley, his son’s boss had a prejudice for big, tall men.Crooks was by no means exempted from prejudice and discrimination. Everywhere, he was labeled a black and an inferior. Curley always refers inferiority with blackness and was clearly not fond of Crooks. His wife, the seductive and troublesome woman, did the same.
At one instance, she mentioned that blacks are only blacks and nothing more. A reviewer of a magazine noticed him as “loner, having a small resting place away from the contours of civilized life, a person willing to work for free, a dreamer, disfigured, the only one who understands Lennie, the character with a mental deficiency” (Harmon 3rd 12).Anomie Anomie or lack of moral consensus was prevalent among the characters of the story. Curley had his own set of moral standards. The issue of superiority albeit exploitation of his peers through force was his idea of a moral standard. Crooks and Lennie wanted to pursue their dreams of owning a farm through the conventional standard (the attainment of the so-called American Dream), but society would not allow such action.
They were disfigured either mentally or physically, and therefore had no right to reach such goal. Slim, another character in the novel, was a much respected person.Everyone wanted to found his favor. But during the course of the story, he was well sway by his own moral standards. He had his own set of values opposed generally to what his peers believe.
He was very curious of why George was so upset after he had killed Lennie. This reaction is really not the right attitude; for shooting a longtime friend may really cause some grief to the person who committed that act. This blending of moral standards is a clear phenomenon of anomie or lack of clear and unified moral standard. The individual exposed to sets of moralities which apparently have little commonality.
The end result is that the individual either develops his own moral standard or caught in backfire (Durkheim 230). He becomes lost in a vacuum. Suicide and mental illness sets in. The possibility of killing his peers or family members ensues. The individual becomes also unconcerned of the fate of other person, and sometimes himself.
These things were clearly shown in the novel. Issue of Power Curley was the boss, even if he was only the boss son what impedes him from commanding a set of desperate workers? Clearly power is borne not out of genuine obedience; it is borne out of perceived timidity.The resolution of conflict through power manipulation is by no means an overarching advantage to the power holder. He is constrained by his ignorance and will full belief on his innate superiority. Curley is a person, who abused power for his sake; who believed that because he had the advantages in life, he can dictate his will to others.
That put him in the situation of power addiction and overconfidence. Economic Issues With regards to economic rights, almost all of the characters in the book showed signs of poverty and fluctuating unemployment; such were signs of the Great Depression.It was no coincidence that the major characters in the novel were of poor origin, that is, of low economic stature. There were instances that men dreamed of the so-called “American Dream”, the dream for prosperity and good life for Americans. The American dream most evident during the pre-World War II period or the time of the Great Depression was clearly limited to few individuals; those who have land and those who have a clear stock of non-liquid assets such as food, cars, and houses.
The chances for an average American, albeit like the minor characters in the novel, Slim, Candy, and many others is low.For Lennie and Crooks, the American Dream was but a fantasy. It did not exist in their priority set; it was limited to their irrationalizing dreaming. Another point that should be made is that the characters in the novel are typical of the Americans during the Great Depression.
Most Americans would change job from time to time to get the best possible income, but to no avail. Life during that time was cruel; only the speck of hope and dignity resolute every men to work and live their dreams. What is the Content of Other Novels Written by Steinbeck?The question,” what is the content or theme of other novels written by Steinbeck? ” holds clue as to why he wrote the novel “Of Mice and Men”. Most of his books tackled the topic of realism, that is, what is seen and debated in life is written by pen. The issues of labor disputes, unemployment, war, discrimination, and the like were evident of this literary approach. The novel wanted to depict the everyday happenings in California during The Great Depression, for since the author himself experienced the devastating effects of the Great Depression: irregular employment, hunger, and the like.
It was only through the success of his novels that he life became good for him; that he was able to pursue the American Dream through sweat and tears. The purpose then of the novel was to relate the general audience to the facts of life during his adolescence and young adulthood. The essence of writing a short, and grossly novel ( but of real and colorful indignant farm life) is itself a manifestation of his leanings towards realist writings.To show life in its entirety, not devoid of political, economic, and social issues, is a complete work. The work of fiction novelists who separate life from the talk of politics or inflation or unemployment, or morality is a clear no-no to him.
Life is real if it is interacting with the basic realities of the state, family, economy, international relations, and law. The general propensity to consider things in real terms will in the future give a solid remark or benefit for the society to which it is situated.