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Of Mice and Men - Introduction to Steinbeck

Introduction to the world of Lennie and George
by

Claire Nightingale

on 17 March 2014

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Transcript of Of Mice and Men - Introduction to Steinbeck

FOLK MUSIC
The World of
Lennie and George

Photo based on: 'horizon' by pierreyves @ flickr
Born in 1902 to well-off, educated parents in the agricultural (farming) region of California
Spent summers roaming the area and labouring on local ranches and farms with migrant workers and other poor folks. These experiences greatly influenced his writing.
Attended the prestigious Stanford University for years but never actually completed a degree!
Novels like "The Grapes of Wrath" and "Of Mice and Men" seriously angered many powerful people (i.e. landowners, bankers) because of their sympathetic view of workers and subversive, anti-capitalist message; people in his area attacked Steinbeck's views, even banning his books in some places
The Intro
John Steinbeck
Learning Goals
Develop general knowledge of the novel's historical and social setting in order to understand the book
Get familiar with the novel's structure, major themes, and characters

Success Criteria
Able to define key terms about the 1930s and the Great Depression
Understand the lifestyle needs and dreams of migrant labourers in the 1930s Dust Bowl era
Able to visualize the world of the novel using specific details from this presentation (i.e. clothes, technology, etc.)
Prepared to understand the characters' backgrounds and way of life
Ready to look out for clues about the novel's themes
Get perfect on the Introduction Quiz!
What's all this about, anyway?
In every bit of honest writing in the world there is a base theme. Try to understand men, if you understand each other you will be kind to each other. Knowing a man well never leads to hate and nearly always leads to love. There are shorter means, many of them. There is writing promoting social change, writing punishing injustice, writing in celebration of heroism, but always that base theme. Try to understand each other.
— John Steinbeck, 1938
The Setting
DISCUSSION
TRUE OR FALSE?

1. THINGS USUALLY WORK OUT IN THE END.

2. MOST PEOPLE ARE KIND AT HEART.

3. THE UNIVERSE DOESN'T CARE IF YOU LIVE OR DIE.

4. LIFE WITHOUT FRIENDS IS MEANINGLESS.

5. IT'S BETTER TO BE INDEPENDENT THAN TO RELY ON OTHERS.

6. EVERYONE SHOULD HAVE A DREAM.

7. DREAMS ARE JUST A WAY TO ESCAPE FACING REALITY.

8. I WANT TO OWN AND LIVE IN MY OWN HOME SOMEDAY.
The 1930s
MAJOR THEMES
DREAMS:
-They are fragile or easily broken -They're necessary for survival, because they can make a hard life worth living
-Longing for something can be dangerous
-The American Dream is a failure for many

LONELINESS vs. FRIENDSHIP:
-Life without companionship is twisted, empty, and unnatural
-People can help you or give life meaning -People can be burdens or let you down
-People should cooperate, but instead they pick on the weak

HELPLESSNESS AGAINST FATE
-Humans are powerless creatures who don't understand the forces that affect them
-The "best-laid plans" don't always work out
-Fate, nature and human nature are cruelly indifferent, or uncaring
A writer for the common folk
The Promised Land
In the Old Testament of the Bible, God tells Abraham - the ancestor to whom both the Jewish and Arab peoples trace their lines - that He will give his descendants the Promised Land - the "land of milk and honey" where they would no longer be strangers or slaves, but at home.

This is a very significant story in the Judeo-Christian tradition and early 20th century American readers would have known it well.

For migrants looking for a better life, the "Promised Land" was California. For characters in this book, the Promised Land is the little farm they dream of owning.
TECHNOLOGY
Radio was a dominant cultural influence and a primary form of entertainment
Movies with sound appeared in the late 1920s; by the 1930s, "talkies" were dominant
Most movies were still in black and white, although by the late 30s some classic full-length technicolour movies arrived
Cars existed and were available, but usually only wealthy or upper-middle-class people owned them
The Characters
MAJOR
MINOR
George
Lennie
Candy
Crooks
Curley's wife
Slim
Curley
Carlson
The Boss
Whit
Aunt Clara
Take note of each character's social class or status,
race, gender, and occupation. What does each
character want in life?
Music that has its roots in popular culture - i. e. not classical or elite music. It often has no known authorship (so it "belongs to the people") and is passed on orally from generation to generation. Folk music was traditionally not taken seriously because it was seen as the music of "common" or poor, uneducated foiks.
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