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John Steinbeck 1902-1968

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Pernilla Bjelkenbrant

on 25 September 2018

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Transcript of John Steinbeck 1902-1968

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
John Steinbeck 1902-1968
Born in 1902 in Salinas, California.
Grew up in an agricultural valley 25 miles from the Pacific coast.
The coast and valley would serve as settings for many of his works.
Studied at Stanford University but left without earning a degree.
Worked as a journalist and laborer in New York but later returned to California.
Known for a large body of work.
Won the Pulitzer Prize in 1940 (The Grapes of Wrath) and the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1962.

Of Mice and Men
As is the case with many of Steinbeck's works, Of Mice and Men reflects themes and locations that he personally experienced:
the Great Depression
the California landscape
the lives of migrant workers and laborers

Draws upon Steinbeck's own experience as a bindlestiff

Depicts two male migrant ranch workers who share a profound friendship

Tone Symbols
Setting Climax
Point of view Structure
Character development Themes

Key aspects to consider
Point of view
Character development
Works by Steinbeck
Cup of Gold, 1929
The Pastures of Heaven, 1932
To a God Unknown, 1933
The Long Valley, 1938
(collection of short stories)
Tortilla Flat, 1935

(brought financial security)
In Dubious Battle, 1936 (focusing the Californian labouring class)
Of Mice and Men, 1937
(see above)
The Grapes of Wrath, 1939 (see above)
The Forgotten Village, 1941 (for the movies)
Sea of Cortez, 1941
Bombs Away, 1942
East of Eden, 1952

(a saga of the Salinas valley and his own family's history)
The Acts of King Arthur and his Noble Knights, 1976

The protagonists are George Milton (apprehensive and intelligent) and Lennie Small (mentally handicapped and extremely large and strong).
They dream of a better life and once they earn enough money as migrant workers they will buy a home for themselves.
However, they are thwarted by social inequities, lack of understanding, and maybe even fate.
Of Mice and Men was intended to be a play in three acts (see its spare form and stark dialogue), but Steinbeck's dog destroyed the first manuscript...
Still, the work was successfully adapted into a stage play and Hollywood film after its publication.

Key aspects to consider and themes
Point of view
Character development
Social Inequities
The importance of place
Unfulfilled dreams
Alienation from nature
Social fitness
The American Dream
Light, or lack of light
Places, e.g., personal space as "identity" and fictitious home as hope for the future
Repetition and storytelling
The Kewpie Doll
The Historical Context
1. WW1

"WW1 destroyed the idea that if you acted virtuously, good things would
happen. Many young men went to war and died, or returned home either
physically or mentally wounded (or both). They were "the Lost Generation."

2. The Roaring 20s
3. The Wall Street Crash, 1929
4. The Great Depression of the 1930s
How to analyse literature...
Themes: Loneliness
Soledad - town name that means loneliness in Spanish

Loneliness of the itinerant worker
Migrant workers had no homes or families but lived among strangers:
"Guys like us, that work on ranches, are the loneliest guys in the world. They got no family. They don´t belong no place" (15).

Loneliness at home
Candy is left alone when Carlson shoots his dog. He then looks for Lennie and George's company instead.
Curly's wife is lonely due to gender issues
Crooks is lonely due to racist prejudice

Theme: Social Inequities
The Civil Rights Movement
Theme: Social Fitness
Social fitness
Candy is aged and crookbacked (swamper)
Crooks is also crookbacked
Both men work menial tasks and are disrespected

Candy's dog is old and smells bad
(judged by the fit members Slim and Carlson; no solution offered)

Darwin: "the survival of the fittest"
The weaker survive, not as individuald, but only if they organize themselves in a collective (unions)

Lennie does not fit anywhere due to his mental illness
How should society deal with people who do not fit?

The woman in Weed - Curly's wife
Curly's wife blocks the sunlight

Past/present (see the first paragraphs)

Chapter 1 - by the Salinas River
Chapter 2 and 3 - in the bunk house
Chapter 4 - at Crook's place
Chapter 5 - in the barn
Chapter 6 - by the river
The story depicts very few women
Women: emotional, weak, stupid...
Men: realistic, effective, strong, clever...

Could it be said that Curley's wife fits both the madonna and the whore concept?

Curley's wife as a scapegoat:
It's her fault the men are attracted to her/that Lennie kills her

The reader never gets to see things from her perspective

Alienation from nature
"Itinerant workers only fulfill one step in the long chain of tasks leading from planting to harvest - they seed the earth, or they haul the crop, and then they move on, never establishing a connection with the cycles of the natural world".

George and Lennie's dream of a farm of their own addresses this alienation.

Marx, Engels argued that "the rise of the industrial economy corresponds to a loss of contact with the natural processes of life". Instead of being connected to the whole of life, a person is reduced to a simple role in a larger, bureaucratically managed workforce".

The main characters' dream of a ranch of their own could represent a "soft revolution"...
Curley is intentionally mean: he is bullying and petulant.

Lennie is unintentionally mean: kills animals and Curley's wife by mistake.

While Curley "means" to do mean things, Lennie doesn´t know how to "mean" to do anything. In this sense, Lennie is a person without meaning.
The rabbits symbolize Lennie and George's dream

In the opening chapter the rabbits happily sit on the ground (by the river), but when George and Lennie arrive they hurry for cover - indicating that their dream is not attainable.

George hallucinates a giant rabbit who tells him he will never be allowed to tend any rabbits - emphasizing the extent to which Lennie devotes his entire life to the dream of tending rabbits.
"Handiness" in violence and sex
Curley is described as a handy man - handy with his fists.
Curley is also handy when it comes to sex: he keeps one hand soft for his wife.

When Lennie crushes Curley's hand, Curley experiences loss when it comes to fighting abilities, but also sexual power - he is castrated.

Candy only has one hand...
The American Dream
The American Dream is a national ethos of the United States, a set of ideals in which freedom includes the opportunity for prosperity and success, and an upward social mobility achieved through hard work. In the definition of the American Dream by James Truslow Adams in 1931, "life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement" regardless of social class or circumstances of birth.[1]

The idea of the American Dream is rooted in the United States Declaration of Independence which proclaims that "all men are created equal" and that they are "endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights" including "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."[2]
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_American_Dream (2013-11-27)

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