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Of Mice and Men

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Abby Wiggles

on 13 November 2012

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Transcript of Of Mice and Men

So what's the bigger picture? The contextual factors that are evident in Of Mice and Men are the situations in which the book was both based and written. The two main factors are the Great Depression and the divisions within society. The main effect of these isolation and loneliness.
The two main messages Steinbeck was trying to portray in Of Mice and men are:
The effect of the division in society
The futility of life - dreams are unrealistic and will be crushed. Dreaming only leads to loneliness.
The disillusionment caused by the situation in which you live - no matter how hard the workers try, they will never be able to become rich enough for their dreams and no matter how hard Crooks and Curley's Wife tries, they won't be treated as equal. However how does the context of the novella make the reader relate to the story? Of Mice and Men was written by John Steinbeck in 1937, and the story within the novella is based at the time at which it was written. In America during the 1930's the people suffered from what was called the "Great Depression". This is why George and Lennie, the same as hundreds of other men at that time, were so desperate to find work and cannot earn enough money to live their dream of owning their own ranch.
Not only does this make the reader feel sympathy for the two main characters, but the majority of people would relate to the struggles the characters faced because they also had (and were also trying to escape) economic hardship. The effect of this is that the reader is more engaged to story because they can relate to it. Of Mice and Men Speaking and Listening enter text here OF MICE AND MEN ...through the characters struggles due to their social status. So which factors show the context of the story? What does the novella say about society? What represents Steinbeck's message that he portrays in Of Mice and Men? Crooks is very surprised by the fact that Lennie just wants to talk to him. He has been lonely for so long he doesn't know how to react in social situations, especially with someone who is "white". Curley's wife's loneliness drove her to seek company with anyone who will give her some attention. Her desperation for someone to give her attention along with her naivety causes her to not realise the danger Lennie prevents, which is one of the factors that caused her death. In Of Mice and men, every character has their own form of isolation and loneliness. Two characters that are very different are Curley's Wife and Crooks, however they both are lonely because of their position in society. Why is Curley's Wife lonely? She is a women who lives in a patriachal society. She is lowly regarded and seen as a possession by her husband.
Curley's wife is lonely because she feels like she is not valued by Curley, so seeks the company of the ranch workers.
The workers are smart enough to avoid her to stay out of trouble. Curley's wife tries to be more flirtatious in order to get more attention, however this causes the workers to avoid her more, making her more lonely. What effect does this have on the reader? Women in society at the time the novella was published were regarded as 'lesser', so would understand how Curley's wife was feeling as a result of their position within society.
People today still relate to Curley's wife because they are more aware of prejudice and equality, but can still understand what it would feel like to be inferior and to be ignored, therefore feeling sorry for her. Why is Crooks lonely? Crooks is probably the loneliest character in Of Mice and Men.
He is lonely because he is black, and in the 1930s racism was acceptable and normal. Due to Crook's race, he has to stay in a room by himself and is not allowed to socialise with the other characters. This means he has nobody to talk to.
He feels very isolated because there are no other black people near the ranch (as revealed in the conversation with Lennie), so he knows that there is no-one who he could talk to who would understand how he felt.
Unlike Curley's wife and most of the other characters, however, Crooks has no hope of being happy and knows there is no hope of achieving his dreams because of the prejudice against him. Aside from Slim, he is the only character to accept this, but unlike Slim, this only makes him feel lonelier. How does this affect the reader? Steinbeck engages the audience by forcing them to relate to the characters. One of the ways he does this is through the theme of loneliness. The loneliness of the characters are because of the society in which they live, which is another factor which the reader can relate to. This would be very easy to relate to if you were black at that time, but was probably quite an eye-opener for white people as the message Steinbeck gives here was not commonly addressed - most people didn't think twice about being racist and african-american rights didn't exist.
For the modern reader, the isolation of Crooks is still very easy to relate to as there are still issues of racism and people are more aware of this so are more willing to think of how Crooks is feeling. ...because of the economic situation during the 1930's. Why are most the ranch workers also lonely? Most the men who work on the ranch are itinerant (migrant). In general, they don't have a companion or partner, which makes them feel lonely.
"I seen the guys that go around on the ranches alone. That ain’t no good. They don’t have no fun. After a long time they get mean. They get wantin’ to fight all the time." This quote shows the result of the isolation many migrant workers feel. It would have been the nearly 2 million itinerant workers in America at that time who would relate to the workers in Of Mice and Men because Steinbeck loosely based the characters on real workers he had met. In other words, the feelings of the characters are the same felt by the majority of actual workers. However the fact that Of Mice and Men is based on the time of the Great Depression provides a basis for more obstacles than just lack of money and the constant search for work for people such as George and Lennie. For example, Of Mice and Men is mainly about friendship, including trust and loyalty. The setting of the Great Depression is appropriate as friendships are most tested during time of hardship, especially in the case of George and Lennie. The Great Depression is the route to many of the problems George and Lennie have to face - Why? Lennie and George see themselves as different to most other migrant workers, "Guys like us, that work on ranches, are the loneliest guys in the world. They got no family. They don’t belong no place… With us it ain’t like that… because I got you to look after me, and you got me to look after you, and that’s why."
However their rare companionship presents obstacles, for example the ranch owner doesn’t understand why George cares for Lennie, "’I said what stake you got in this guy? You takin’ his pay away from him?’ ‘No, ‘course I ain’t. Why you think I’m sellin’ him out?’ ‘Well, I never seen one guy take so much trouble for another guy. I just like to know what your interest is.’” Even the boss finds it hard to believe that two itinerant workers stick together, and thinks it more likely that George is exploiting Lennie.
George works to find money to survive, however he says that without Lennie he could afford luxuries,”if I was alone I could live so easy. I could go get a job an’ work, an’ no trouble. No mess at all, and when the end of the month come I could take my fifty bucks and go into town and get whatever I want…"An’ whatta I got," George went on furiously. "I got you! You can’t keep a job and you lose me ever’ job I get. Jus’ keep me shovin’ all over the country all the time."
Due to their economic situation, George finds it hard to keep a job or do the things he wants to with Lennie with him. However his love for Lennie and promise to Lennie’s Aunt makes him sacrifice the luxuries he could have. How are the contextual factors evident in Of Mice and Men and what is Steinbeck's message about society shown through his novellas such as Of Mice and Men? The contextual factors are represented by themes in the novella and by different characters. Racism and isolation
The racism towards Crooks shows how society was prejudice but how this was accepted. The scene with Lennie and Crooks epitomises the whole novella and it's themes such as isolation and loneliness, suspicion, insecurities and also dreams and hopes.
Position and portrayal of women
The way in which Curley's wife is treated allows her role of being part of the cause of the tragedy in the storyline to be fulfilled. However the way she is portrayed when she speaks about her feelings also allows her to represent women's position within society and how they feel. This may have been one of the messages Steinbeck was trying to include in Of Mice and Men, and the fact that he was an early feminist makes this more likely.
The setting (as the Great Depression)
The Great Depression provides the basis for the story but also shows the historical context by showing the effects of the economic situation at the time the novella was both written and based.
Characters show the American Dream, but the story portray the futility of life
Nearly every character in Of Mice and Men has their own dreams, hopes or plans for the future. The hopes of the characters shows how at that time everyone had their American Dream, which is what kept people going through the hard times. However, Steinbeck ends his novella by crushing the hopes and dreams of all the characters. The message Steinbeck shows by doing this is one of the main messages in Of Mice and Men, which is the futility of life. On the other hand, it also forces the reader to feel sympathy for the workers. In conclusion, the situation that the Great Depression creates for George and Lennie makes their friendship hard. If George wasn't a migrant worker, his friendship with Lennie would be a lot easier, however having to choose between lluxuries and friends creates lots of frustration for George. Yet still, George still always chooses Lennie. Of Mice and Men was written by John Steinbeck in 1937, and the story within the novella is based at the time at which it was written. In America during the 1930's the people suffered from what was called the "Great Depression". This is why George and Lennie, the same as hundreds of other men at that time, were so desperate to find work and cannot earn enough money to live their dream of owning their own ranch. A brief outline of John Steinbeck and Of Mice and Men John Steinbeck himself lived from 1902 until 1968. He the author of 27 books, three of which were known as the ‘Dustbowl trilogy’. Steinbeck’s political views can be described as left wing, which is mainly shown by his joined of the League of American Writers. His views are often shown through his works, for example the sympathy to the working class and black people, and hints to his political views, especially in ‘In Dubious Battle’. Of Mice and Men shows the division within society through the social dynamics of the ranch. The ranch owners have a higher status. The boss is respected by workers because he is in charge of everything, including the workers jobs. Curley is feared more than he is respected because he has almost as much power as the boss but he uses his power in a much more threatening and intimidating way, which allows him to treat the workers like animals. Below them are the ranch workers, however there are even divisions between them. For example Slim is much more respected than any other worker by the owners and highly regarded by the workers themselves. Lennie is seen slightly lower than most of the workers because of his disability, however most the workers show pity on him and let him be. Below the workers is Crooks and this is because of this race. The dynamics of the ranch represents society at that time as each character represents a different part of society.
For example the role and perception of women is shown through Curley's Wife. However because of her marriage, and because she is white, she has a higher social status than Crooks. The scene of the interaction between Crooks and Curley's Wife clearly shows the divisions within society, but also the danger these presented for black people at that time.
In this scene Curley's Wife is threatening Crooks because he told her that she "has no right in a coloured man's room". She threatens him by saying about how easily she could get him fired or even killed if he spoke out of term. This shows the cultural and historical context that racism was accepted but also the social context that although this was accepted, not everyone liked it. Curley is at the top His wife is only above the male worker because she is married to him Slim is regarded higher than the other workers After that come the other workers At that time there was prejudice towards the disabled, so they were regarded lower than the other workers. Last comes Crooks, who is regarded as the lowest because he is black. American society in the 1930's accepted sexism, racism and prejudice against the disabled. Many just accepted it, and many thought it was unfair, but because that was the way of life it had to accepted. In Of Mice and Men, Steinbeck discusses these points from the perspective of those it affected. Through his writing, Steinbeck explores these issues and subtly adds his own message. These messages include the fairness of sexism, prejudice but mainly racism. By exploring the thoughts and feeling of a black person (Crooks) the reader is forced to empathize with them. This is something that most white people did not do, and so Steinbeck's work begins to change the opinion of the reader, or attempts to.
The 'upper class' of society is represented through characters such as Curley, and the 'lower/working class' through the lonely but likeable characters such as George, Lennie and Candy. This shows that Steinbeck had sympathy for the lower regarded portions of society.
People at that time had little care for itinerant workers providing they did a good job. Steinbeck's works attempt to change this opinion. Although it's hard to say whether Of Mice and Men actually changed opinions, Steinbeck's showed several messages through Of Mice and Men.
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