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Pre-Reading for Of Mice and Men

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John Riggle

on 12 September 2016

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Transcript of Pre-Reading for Of Mice and Men

Pre-Reading for
Of Mice and Men

Physical Setting
The "where" of the setting of a story.
Historical Setting
This is the "when" of the setting of a story.
Social Setting
This is the "climate" of the setting of a story. This is how (and why) the majority of the people living during this time felt about their society and living conditions.
John Steinbeck
John Steinbeck was an American novelist whose books, including his landmark work,
The Grapes of Wrath
, often dealt with social and economic issues. He was born February 27, 1902, in Salinas, California. He was raised with modest means. His father, John Ernst Steinbeck, tried his hand at several different jobs to keep his family fed.
The Grapes of Wrath
—about the migration of a family from the Oklahoma Dust Bowl to California—won a Pulitzer Prize and a National Book Award.
At the beginning of the 1930s,
more than 15 million Americans --
fully one-quarter of all
wage-earning workers --
were unemployed.
The 1930's
Times Square Breadline: The highly industrialized cities of the North were the first to feel the full effects of the Great Depression.
In the Salinas Valley during the 1930's, times were tough and it was difficult for the average family to stay together. Men and boys left their homes to find work. Women and girls took care of the home (if they still had a home) and many worked in factories. Homelessness was common and many died from poor living conditions and malnutrition.
Imagine you were one of the people in these photographs. List some adjectives that would describe your feelings but most importantly tell specifically why you would have felt that way. The "why" is how you identify Social Setting.
Of Mice and Men was Steinbeck's first attempt at writing in the form of novel-play termed a "play-novelette" by one critic. Structured in three acts of two chapters each, it is intended to be both a novella and a script for a play. He wanted to write a novel that could be played from its lines, or a play that could be read like a novel.
Published in 1937, Of Mice and Men tells the realistic story of George Milton and Lennie Small, two displaced migrant ranch workers, who move from place to place in search of new job opportunities during the Great Depression in California, USA.
The novella is based on Steinbeck's own experiences as a "bindlestiff" in the 1920s. The title is taken from Robert Burns' poem "To a Mouse", which reads: "The best laid schemes o' mice an' men / Gang aft agley." (The best laid schemes of mice and men / Often go awry).
Of Mice and Men
has even found its way
into today's popular media...
and...
Thanks for taking notes!
Now let's ANNOTATE this novella.
The "R-word" equates an intellectual disability with being DUMB OR STUPID.
When saying the R-word, “What we mean is that he is as stupid as someone who is mentally handicapped, and we mean that in the most derogatory sense. The implication is that the
only
characteristic of mentally handicapped individuals is their stupidity.”
– Crystal, Stanford, CA
* An intellectual disability, formerly known as mental retardation, is a generalized neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by significantly impaired intellectual and adaptive functioning. Instead of using the archaic term “retarded,” many replace it by referring to it as the “R-word” because it can be so offensive to those that are born with intellectual disabilities.
Lennie, one of the primary characters in Of Mice and Men, has an intellectual disability*. After Lenny’s aunt dies, his friend George (the main protagonist) has to take care of him because even though he’s an adult, he cannot take care of himself.
George and Lenny are an odd looking pair of friends because Lenny is a really big powerful man and George is slightly below average in height and weight.
There have been many artistic adaptations of Steinbeck's novella (the term for a shorter novel)...
Lennie also has a tactile fetish. This disorder means he obsessively thinks about and acts upon touching soft things like a rabbit’s soft fur, a piece of silk, a small mouse, or even a plush stuffed animal. Rabbits or mice are featured in much of the artwork because Lennie always thinks about petting soft rabbit or mice fur.
The genre of
Of Mice and Men
is
naturalist fiction
.
Naturalism is a late nineteenth century movement in theater, film, art and literature that seeks to portray common values of the ordinary individual. Similar to the intense details used by realist writers, the subjects of naturalist fiction were even more concentrated on the filth of society and the travails of the lower classes as the focal point of their writing.
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