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Of Mice and Men, John Steinbeck, and The Great Depression

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Matthew Sarmiento

on 4 October 2013

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Transcript of Of Mice and Men, John Steinbeck, and The Great Depression

Of Mice and Men
and the Great Depression

The Great Depression
and its Impacts

Influence of the Depression
on Steinbeck
Effect of the Depression
on Salinas, California
Influence on his writing
(cont.)
Influence of the Depression on
The Dust Bowl
Great Depression Factors
The Human Dimension
of the Great Depression
Early Great Depression
Who is John Steinbeck?
Later Life/Career
Early life/Childhood
The Life of
John Steinbeck

John Steinbeck (1902-1968) was born in Salinas, California (the setting of "Of Mice and Men") and lived through the Great Depression which heavily influenced his writing.
The Great Depression was an immense tragedy that placed millions of Americans out of work and provided John Steinbeck with plenty of material to write about, from rural labor and economic problems, to social problems in general.
A complex interaction of many factors led to the decline and crash of the economy. There were multiple signs of recession before the market crash in 1929.
As the depression grew worse, more and more people lost their jobs, and those fortunate ones that still had them had their wages cut drastically.
As said previously, John Steinbeck grew up in Salinas, California. The Salinas valley is a vast agricultural region growing anything from garlic, grapes, strawberries, lettuce, carrots, etc. It is known as the 'Salad' bowl.
John Steinbeck's writing was heavily focused on the social and economic problems during the Great Depression. Many of his famous works, including the Grapes of Wrath and Of Mice and Men, are based on migrant workers living during the Great Depression.
Thank you
English 9 Honors
John Steinbeck was a famous American writer who is widely known for the Pulitzer-Prize winning novel, The Grapes of Wrath (1939), East of Eden (1952) and Of Mice and Men (1937).
John Steinbeck wrote twenty-seven books, including 16 novels, six non-fiction books, and five collections of short stories.
He won the Nobel Prize of Literature in 1962, a prestigious award given to outstanding works of literature.
His writing was heavily influenced by the time period of the Great Depression (1930s); they were mostly social novels dealing with problems of rural labour.
He was the second of four children, and was the only boy. His mother's name was Olive Hamilton Steinbeck, and his father was John Steinbeck, Sr.
His birth town of Salinas was, and still is - a farming town surrounded by landscapes of broad yellow valleys, golden hilltops, and lush green fields, exactly as it was described in Of Mice and Men.
After graduating high school, he attended Stanford University but found school pretentious, and attended intermittently and took odd jobs in farms and ranches.
In 1925, he left Stanford for good and moved to New York City to make his living as a career.
However, Steinbeck was always a Californian at heart and would have to move back to the Golden State to find his voice as a writer; since his hometown had a deep impact on his writing.
Black Tuesday, October 29, 1929 was a day that will infamously be remembered in American history. Panic struck as the stock market crashed - prices plummeted with no hope of recovery, and the masses rushed to sell their stocks.
Since banks had invested large portions of money of their clients' savings in the stock market, the banks were forced to close and millions of people had lost their money.
Businesses lost much of their own capital which led to drastic wage cuts or lay offs, and in turn consumers curbed their spending and refrained from buying luxury goods.
The farm economy, which involved almost 25% of the population, had been depressed throughout the decade. Coal, railroads, and New England textile factories were not prosperous.
After 1927, new construction declined and auto sales began to drop. Many workers were laid off before 1929.
Economic Effects
Many people thought that the depression was just an adjustment in the business cycle that would soon be over. As time went on, the worst depression in history set in, reaching its bottom point in 1932.
Unemployment reached about 13 million in 1933, or about 25% of the labor force EXCLUDING farmers. National income dropped from $87.8 billion to $40.1 billion.
Labor income fell about 41 percent, while farm income dropped 55 percent from $11.9 billion to $5.3 billion.
Over 5,761 banks (22 percent of the total) failed by the end of 1932.
Many people were unable to continue credit payments on homes , automobiles, and other possessions, and therefore lost them. Families doubled up in houses and apartments, and hundreds of thousands became homeless and lives in groups of makeshift shacks called Hoovervilles.
Public and private soup kitchens were set up throughout the nation.
In previous depressions, farmers were usually safe from the severe effects. Unfortunately during the Great Depressions, the Great Plains were hit especially hard with a drought and horrendous "dust" storms.
Years of overgrazing combined with drought caused the grass to disappear, and with the topsoil exposed, strong winds and dust destroyed everything in their paths and ruined crops.
Small farmers were hit especially hard. The farmers were usually already in debt, borrowing money for seed and paying it back when the crops came in. But because of the dust storms, they could not pay back their debts and their farms were abandoned because of foreclosure.
Many people tried to escape the severe Dust Bowl effects of Oklahoma and migrated to Salinas/Soledad (major towns in Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men) for opportunities and relief.
Soledad and Salinas were affected by the Great Depression, but not as harshly as other areas. Jobs were limited, but there was not chaos. The farm life still continued, because the Dust bowl did not affect the area.
Steinbeck's Writing
Of Mice and Men is interestingly one of the most frequently challenged and banned books in American libraries and schools.
Of Mice and Men is a story about two migrant workers, George and Lennie, who want to achieve the American dream of owning their own land.
Steinbeck moved back to Salinas for its pure simplicity and his vision of so many people trying to achieve the American dream, their hopes crushed due to the Great Depression.
Of Mice and Men was only a hint as to what was coming next. In 1939, Steinbeck published the Grapes of Wrath, a book about the Joad family who are a clan of sharecroppers that migrated to California, the land of dreams. As they travel west, their dream collapses due to discriminatory policies.
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