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Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
Transcript of Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
The Great Depression, the Dust Bowl and Migrant Workers
Racism, Sexism, Violence, Language and Mental Impairment
1. The Elusive American Dream
A writer deeply engaged with place, mistreated or under appreciated workers and ordinary people. He wrote by taking into consideration the political and historical events of the time.
More than any other writer of the United States in the 1900s, he remained engaged in the struggles of his country.
Steinbeck grew up in California’s Salinas Valley, a culturally diverse place with a rich migratory and immigrant history. This upbringing gave him a regional flare to his writing.
As a teenager, Steinbeck worked on ranches and farms during the Summer. During these Summers, he learned to have a deep respect for the migrant workers her met there.
Of Mice and Men has a distinct sense of place.
Winner of the 1962 Nobel Prize, he wrote what many other Americans were thinking.
After World War I, economic troubles brought many rural poor and migrant agricultural workers from the Great Plains states, such as Oklahoma, Texas, and Kansas, to California. A recession led to a drop in the market price of farm crops, which meant that farmers were forced to produce more goods in order to earn the same amount of money. To meet this demand for increased productivity, many farmers bought more land and hired more workers. The stock market crash of 1929 only made matters worse. Banks were forced to foreclose on mortgages and collect debts. Unable to pay, many farmers lost their property and were forced to find other work.
The increase in farming activity across the Great Plains states caused the precious soil to erode. This erosion, coupled with a seven-year drought that began in 1931, turned once fertile grasslands into a desert-like region known as the Dust Bowl. Hundreds of thousands of farmers packed up their families and few belongings, and headed for California, which, for numerous reasons, seemed like a promised land.
These migrant workers who were trying to escape the Dust Bowl came to be known as Okies, for although they came from many states across the Great Plains, twenty percent of the farmers were originally from Oklahoma. Okies were often met with scorn by California farmers and natives, which only made their dislocation and poverty even more unpleasant.
In Of Mice and Men, Steinbeck illustrates how grueling, challenging, and often unrewarding the life of migrant farmers could be. Just as George and Lennie dream of a better life on their own farm, the Great Plains farmers dreamed of finding a better life in California.
Steinbeck was neither racist or sexist. He was simply reflecting the social climate of the time.
"Of Mice and Men" has been on many banned books lists over the years. There are also censored copies in which derogatory language has been eliminated.
Throughout the novel, there are brief and unintentional scenes of violence causing readers to question, is violence ever justified?
The treatment of mentally-challenged people has changed dramatically since the 1930s. Also, you must understand the distinction between “mentally ill” and “mentally challenged.”
Read the articles discussing why Of Mice and Men has been on the banned books list and answer the corresponding questions.
2. People with Differences,
Ostracized by Society
The American Dream- an ideal of the United States in which freedom includes the opportunity for wealth and success for all. Every American is able to move upward in social class through hard work.
The idea that life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each regardless of social class or circumstances of birth.
The idea of the American Dream is rooted in the United States Declaration of Independence which proclaims that "all men are created equal."
Elusive- hard to achieve; mysterious; deceitful
Ostracized- rejected; banished; avoided
There are multiple characters in the story who are ostracized because of their position as minorities.
Steinbeck distinguishes George and Lennie's friendship as unique at the very beginning of the story. George tells Lennie that unlike all the other "guys" that work on ranches, they "got a future" because, as Lennie excitedly explains, "I got you to look after me, and you got me to look after you, and that's why".
Their friendship is a marvel to the other workers on the ranch as well.
While George often complains about the trials of carrying for Lennie, who inadvertently causes trouble, George never abandons him, though he easily could.
For each reading assignment, the reading guide questions must be completed the day that assigned reading is due. Answer these questions using complete sentences in your literature notes section. You WILL be turning these responses in for a grade.
Random quizzes will be given to assess reading comprehension and in-class discussion. Be prepared to take a quiz everyday because any day could be a quiz day.
At the end of the novel, you will write and In Class Essay (ICE).
These 4 characters are ostracized because of their differences and are only tolerated because they are considered useful.
**It is implied Lennie is mentally handicapped and George is constantly telling him, "listen [...] so we don't get in no trouble." Lennie's forgetfulness creates the problems misunderstandings that have forced them to flee past jobs.
**Besides being African-American, the character Crooks is handicapped.
**The old swamper Candy is old and handicapped as well.
**Curley's wife's shows that women too suffer social ostracism in a world dominated by men. Her loneliness represents women's loneliness in a male-dominated society where they are not respected and not allowed to have desired social positions.
TO map a character means to follow them along their journey through the stories plot. You map a character by focusing on 6 specific elements of characterization.
1. Physical Appearance: what the character looks like. Use specific examples from the text. Steinbeck uses vivid imagery to describe his characters and does so through direct characterization.
2. Important Quotes: What the character themselves say. Their use of dialogue reveals what they're thinking and what is important to them. How they speak to other characters reveals what they think about the other characters in the story.
3. Internal Conflicts: The inner demons and/or emotional struggles the character experiences throughout the plot. How do these internal conflicts effect them and their behaviors?
4. External Conflicts: The outside struggles (either with other characters or forces in nature) that a character experiences. Actions often times speaker louder than words.
5. Interactions with other characters: These interactions need to focus on how the character treats and is treated by other characters. Focus your attention on those characters they are not experiencing an external conflict with.
6. Connections to theme: How is the character connected to the larger meaning and lesson of the novel? Are they a major or minor component to the theme(s)? Which specific theme and how are they connected?
Steinbeck uses vivid imagery and strong sensory details to describe the settings within his novel. He begins the novel on pgs. 1-16 Ch. 1 by describing the natural setting around George and Lennie. In one complete paragraph, identify passages from the text that are particularly descriptive and explain how these descriptions add to the novel. Be sure to mention the outside camp George and Lennie slept at in pgs. 1-16.
1. Why did John Steinbeck choose to end the book where it began? Think about the cycle of life.
2. Did George have any alternatives to shooting Lennie? List at least 3 different possible alternatives.
3. What do you think will happen to George? Why?
The elusive American dream
People with differences ostracized by society
Catholic Social Teachings
1. Life and Dignity of the Human Person
2. Call to Family, Community, and Participation
3. Rights and Responsibilities
4. Option for the Poor and Vulnerable
5. The Dignity of Work and Rights of Workers
6. Solidarity (unity of feeling or action, especially among individuals with a common interest)
7. Care For God’s Creation