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Of Mice and Men Background

gives Steinbeck biography, information on the Great Depression/Dust Bowl and Of Mice and Men
by

Nan Venghaus

on 13 August 2013

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Transcript of Of Mice and Men Background

The Great Depression Causes of the Great Depression --Most money was in the hands of a few who
invested rather than spent their money
--This made supply greater than demand
causing prices to rise and making recovery
difficult
--Stock Market crashes in 1929 --1929 October:

The "crash" began on October 24 (Black Thursday); stock prices had plummeted and banks were calling in loans estimating $30 billion in stock values. --1930 March:

More than 3.2 million people were unemployed, up from 1.5 million before the "crash" of October 1929 --1931 December:

New York's Bank of the United States collapses which had over $200 million in deposits, making it the largest single bank failure in the nation's history --1932 November:

With Hoover's failed relief programs, Franklin Delano Roosevelt is elected President in a landslide over Hoover. --1933 March:

FDR announces a four-day bank holiday during which time Congress passes the Emergency Banking Act of 1933 reopening three-quarters of the nation's closed banks; FDR delivers the first of what came to be known as his "fireside chats" The New Deal: FDR pledged to create "...a new deal for the American people"; FDR's plan to help tens of millions of people who had lost their homes, their jobs, and their savings during the Great Depression of the 1930's--a time when few government programs existed to help the needy The First Hundred Days:

--The Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA): provided funds directly to the needy
--The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), the Public Works Administration (PWA), and the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) put millions of unemployed to work on public projects --The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) protected depositors in the event of bank failures
--The National Recovery Administration (NRA) regulated prices, wages, and promoted fair business competition
--The Agricultural Adjustment Administration (AAA) tried to help farmers by reducing excess production and increasing farm prices The Second New Deal: 3 Acts of Congress in 1935

--The Works Progress Administration (WPA) put more than 8 million people to work building roads, dams, bridges, and other public facilities; it also sponsored artists, writers, musicians, and actors
--The National Labor Relations Act (the Wagner Act) supported the right of labor to engage in collective bargaining with employers
--The Social Security Act established a federal old-age pension program and a joint federal and state system to provide unemployment insurance The Dust Bowl --An ecological and human disaster that took place in the southwestern Great Plains in the 1930s --Increased farming activity across the Great Plains states caused soil to erode coupled with 7 year drought beginning in 1931created a desert-like region --Millions of farmland acres became useless and hundreds of thousands of people were forced to leave their homes --20% migrating to California came from Oklahoma
--Okies were met with scorn by California farmers and natives In several of Steinbeck's fictional works, including
Of Mice and Men, he illustrates how grueling, challenging, and 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. Despite these promises, very few found it to be the land of opportunity of which they dreamed --Stocks were bought with loaned money in the
1920s.
--The stockmarket was very unsteady because it
was based on borrowed money and false
optimism.
--There was no government action to regulate
business practices.
--Congress passed high tariffs that protected
American industries but hurt farmers and
international trade John Steinbeck --Born in Salinas, California to a treasurer and teacher
--Worked as a hired hand on neighboring ranches as a teenager
--Influenced by his mother's love of books
--Attended Stanford University in the 1920s but never graduated
--Moved to New York in 1925 to work as a reporter and freelance writer--it didn't work out --Returned to California and began publishing some novels and short stories
--Novels dealt with the economic problems of rural labor
--Of Mice and Men (1937), a novella about two migrant workers, George and Lennie, who move from place to place in search of work; later rewritten as a stage play The Grapes of Wrath (1939), considered his best work, depicts the story of Oklahoma tenant farmers who, unable to earn a living from the land, moved to Califormani where they become migrant workers; Steinbeck won the 1940 Pulitzer Prize for this novel --10 of Steinbeck's novels were made into movies
--In 1962 Steinbeck won the Nobel Prize in Literature for his body of work
--Died in 1968 in New York City at 66 years old of heart disease Banned Book List 2004:

Of Mice and Men was recently challenged in Normal, IL Community High School (2003) because the book contains "racial slurs, profanity, violence, and does not represent traditional values Summary: Clinging to each other in their loneliness and alienation, George and his simple-minded friend, Lennie, dream, as drifters will, of a place to call their own. But after they come to work on a ranch in the Salinas Valley their hopes, like "the best laid schemes o'mice an' men," begin to go awry. Setting: physical, cultural, historical forces of the period

--Salinas Valley near Soledad, about 80 miles south of San Francisco
--Large farm where barley and other crops are grown
--Takes place during the Great Depression but the depression is
not mentioned
--Takes place among a small part of an uneducated world, where
lower-class people are trying, with little success, to change their lives Thematic ideas--universal ideas explored in a literary work

--Human predatory nature
--Loneliness
--The American Dream
--Destructive imbalance of social power structures in
American society
--Dignity and pride
--Sense of morality Motifs--recurring incidents, ideas, and images which helps to unite a story and reinforce themes

--The corrupting power of women
--Loneliness and companionship
--Strength and weakness Style--author's purpose and perspective, manner of expression as opposed to content and meaning
*Lyrical--flowery, poetic language descriptions; beauty and
order of physical world contrasts with words and actions of
characters
*Naturalistic--earthy, ungrammatical, and realistic; captures
rhythm, slang, and colloquialisms of the people he writes
about; speech not forced or strained, but flows naturally and
smoothly Tone--tells how the author thinks about his/her subject; the author's attitude toward the story and the readers
*Ominous, foreboding

Mood--the effect of the writer's words on the reader; how the writer's words make us feel
*Suspenseful
*Impending dread and doom Allusion--references to literature, historical events, etc.
*The title of the novel comes from a poem by Robert
Burns called "To a Mouse"

Foreshadowing--hinting at events to come, also add suspense
*Lennie kills small animals
*Lennie pets mice too hard
*Curley's behavior Irony– what is said or shown is the opposite of the actual meaning underneath
*Lennie is frightened of a smaller man
*Curley believes men are after his wife, but
they dislike her

LOOK FOR OTHERS!!!  Form and Structure

--The novel is primarily told through colloquial dialogue and secondarily through ominiscient narrative in the past tense, very much like a play
--The novel is confined in space and time and is circular
*Parts 1 and 6 take place in the scenery
*Chapter 4 is also circular starting with Crooks by
himself and ending with Crooks alone in his room
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