Facts on: Of Mice and Men
John Steinbeck focused his experience as a lower class migrant worker in the creation of his book Of Mice and Men. He spent several years in the Salinas Valley and used his experiences as the basis for the things Lennie and George experienced. He also based his characters on people he actually worked with including Lennie who was based on a former worker that later ended up in a state institution.
Steinbeck’s books all featured similar themes. The author himself confessed in the 1930s that his books focused on the understanding of human behavior. He wanted people to think about the characters and why they acted a certain way. He also used the idea of the American dream in his books, as characters frequently hoped to get something more or better out of life based on their hard work and effort.
Of Mice and Men is set in the Salinas Valley area of California. It’s unique in that the book was set during the Great Depression when people all over the world were striving for something more. In particular it takes place at a ranch in Soledad.
Migrant farm workers of the 1920s and 1930s had an extremely hard life. Families were often separated and it was difficult to find people. They slept in shelters that were little more than lean-tos, with boards strapped together. They had little money on hand and little food. Lennie and George experienced these problems constantly, which made their dreams of owning land even harder because it was clear they would never have the money to do so.
The idea of the American dream involves humans who want everything out of life. There’s a belief that those who work hard will see their dreams come true, but that they have to make the choice to get those things. The two main characters in the book are Lennie and George, who both have dreams of owning their own land. This idea manifests in other ways as well.
Both men have other dreams and things that they want out of life. For Lennie, it’s the simple idea of owning and taking care of his own rabbits. George wants something more than land, he also wants to be his own boss and rule his own land. George struggles in the book, trying to make his dreams happen while still taking care of his old friend. In a way though, he realizes that watching after the other man is more work that will make his dreams come true.
Steinbeck picked the name "Of Mice and Men" based on a poem by Robert Burns. Titled "To a Mouse," the poem has a line stating, “The best laid place of mice and men often go awry”. Upon hearing that line, Steinbeck felt it was the perfect description for his latest book. It perfectly summed up the difficulties the men had throughout the book.
Resources on Of Mice and Men include:
The Great Depression changed everyone in different ways. Criminal records from that time increased because people were forced to take drastic actions to ensure their family survived. Steinbeck summed up the feelings of desperation perfectly with his characters Lennie and George in Of Mice and Men.