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Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

Table of Contents

Important Background 2

The Author 2

The Great Depression (1929-1933) 2

Significance of the title 3

The American Dream 4

See also 4

Plot summary 5

Character profiles 7

Themes 9

Important Background

The Author

John Steinbeck was born in 1902 in Salinas, California, a region that became the setting for much of his fiction, including Of Mice and Men. As a teenager, he spent his summers working as a hired hand on neighbouring ranches, where his experiences of rural California and its people impressed him deeply.

Steinbeck’s best-known works deal intimately with the plight of desperately poor California wanderers, who, despite the cruelty of their circumstances, often triumph spiritually.

Always politically involved, Steinbeck followed Tortilla Flat with three novels about the plight of the California labouring class, beginning with In Dubious Battle in 1936. Of Mice and Men followed in 1937, and The Grapes of Wrath won the 1940 Pulitzer Prize and became Steinbeck’s most famous novel.

Steinbeck sets Of Mice and Men against the backdrop of Depression-era America.

The Great Depression (1929-1933)

In October 1929, the 'Roaring Twenties' came to a dramatic end and the USA economy went into deep depression. It had been in decline before 1929. This was because of:

  • overproduction and under-consumption in agriculture and consumer industries;
  • decline of traditional industries;
  • laissez-faire (‘let do’, i.e. leave it be) government policy, which led to insufficient regulation of the stock market and banks;
  • the government policy of protectionism, which reduced America’s trade with other countries;
  • increased debt, partly due to new methods of borrowing at low interest rates;
  • massive speculation on land and the stock market, leading to inflated share prices;
  • a decline in confidence in the economy.

Experienced investors knew America’s economy was slowing down and that shares were overvalued. In September 1929, they began selling them in large numbers. This caused prices to drop further. Ot...

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