"Of Mice and Men"- America in the 1930s

An overview of American life in the 1930s, when Of Mice and Men was set

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America in the 1930s
In the 1930s America was in a mess- economic depression, poverty, social
inequalities...knowing about the social conditions of the time should help you understand
why this novel became a classic overnight.
In the 1920s the American economy was booming...
The 1920s was a `boom time' for many- there was low inflation, low unemployment
and low interest rates, so people had a high standard of living.
Cities were rebuilt with tall skyscrapers, and major road building programmes were
There was a consumer boom. Most people could now afford items like radios,
refrigerators, washing machines and vacuum cleaners.
...But in 1929 it went bust
However, the boom times couldn't last- The American stock market crashed
catastrophically in 1929. This led to a massive economic depression in the 1930s, when;
There were high levels of unemployment, poverty and homelessness
Increasing mechanisation was driving agricultural labourers off the land
Lots of these labourers migrated west to California hoping for work
Drought and over-farming were reducing the amount of fertile land
Land owners in states such as Oklahoma and Arkansas were going bankrupt and
their land was being repossessed by the banks
Some banks themselves were collapsing
Franklin D Roosevelt bought in the new deal
Franklin D Roosevelt (or FDR as he was known) was elected President of the
United States of America in November 1932
His `New Deal' for the American people had three main aims;
o Relief- To help improve people's lives
o Recovery- To begin rebuilding Us industry and trade
o Reform- To change conditions to ensure future progress
Under Roosevelt's leadership the economy did begin to recover, but improvement
was very slow
FDR's New Deal created new optimism and people's lives were improving. But
people, especially farmers, suffered a lot in the 1930s
The life of a travelling farm worker was hard
After the stock market crash in 1929, many farmers couldn't afford to keep their
farms and so their workers lost their jobs too
In some parts of America, drought and over-farming had also created a `dust bowl'
where the land wasn't fertile enough to grow crops
Many farm workers travelled to California where the climate and soil were better.
They only took what they could carry on their backs

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Travelling farm workers moved from farm to farm looking for work. In return for
their hard work they got a bed, food and a small wage
They took temporary jobs wherever they could find them, and moved on when the
work was finished. They often travelled alone
Hollywood was on the rise in the 1920s and 1930s
In the 1920s, film became the biggest form of mass entertainment- cinema was a
multi-million dollar industry.…read more


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