Slides in this set
Of Mice and Men is influenced by John Steinbeck's own
experiences of working on the ranches in the Salinas
Valley, California. Steinbeck was born in Salinas, California
in 1902 into a wealthy family but his interest was in the
lives of the labourers who worked on the farms around
California. Steinbeck wrote a number of novels about
poor people who worked on the land and dreamed of a
better life (Of Mice and Men, The Grapes of Wrath) and he
himself worked on a number of ranches around Salinas.
Of Mice and Men was Steinbeck's first big success as a
writer. Not only did the book sell very well it was turned
into a Broadway play and a movie, providing Steinbeck with
However, Of Mice and Men almost didn't make it to the
publishers. After writing the first half of the story his dog,
Toby, got its paws on the manuscript and shredded it!
Fortunately Steinbeck was able to rewrite the first half
again from memory.…read more
The Great Depression
When Of Mice and Men was published in 1937 America was in the grip of a huge
economic depression. On October 29 1929, the Wall Street Crash led America
into a depression which crippled the country from 1930 - 1936. When banks went
bust people lost their life savings and at one point one third of America's
population were unemployed. Back in the 1930s there was no welfare state to
help the unemployed so food became scarce and millions of jobless men and
women lost their homes and were forced to live in shanty settlements known
as 'Hoovervilles.' Their homes were constructed from corrugated iron and
anything else the people could get their hands on.
To make matters worse a series of droughts in states like Kansas, Oklahoma and
Texas led to the failure of harvests and barren land. Farmers were forced to
leave their land as they couldn't repay their mortgages and had to sell what they
had to pay off their debts.
Many economic migrants went west to California, believing there would be land
and jobs, but many were refused entry to the `Golden State' and turned back.
The refugees had nowhere to go back to, so they set up home in the California
valleys - living in shacks of cardboard and old metal - and looked for work as
casual ranch hands. Against this background, men like George and Lennie were
lucky to have work. The farm hands were fortunate for at least a bunk-house to
live in and to have food provided, even though the pay was low.…read more