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Contextualising `Of Mice and Men'
During the Great Depression the American dream had become a nightmare. What was once the land
of opportunity was now the land of desperation. What was once the land of hope and optimism had
become the land of despair.The American people were questioning all the maxims on which they had
based their lives - democracy, capitalism, individualism. The best hope for a better life was California.
If America was the land where the world goes in search of miracles redemption, California is the land
where Americans go. Many Dust Bowl farmers packed their families into cars, tied their few
possessions on the back, and sought work in the agricultural fields or cities of the West - their role as
independent land owners gone forever. Between 1929 and 1932 the income of the average
American family was reduced by 40%, from $2,300 to $1,500. Instead of advancement, survival
became the keyword.
The Stock Market (Wall Street Crash) Crash
After nearly a decade of optimism and prosperity, the United States was thrown
into despair on Black Tuesday, October 29, 1929, the day the stock market
crashed and the official beginning of the Great Depression. As stock prices
plummeted with no hope of recovery, panic struck. Masses and masses of
people tried to sell their stock, but no one was buying. The stock market, which
had appeared to be the surest way to become rich, quickly became the path to
bankruptcy.
And yet, the Stock Market Crash was just the beginning. Since many banks had
also invested large portions of their clients' savings in the stock market, these
banks were forced to close when the stock market crashed. Seeing a few banks
close caused another panic across the country. Afraid they would lose their own
savings, people rushed to banks that were still open to withdraw their money.
This massive withdrawal of cash caused additional banks to close. Since there
was no way for a bank's clients to recover any of their savings once the bank
had closed, those who didn't reach the bank in time also became bankrupt.

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Businesses and industry were also affected. Having lost much of their own
capital in either the Stock Market Crash or the bank closures, many businesses
started cutting back their workers' hours or wages. In turn, consumers began to
curb their spending, refraining from purchasing such things as luxury goods. This
lack of consumer spending caused additional businesses to cut back wages or,
more drastically, to lay off some of their workers.…read more

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Riding the Rails
During the Great Depression, millions of people were out of work across the
United States. Unable to find another job locally, many unemployed people hit
the road, traveling from place to place, hoping to find some work. A few of
these people had cars, but most hitchhiked or "rode the rails."
A large portion of the people who rode the rails were teenagers, but there were
also older men, women, and entire families who traveled in this manner.…read more

Comments

Paul Dutton

Another good resource which places the novel in its historical context.

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