Of Mice and Men: Social Contexts

·         Great Depression

·         Dustbowl

·         Patriarchal Society

·         Racism

·         American Dream

·         Hollywood

·         Cowboy

·         Itinerant Labourer

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  • Created by: N
  • Created on: 16-05-13 21:02

Great Depression

In October 1929 the Great Depression began on Black Tuesday when millions of dollars were wiped out in the event that became known as the Wall Street Crash. It led to a worldwide financial recession with one third of America’s population becoming unemployed and in a state of poverty.  

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In addition to the financial problems, America also suffered from agricultural damage with a series of droughts in southern mid-western states which led to failed harvests and dried-up land. Farming became impossible and the topsoil became eroded creating the dustbowl. Thousands of farmers were forced to move off their land and many headed west to California, searching for work.

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· Patriarchal Society

In the 1900’s America, and generally the rest of the world, was dominated by a patriarchal society. This is a societal structure whereby men are the decision makers and hold positions of power and prestige. The ideas of patriarchy is based on family units where fathers have primary responsibility for the welfare of, hence authority over, their families.

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Racism and ethnic discrimination were a major issue in America in the 1930s, ever since the slavery era. Although slavery had ended under the 13th Amendment after the American Civil War of the 1860s, the Civil Rights Acts did not come in place till 1964. Until then back people were restricted in many ways, such as that they were not given the opportunity for an education, they weren’t allowed to serve in any political positions and they weren’t allowed to vote. The black people also constantly suffered from verbal and physical abuse in their everyday lives.  


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American Dream

The American Dream is a mythical idea of a land in which life should be better, richer, fuller and with opportunity for each and every person; no matter what your socio-economic status is, each man or woman should be able to achieve the fullest stature of which they are capable of. It ideally constitutes a life of liberty and the pursuit of happiness. However this is a flawed concept because everyone is limited by forces beyond their control, like the economy or their education. In the 1930’s the American Dream became a tool to keep labourers working on false hope, thereby propelling the economy.

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America markets itself as the land of the free and home of the brave where everyone has the opportunity to do or become something. One form of this is Hollywood, a performer’s perfect opportunity to fame. The movie industry started in the early 20th century and marked a new era for film makers all over the world. Given the current situations in the 1930s, the Depression and aftermath of World War One, Hollywood produced a positive atmosphere across the country and it soon became every girls dream to become a part of it.  

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The figure of the cowboy is quite intimately bound up with America’s own sense of identity as the land of the free and home of the brave, but in the 1930’s the cowboy is a dying breed. His role and function within America was diminishing whereas once it had been important and dominant. The cowboy stereotype is depicted with phallic imagery a highly romanticised and desired idea but in time it has become more of a myth, a part of American history that never really existed.


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Itinerant Labourer

An itinerant labourer is someone who has to move from one ranch to another, to receive work as their job is not permanent. This creates a very unstable life, with no home, poor living conditions and no health care. As a result of this life style, the typical itinerant labourer had few possessions or friends. They had a very lonely, solitary, existence and their psychological strains affected their mood and behaviour towards life.

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