Historical Context of 'Of Mice And Men'

Just a few key points that can be found within Of Mice and Men, which we should be looking out for.

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  • Created by: Bexie
  • Created on: 21-05-12 18:58

The American Depression

  • The depression didn't effect everyone in the same way, many rich people felt no impact and were oblivious to the suffering of others.
  • The depression caused the delay of many marriages and the amount of divorce in America fell dramatically (it was to expensive to pay legal fees).
  • The unemployment rate hovered close to 25%.
  • Women's roles changed dramatically, because of little money, they had to leave their household jobs and find somewhere else to work that could bring in an income for the family.

The depression caused delays in marriage, however Curley was recently married. This could suggest that the family (who we know own the ranch) are fairly well off and therefore are not as effected by the Depression as much as others may be. Especially as the wife doesn't work, but instead just lurks around the Ranch.
However Lennie and George are two characters who had been affected by the Depression. They were finding it difficult to find work, especially after the previous one in 'Weed' ending badly.

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Migrant Workers

  • They were treated badly; often discriminated against and yelled at. It was because of this, that they were forced to retreat to camps where they felt safer.
  • They experienced the lowest incomes, the poorest working conditions and the fewest benefits from the social services in the US. In average yearly earnings of migrant workers, were approximately 40% of the official poverty rates.
  • They are employed in the most dangerous of all occupational categories except mining.
  • Their housing and health conditions are the poorest of all occupational groups.

Lennie and George are two prime examples of migrant workers. Although the job is a dangerous one, Lennie gets much praise over how well be works. This is probably due to having so much physical strength.
Housing conditions are poor and we see that the workers have to end up staying in a 'Bunkhouse'. This is almost like a community house, they sleep in the same rooms, wash in the same rooms and overall the area may not be as sanitary as people of today are used to.

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  • Migrant workers were treated badly and discriminated against.
  • Slavery was finally made illegal but people were still mistreated by their race. African Americans were targeted the most.
  • The Ku Klux Klan (KKK) was the largest known group to mistreat African Americans, they would dress in cloaks and triangular masks to hide their identity and then torture innocent victims because of their nationality.
  • The people most effected by racism, were the Native Americans, African Americans, Asian Amerians, Mexican Americans, American Jews, Irish Americans, Italian Americans, American Muslims and Arab Americans, and some other immigrant groups and their descendants.

Not only is it workers of a different nationality who are effected by Racism (including Crooks. Who is black skinned and along side his crooked back, makes him a prime target for insults), but it is also those with a disability and women. Lennie is 'handicapped' making him different to others and they do not understand him. Curley's wife is also treated with disrespect. These three characters are examples of racism on the ranch.

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The American Dream

  • The American dream is the dream of a land in which life should be better, richer and fuller for everyone. With opportunity for each ability or achievement.
  • It's not a dream of motor cars and high wages but a dream of social order in which each man and woman shall be able to obtain what they deserve, regardless of birth or position.
  • The idea of an American Dream is older that the US and dates back to the 1600's, which is when people began to come up with all sorts of hope and aspirations.
  • Some say that it is meant to represent the possibility of living a life better than your parents did, and there is a desire amongst the parents that their children should lead a healthier and happier life.

George and Lennie have had their own American Dream for a long time. Where they wish to have a bit of land of which they can call their own. On this land, Lennie can look after the rabbits (feeding them Alfalfa) and several other animals.
During the course of the book, both Candy and Crooks hear about this dream. And between the four of them, they can raise enough money to make the dream a reality, something that not many workers have managed to do.

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