Of Mice and Men - Context
The Wall Street Crash:
When the Wall Street Crash stock market crashed in October 1929, the world economy was plunged into the Great Depression and one of the worst economic disasters ever. By the Winter of 1932, America was in the depths of the greatest economic depressions in its history. The number of unemployed people reached upwards of 13 million. Many people lived in primative conditions close to malnourishment. One family in New York moved into a cave in Central Park. In St Louis, more than 1,000 people lived in shacks made of scrap metal and boxes. Between 1 million and 2 million people travelled the country desperately looking for work. Signs saying 'No men wanted' were displayed all over the country. By the time of the election in November 1932, Hoover's popularity had reached rock bottom. It was not even safe for him to go onto the streets to campaign. After a heavy defeat, Hoover told his friends, "We are at the end of our string... There is nothing more we can do." The American economy did not fully recover until the USA entered WWII in December 1941.
Migrant and Itinerant Workers:
Added to the man-made financial problems were natural ones. A series of droughts in southern mid-western states, like Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas led to failed harvestes and dried up land. Farmers were forced to move off their land. They couldn't repay the bank loans which had helped buy the farms, and had to sell what they owned to pay their debts. Many economic migrants headed west to 'Golden' California, thinking there would be land going spare, but the Californians turned many back, fearing they would be over-run. The refuges had nowhere to go back to, so they set up home in huge camps in the California valleys living in shacks of cardboard and old metal and sought work as casual farmhands.
Between 1932 and 1939, a series of disastrous dust storms struck the southern Great Plains of the United States. Particularly hard hit were western Kansas, eastern Colorado, north-eastern New Mexico and the Oklahoma and Texas panhandles. Though dust storms also occurred elsewhere on the Plains, the effects were far less severe. Soils…