Unformatted text preview: Of Mice and Men
By J ohn
S teinbeck John Steinbeck One of The Great American Writers of the 20th Century A Look at the Author
A Look at the Author
Born February 27th in 1902 in Salinas, California, John was the third of four children, and the only son. During his childhood, Steinbeck learned to appreciate his surroundings, and loved the Salinas countryside and the nearby Pacific Ocean; it would be this appreciation that would later come out in his writing. Steinbeck worked during his summers as a hired hand in nearby ranches. The Fields of Salinas,
California The Beauty of Salinas
The Rich, fertile soil At the age of 14 he decided to be a writer and spent a lot of time writing in his room. In high school, Steinbeck did well in English and edited the school yearbook. From 19191925 Steinbeck attended Stanford University to please his parents, but only chose courses that interested him, classical and British Literature, writing courses, and an odd science course. However, Steinbeck did not receive a degree because he would drop in and out of school, sometimes to work with migrant workers and bindlestiffs on California ranches. What’s a Bindlestiff?
What’s A hobo, especially one who carries a bedroll. During the late 1920s and 1930s, he concentrated on writing and wrote several novels set in California. Steinbeck gained great success by
readers and critics. In 1929, he published his first novel, Cup of Gold In 1930, Steinbeck married Carol Henning, and they
moved into his family’s home. His father helped support the struggling couple, but unfortunately, they divorced in 1942. In 1935, he won his first literary prize,
Commonwealth Club of California Gold Medal for Best Novel by a Californian for his novel, Tortilla Flat. In 1936, Of Mice and Men was published, and was so widely accepted that Steinbeck began a book tour that led him to Europe. In 1939, The Grapes of Wrath was published and became an instant bestseller; in 1940 it was awarded the Pulitzer Prize, one of the most prestigious literary awards in the world. This novel, just like Of Mice and Men, stemmed from his experience working among migrant workers. Steinbeck’s experiences in the fields researching migrant workers led him to have more compassion for these workers,
and stirred up his concern for social justice. In 1943 he married Gwendolyn Conger who would father him two sons before their divorce in 1948. In 1943 Steinbeck worked as a war corre
spondent for the New York newspaper, Herald Tribune. While living in Monterey, California, Steinbeck said that he felt unwelcome as no one would rent him an office for writing, and he was harassed when trying to get fuel and wood from a local wartime rations board. Steinbeck wrote that his old friends did not want to be around him, partly because of his works, and partly because he was so successful: “This isn't my country anymore. And it won't be until I am dead. It makes me very sad.” He left Monterey the next year and moved to New York. In 1948 he moved back to Monterey. A year later he met Elaine Scott, who in 1950 became his third wife. Although he continued to write and publish, he never felt at ease in his life, and once wrote to an aspiring writer from Salinas: “Don't think for a moment that you will ever be forgiven for being what they call ‘different.’ You won’t! I still have not been forgiven. Only when I am delivered in a pine box will I be considered ‘safe.’ After I had written the Grapes of Wrath the librarians at the Salinas Public Library, who had known my folks remarked that is was lucky my parents were dead so that they did not have to suffer this shame.” One of Steinbeck’s two sons fought in the Vietnam War, while Steinbeck himself was in Asia covering the war for Newsday, a Long Island newspaper. Steinbeck lost a number of friends during the antiwar movement due to his open support of the war and America’s involvement. Steinbeck’s last two books were nonfiction.
Travels with Charley in Search of America was an account of his trip from Maine to California with his poodle, Charley.
His final book, America and the Americans, was about his belief that in time, America would once again feel united. John Steinbeck died on December 20, 1968, at his apartment in New York City. His wife took him home to Salinas to be buried near the land that he spent his life writing about. Mural overlooking The National
Steinbeck Center in Salinas
Steinbeck The Book
Of Mice and Men was originally called Something That
Happened. When Steinbeck first thought of the idea for the book
he intended it to be for children. Steinbeck told a friend
that he was experimenting with a new “dramatic form.”
In May 1936, he wrote a manuscript, but his puppy (a
setter called Toby) ate it!
He said of the book:
"It is an experiment and I don't know how
successful." Of Mice and Men
Of The novel deals with the
issues dear to Steinbeck’s
heart - poverty,
exploitation of itinerant
workers, the failure of the
Dream, America’s general
moral Main Characters: Lennie &
George L ennie Small L ennie is a large, lumbering, childlike
igrant worker. Due to his m
ental disability, Lennie com
depends upon George, his friend and
panion, for guidance
and protection. The two m share a
vision of a farm that they will own
together, a vision that Lennie believes
in wholeheartedly. Gentle and kind,
L ennie nevertheless does not
understand his own strength. His love
of petting soft things, such as sm
anim dresses, and people’s hair,
leads to disaster. George Milton
George George is a small, wiry, quickwitted man who travels with, and
cares for, Lennie. Although he
frequently speaks of how much
better his life would be without
his caretaking responsibilities,
George is obviously devoted to
L ennie. George’s behavior is
motivated by the desire to protect
L ennie and, eventually, deliver
them both to the farm of their
dreams. Though George is the
source for the often-told story of
life on their future farm, it is
L ennie’s childlike faith that
enables George to actually believe
his account of their future. Ge o rg e and Le nnie g o to a ranc h ne ar S alinas ,
Califo rnia, to
w o rk. Ge o rg e is Le nnie ’s ke e pe r, and Le nnie imitate s
e ve rything that Ge o rg e do e s . Le nnie pre vio us ly had
be e n
kic ke d o ut o f a to wn fo r g rabbing a g irl’s dre s s . He
like d to to uc h s o ft ite ms . That is als o the re as o n that he
a d e ad mo us e in his po c ke t: Le nnie pe tte d him to o The setting in Of Mice and Men
The setting in The novel is set in the farmland of the Salinas valley, where John Steinbeck was born.
The ranch in the novel is near Soledad, which is southeast of Salinas on the Salinas river.
The countryside described at the beginning of the novel, and the ranch itself is based on Steinbeck’s own experiences. Soledad, California
Soledad, California in the 1930s
California Why Migrant Workers?
Why Migrant Workers? Before technology created farm machinery, humans had to do a lot of the farm work by hand.
Between the 1880s and the 1930s, thousands of men would travel the countryside in search of work.
Such work included the harvesting of wheat and barley. Migrant Workers
Migrant Workers These workers would earn $2.50 or $3.00 a day, plus food and shelter.
During the 1930s, the unemployment rate was high in the U.S., and with so many men searching for work, agencies were set up to send farm workers to where they were needed.
In the novel, George and Lennie (the two main characters) were given work cards from Murray and Ready’s, which was one of the farm work agencies. Chasing the American Dream
Chasing “Give me your tired, your poor,
your huddled masses yearning to
breathe free, the wretched refuse
of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest
tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden
( Emma Lazarus)
Emma Written on the base of the Statue of
Liberty The American Dream You can be successful if you work
hard and live morally.
America is the land of opportunity.
Freedom to work hard and be happy
is enshrined in the Constitution.
The Dream assumes equality of
opportunity, no discrimination,
freedom to follow goals and freedom
from The American Dream
The American Dream From the 17th Century onwards, immigrants have dreamed of a better life in America.
Many people immigrated to America in search of a new life for themselves or their families.
Many others immigrated to escape persecution or poverty in their homeland. Immigrants dreamed of making their fortunes in America. For many this dream of riches became a nightmare. – there were horrors of slavery, – there were horrors of the American Civil War,
– there was a growing number of slums that were just as bad as those in Europe,
– there was also great corruption in the American political system which led to many shattered hopes. The idea of an American Dream for many was broken when in 1929, the Wall Street crashed, marking the beginning of the Great Depression. This era affected the whole world during the 1930s, but even in the midst of hardship, some people’s dreams survived. Thousands of people made their way west towards California to escape from their farmlands in the Midwest that were failing due to drought. The characters of George and Lennie dreamt of having a “little house and a couple of acres” which was their own dream. I s the American dream possible in the historical
context of the novel?
Dreams George and Lennie have a dream
even before they arrive at their new
job on the ranch, to make enough
money to live "off the fat of the land"
and be their own bosses. Lennie will
itted, then, to tend the rabbits. Dreams
Dreams When George goes into a full description of the
dream farm its Eden-like qualities becom
even m apparent. All the food they want will
be right there, with m
inimal effort. As Lennie
– "We could live offa the fatta the lan'." When George talks about their farm, he twice
describes it in term of things he loved in
– "I could build a smoke house like the one
gran'pa George yearns for his future to reflect the
beauty of his childhood.
– "An' we'd keep a few pigeons to go flyin' around
the win'mill like they done when I was a kid."
the Meet the Other Characters
Meet Candy Curley Curley’s Crooks Slim Carlson Wife Candy
Candy Candy is an aging ranch handym
Candy lost his hand in an accident
and worries about his future on the
ranch. Fearing that his age is m
him useless, he seizes on George’s
description of the farm he and Lennie
will have, offering his life’s savings if
he can join George and Lennie in
owning the land. The fate of Candy’s
ancient dog, which Carlson shoots in
the back of the head in an alleged act
of mercy, foreshadows the manner of
L ennie’s death. Curley
Curley Curley is the boss’s son, Curley
wears high-heeled boots to
distinguish himself from the field
hands. Rumored to be a champion
prizefighter, he is a
and aggressive young man who
seeks to compensate for his small
stature by picking fights with
larger men. Recently married,
Curley is plagued with jealous
suspicions and is extremely
possessive of his flirtatious young
wife. Curley’s Wife
Curley’s Curley’s wife is the only fem
character in the novel, Curley’s wife
is never given a nam and is only
referred to in reference to her
husband. The m on the farm refer
to her as a “tram a “tart,” and a
“looloo.” Dressed in fancy, feathered
red shoes, she represents the
ptation of fem sexuality in a
inated world. Steinbeck
depicts Curley’s wife not as a villain,
but rather as a victim Like the ranch.
hands, she is desperately lonely and
has broken dream of a better life.
Crooks Crooks, the black stable-hand, gets his name from his crooked back. Proud,
bitter, and caustically funny, he is isolated from the other men because of the
color of his skin. Despite himself, Crooks becomes fond of Lennie, and
though he derisively claims to have seen countless men following empty
dreams of buying their own land, he asks Lennie if he can go with them and
hoe in the garden. Slim
Slim A highly skilled m driver and the acknowledged “prince” of the ranch, Slim is
the only character who seem to be at peace with him
self. The other characters
often look to Slim for advice. For instance, only after Slim agrees that Candy
should put his decrepit dog out of its m
isery, does the old m agree to let Carlson
shoot it. A quiet, insightful m Slim alone understands the nature of the bond
between George and Lennie, and com
forts George at the novel’s tragic ending.
between Other Characters
Other Carlson - A ranch-hand, Carlson complains bitterly about Candy’s old, - smelly dog. He convinces Candy to put the dog out of its misery. When
Candy finally agrees, Carlson promises to execute the task without causing
the animal any suffering. Later, George uses Carlson’s gun to shoot
The Boss - The stocky, well-dressed man in charge of the ranch, and - Curley’s father. He is never named and appears only once, but seems to be
a fair-minded man. Candy happily reports that he once delivered a gallon
of whiskey to the ranch-hands on Christmas Day.
Aunt Clara - Lennie’s aunt, who cared for him until her death, does not
actually appear in the novel except in the end, as a vision chastising Lennie
for causing trouble for George. By all accounts, she was a kind, patient
woman who took good care of Lennie and gave him plenty of mice to pet.
woman Themes in Of Mice and Men
Of The Nature of Dreams – I n essence, Of Mice and Men is as much a story about the nature
of human dreams and aspirations and the forces that work against
them as it is the story of two men.
– Humans give meaning to their lives—and to their futures—by
creating dreams. Without dreams and goals, life is an endless
stream of days that have little connection or meaning.
– George and Lennie’s dream—to own a little farm of their own—
is so central to Of Mice and Men that it appears in some form in
five of the six chapters. Loneliness – I n addition to dreams, humans crave contact with others to give
life meaning. Loneliness is present throughout this novel. Themes in Of Mice and Men
Of Powerlessness – Steinbeck’s characters are often the underdogs, and he shows compassion
toward them throughout the body of his writings. Powerlessness takes many
forms—intellectual, financial, societal—and Steinbeck touches on them all.
forms—intellectual, Fate – L ife’s unpredictable nature is another subject that defines the human condition.
J ust when it appears that George and Lennie will get their farm, fate steps in. My Brother’s Keeper – Steinbeck makes the reader wonder whether m
ankind should go alone in the
world or be responsible and helpful to others who are less fortunate. Nature – Steinbeck uses nature images to reinforce his themes and to set the mood.
Steinbeck Of Mice and Men – Title’s Origin
Of Mice and Men The title of the novel comes from a poem by the Scottish poet Robert Burns (1759 96)
The best laid schemes o’ mice and men
Gang aft agley [often go wrong]
And leave us nought but grief and pain
For promised joy! The best laid schemes of mice and men often go wrong referring to a little mouse who had so carefully built her burrow in a field to protect herself and her little mice babies – and the burrow is turned over and destroyed by the man plowing. This powerpoint was kindly donated to
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