Of Mice and Men


Introduction and Background

Like most of John Steinbeck’s fictional works, Of Mice and Men takes place in California during the Great Depression. This region was familiar to Steinbeck, as he was born in Salinas, California in 1902 to parents of Irish and German descent. His mother was a former schoolteacher, and his father was employed as the treasurer of Monterrey County. He spent his early years living in this small town that was a frontier settlement. This region was set among highly fertile land, and it was on this land that he became acquainted with the hardships of people in rural California through his personal experience working on ranches as a hired hand as a teenager. It was this environment that initially sparked Steinbeck’s interest in and awareness of the challenges facing migrant workers, and the emotional, physical, psychological, and societal issues that emerge out of this context.

Steinbeck attended Stanford University beginning at the age of seventeen, but never actually completed his studies and never obtained a degree. His career choice after studying at Stanford to become a reporter, and then he was employed as a caretaker for an estate at Lake Tahoe. This was the location where Steinbeck met the acquaintance of his first wife, Carol Henning, whom he married in 1930. It was during these first five years after college that Steinbeck completed Cup of Gold, his first novel. Although Steinbeck had spent a great amount of time working on his writing, this was his first work to be published. However, it did not receive any notable critical acclaim, and Steinbeck was not able to support himself financially through his writing exclusively at this time. Critical recognition and commercial success arrived six years later in 1935 with the publication of Steinbeck’s second novel, Tortilla Flat, which was set in Monterrey, California. It was at this time that he was finally able to enjoy some financial comfort, and he built a ranch home in Los Gatos, California. The publication of Tortilla Flat was followed in 1936 with In Dubious...

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