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John Steinbeck and the context of his book Of mice and man & Where from is the title?

By AnyMary Feb 21, 2014 827 Words

John Steinbeck and the context of his book Of mice and man & Where from is the title?

John Steinbeck was born in Salinas, California in 1902. Although his family was wealthy, he was interested in the lives of the farm labourers and spent time working with them. He used his experiences as material for his writing.. He worked his way through college at Stanford University but never graduated. In 1925 he went to New York, where he tried for a few years to establish himself as a free-lance writer, but he failed and returned to California. After publishing some novels and short stories, Steinbeck first became widely known with Tortilla Flat (1935), a series of humorous stories about Monterey paisanos Steinbeck's novels can all be classified as social novels dealing with the economic problems of rural labour, but there is also a streak of worship of the soil in his books, which does not always agree with his matter-of-fact sociological approach. After the rough and earthy humour of Tortilla Flat, he moved on to more serious fiction, often aggressive in its social criticism, to In Dubious Battle (1936), which deals with the strikes of the migratory fruit pickers on California plantations. This was followed by Of Mice and Men (1937), the story of the imbecile giant Lennie, and a series of admirable short stories collected in the volume The Long Valley (1938). In 1939 he published what is considered his best work, The Grapes of Wrath, the story of Oklahoma tenant farmers who, unable to earn a living from the land, moved to California where they became migratory workers. Among his later works should be mentioned East of Eden (1952), The Winter of Our Discontent (1961), and Travels with Charley (1962), a travelogue in which Steinbeck wrote about his impressions during a three-month tour in a truck that led him through forty American states. Steinbeck was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1962, six years before his death in 1968 The Depression

On October 29 1929, millions of dollars were wiped out in an event that became known as the Wall Street Crash. It led to the Depression in America which crippled the country from 1930 - 1936. People lost their life savings when firms and banks went bust, and 12 - 15 million men and women - one third of America's population - were unemployed. There was then no dole to fall back on, so food was short and the unemployed in cities couldn't pay their rent. Some ended up in settlements called 'Hoovervilles' (after the US president of the time, Herbert C Hoover), in shanties made from old packing cases and corrugated iron.A song about an unemployed man meeting an old friend he has fought alongside in the First World War and asking him for a dime (the price of a cup of coffee) summed up the national mood. Brother, can you spare a dime?

Migrant farmers
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 harvests 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. Ranch hands

Against this background, ranch hands like George and Lennie were lucky to have work. Ranch hands were grateful for at least a bunk-house to live in and to have food provided, even though the pay was low. Of Mice and Men Title

Steinbeck originally titled it Something That Happened, however he changed the title after reading the poem To a Mouse written by Scottish poet Robert Burns in 1785. In the poem, the speaker has accidentally turned up a mouse’s nest with his plough, and takes the opportunity to wonder at man’s separation from the world of animals. Still, the speaker thinks both mice and men suffer from being mortal, so no matter how different "thinking men" and "unthinking animals" seem, they really aren’t that different after all – everybody suffers in the end. This thought isn’t too far off from what ends up happening to our "thinking man" (George) and his "unthinking friend" (Lennie). In essence, it suggests that no plan is fool-proof and no one can be completely prepared for the future.

Most critics talking about Steinbeck point you to the seventh verse of the poem:

But, Mousie, thou art no thy lane [you aren't alone]
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best laid schemes o' mice an' men
Gang aft a-gley, [often go awry]
An' lea'e us nought but grief an' pain,
For promised joy..

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