John Steinbeck's use of Realism, Characterization, and Dreams in "The Grapes of Wrath" and "Of Mice and Men"

Topics: Great Depression, John Steinbeck, Of Mice and Men Pages: 7 (2460 words) Published: April 10, 2006
John Ernst Steinbeck has written many award winning novels, some of which has even been produced as plays that captured audiences everywhere. Steinbeck wrote about real life experiences using realism, characterization, and dreams to emphasize his points and make an impact on his readers in order to reform or change society. The realism used in Steinbeck's works is not only effective in informing the reader of circumstances that should be changed, but this nineteenth century literary style also creates great feelings of empathy toward the characters and their dreams. Steinbeck used realism to convey his points for a purpose, and his main purpose was that he wanted something to be made known to the public. Of Mice and Men and The Grapes of Wrath both tell of the hardships people went through and also the harsh conditions of their situations. The characters in both of these novels play and important role in personalizing the occurring events for the reader, making the novel more effective in getting the writers' messages across to the audience. Steinbeck's use of the American Dream and the will for the characters to succeed is also evident throughout the two novels. These dreams help the reader to relate to the characters, therefore making a bigger impact on those who read the novel.

John Steinbeck's novel "The Grapes of Wrath", tells of a very harsh journey to California that the Joads, like many other families in the 1930s Depression era, embarked upon in order to find work and escape their dying farms in Oklahoma. During the depression a severe drought covered the plains, called the Dust Bowl. This natural disaster destroyed any chance that the farmers had of making a living, and they were forced to travel west and leave their homes in hopes of finding a job. Part of the novel's sense of realism comes from the setting. The Joads head to California from Oklahoma and their journey is characterized by poverty, starvation, death, and suffering (Stegener 405).

Steinbeck not only utilizes the setting as a sense of realism but also uses vivid description and specific details to draw attention to the numerous hardships encountered by the families forced to travel west in search of opportunity (Jackson 316). The first evening after the Joads leave their home, they stop on the side of the road to help another family. This family is very thankful for the Joads help, and offers their tent for the Joads' sickly grandfather, but unfortunately Grandpa passes away that night. The family is troubled from the very start of their journey and Steinbeck creates feelings of sympathy toward the Joads as well as the other families in the same situation. As the novel progresses, the family's disparity becomes more and more evident. Grandma Joad dies shortly after Grandpa does and since the Joads are indigent and can barely meet ends to survive, they are forced to beg for money to bury Grandma Joad. Despite family's disappointments, they just keep going (Britch and Lewis). As they continue to travel the Joads encounter many more obstacles, but there is one incident as the novel comes to a close. Rose of Sharon, the oldest daughter, goes into labor and her baby is stillborn. Rose of Sharon notices a dying old man who is malnourished and offers him her breast milk so that he might be able to survive. As the novel closes, the reader is left with despair and a sense of loneliness. Steinbeck's uses of realism makes a strong impact on the reader, which makes this one of the greatest American novels ever written (Jackson 316).

Of Mice and Men was also written during the time of the 1930s, the depression era. This novel is a short story of two men a small, short, and smart guy named George and a big, tall, mentally retarded man named Lennie. The novel is based around these two main characters and their journey to fulfill their dream to find true happiness on a farm that they can one day call their own (Hearle)

In "Of Mice and Men" the use of...

Cited: Astro, Richard Dictionary of Literary Biography, volume 9:
American Novelists, 1910-1915
Benson, Jackson J., "John Steinbeck: Novelist as a Scientist," in Novel: A Forum on Fiction. Spring, 1977, 228-264.
Richard H. Carcoft Brigham Young University. Gale Research Group. 1999, 278-294.
Steinbeck, John. The Grapes of Wrath New York, New York: Penguin Books U.S.A Inc. 1992.
Steinbeck, John. Of Mice and Men, New York, New York: Penguin Putnam Inc. 1993.
Stegner, Wallace, "The True Adventures of John Steinbeck, Writer" Contemporary Literary Criticism, volume 34. Ed. Sharon K. Hall. Detroit, MI: Gale Research Company, 1985. 405.
Thesing, William B. Dictionary of Literary Biography, volume 7: Twentieth-century American Dramatists, first series. A Bruccoli Clark Layman Book. Ed. John MacNicholas University of South Carolina, Gale Research. 1981. 271-276.
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