Otázka: John Steinbeck + The Mice and Men
John Ernst Steinbeck was an american author. He has been called “a giant of American letters”, and many of his works are considered classics of Western literature.
During his writing career, he authored 27 books, including 16 novels, six non-fiction books, and two collections of short stories. He is widely known for the novellas Of Mice and Men and The Grapes of Wrath.
Steinbeck was born in California on 1902. He was of German, English, and Irish descent. Steinbeck lived in a small rural town, no more than a frontier settlement, set in some of the world’s most fertile land. He spent his summers working on nearby ranches and later with migrant workers on Spreckels sugar beet farms. There he learned of the harsher aspects of the migrant life and the darker side of human nature, which supplied him with material expressed in such works as Of Mice and Men.
Steinbeck began to write a series of “California novels” and Dust Bowl fiction, set among common people during the Great Depression. These included In Dubious Battle, Of Mice and Men and The Grapes of Wrath.
In 1943, Steinbeck served as a World War II war correspondent for the New York Herald Tribune and worked with the Office of Strategic Services.
Steinbeck returned from the war with a number of wounds from shrapnel and some psychological trauma. He treated himself, as ever, by writing. He wrote Alfred Hitchcock’s movie, Lifeboat and the film, A Medal for Benny, with screenwriter Jack Wagner.
Steinbeck also made many trips to the Soviet Union. He visited Moscow, Kiev, Tbilisi, Batumi and Stalingrad. Based on the experience of this journey, he published the book „A Russin Journal“.
In May 1948, Steinbeck returned to California on an emergency trip to be with his friend Ed Ricketts, who had been seriously injured when a train struck his car. Ricketts died hours before Steinbeck arrived. He spent the year after Ricketts’ death in deep depression.
John Steinbeck died in New York City in 1968 at age 66 because of heart disease and congestive heart failure.
Novels can be seen as a reaction to the crisis. They don’t seek solutions, they are limited to the description of poverty. The heroes in his works are ordinary people, mostly farmers. The plot is set in a period of economic crisis. His works frequently explored the themes of fate and injustice, especially as applied to downtrodden or everyman protagonists.
- Tortilla Flat (1935)
- The Grapes of Wrath (1939)
- Cannery Row (1945)
- East of Eden (1952)
- Of Mice and Men (1937)
- The Red Peny (1949)
The Mice and Men
Of Mice and Men is a novella published in 1937. It tells the story of George Milton and Lennie Small, two displaced migrant ranch workers, who move from place to place in California in search of new job opportunities during the Great Depression in the United States.
Plot of The Mice and Men
The story brings us to the American South by the 1930s, near Soledad in the Salinas Valley of California. The main heroes are George Milton and Lennie Small. Lennie is a big, weak-minded thunderbolt, and he likes soft things, mainly animals, but he has tremendous strength, so he will usually crush the creatures. George and Lennie travel together and work on the ranks they encounter during the trip. They have the dream of making their own money with their own farm, where Lennie will take care of the rabbits.
At the ranch they are currently working on, they meet the cripple Candy, who wants to buy a ranch with them. Thanks to Candy’s finances, the dream of George and Lennie gets more realistic. Curley, who is the son of the ranch owner, provokes Lennie. In the duel that Curley provoked, Lennie breaks Curley’s arm. Lennie doesn’t want to hurt people or animals, but because of his mental disability he doesn’t realize his strength. Curley’s wife impresses Lennie with his animality. One day, she urges Lennie to caress her hair.
Lennie satisfies her without controlling his strength – it trails for tragedy. When a woman starts screaming, he wants to quench her, breaking her neck. He gets frightened, and he rants out of the ranch to the swamp. He meets George, who shoots him with a heavy heart to save him lynching.
Quotes from Of Mice and Men
“Maybe everybody in the whole damn world is scared of each other.”
“I got you to look after me, and you got me to look after you, and that’s why.”
“As happes sometimes, a moment settled and hovered and remained for much more than a moment. And sound stopped and movement stopped for much, much more than a moment.”
The Grapes of Wrath
Set during the Great Depression, the novel focuses on the Joads, a poor family of tenant farmers driven from their Oklahoma home by economic crisis. Due to their nearly hopeless situation they set out for California. Along with thousands of other families from Oklahoma, they seek jobs, land, dignity, and a future. The story shows injustice against oppressed citizens who are forced to fight for themselves and use violence to do so. At the end of the story there is spontaneous social sharing and mutual help leading to a new awareness of collective values.