Of Mice and Men: Background

Brad Hegarty
Mind Map by Brad Hegarty, updated more than 1 year ago
Brad Hegarty
Created by Brad Hegarty almost 6 years ago
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A brief background to the John Steinbeck book, Of Mice and Men.

Resource summary

Of Mice and Men: Background
1 The Depression
1.1 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.
2 Migrant Farmers
2.1 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.
3 Ranch Hands
3.1 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. Think about how the men agree to hush-up the fight between Curley and Lennie and claim that Curley got his hand caught in a machine: they know that Lennie and George would be fired if the boss came to hear of it, and then Lennie and George could be left with nothing.
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