Great Depression In “Of Mice of Men” By John Steinbeck

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In the novella “Of Mice of Men” written by John Steinbeck is set in the mid 1930’s in the United States of America during the great depression. A time of hardship and sorrow for many. The novella is based around two average male itinerant workers who desire to fulfil the so called American dream. where life is portrayed as sweet and easy. Arguably the novellas protagonist George Milton is first portrayed as a harsh and stern man. We follow George through all the struggles that the time he lives in presents such as racism, sexism,loneliness and futility.

It is almost impossible to write about George without mentioning his best friend Lennie Small. He is the closest thing to family that George has. Steinbeck presents Lennie as a kind yet simplistic character. Steinbeck could be writing about his own understanding and past experience’s within which he wants to impress on the reader through the characters George and Lennie. At the beginning of the novella we see George presented as a harsh, impatient carer of Lennie this is proven by the way George speaks to Lennie ”With a impatient, sharp, aggressive tone”.

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This is shown through one of his first conversations with Lennie ” so you forgot that already” “ jesus christ ,your a crazy bastard” His blasphemy points out his frustration at Lennie’s simplicity. Steinbeck also shows us that George sometimes regrets his promise to look after Lennie and his intelligence let him perceive how life could have been alone. In his words to Lennie “ God your a lot of trouble” “ I could maybe have a girl”. So far George has been shown as a harsh and even cruel man to Lennie, George is shown as sharp and quick witted, he lectures Lennie over and over again about his child like attitude.

In contrast we go on to see how Steinbeck portrays Georges kindness and understanding of Lennie’s faults, “I’ve been mean ain’t I”, after One Georges many lectures to Lennie he admits that he cares for Lennie by saying “no look i was just fooling i want you to stay with me”. We do not yet know why George still puts up with Lennie but we know that he has grown fond of Lennie. Steinbeck also shows a parental role George plays to Lennie for example before they reach the ranch George immediately warns Lennie to keep his mouth shut during the interview with the boss, showing Georges nderstanding of how other people perceive Lennie. However during the interview Lennie forgets what George has told him and George stands up for Lennie and procures employment for him. By telling the boss “i ain’t saying he’s bright but he’s sure as hell a good worker”. even though George is mad with Lennie’s disobedience George still stick’s up for him by claiming Lennie is a part of his family “he’s my cousin”. On entering the bunkhouse Steinbeck once again points out Lennie’s adoration to George and how he looks to him for advice.

Lennie copies George in checking the bunks hygiene and questioning Candy. We are shown that George is defensive and protective for Lennie. For when he is talking to Lennie he finds the old swamper listening at the door “you was poking your big ears into our business”. Steinbeck constantly presents situations where George’s parental role to Lennie is tested. A good example of this is Curley’s instant dislike of Lennie, and George’s immediate perception that Curley’s character could cause trouble as he says ominously “well he better watch out for Lennie” the adverb ominously present foreshadowing.

Steinbeck presents a more honourable side to George through the character of Candy where they are discussing Curley and his “ glove fulla vaseline”. George merely dismisses the gossip and says “ thats a dirty thing to tell around”. We see Steinbeck develop Georges relationship with other characters apart from Lennie. As he meets the character Slim we see Georges intelligence shown again when he instantly recognises a friend in Slim. Another character that presents problems for George is Curley’s wife. His intelligence recognises the danger she presents to both him and Lennie.

He warns Lennie “listen to me you crazy bastard don’t even take a look at that bitch” his fierce reproach emphasis his recognition of the danger and how he finds this easy to act on yet Lennie struggles. Later George is talking to Slim about past experiences and Lennie. When they are talking Georges pride in Lennie is brought out as Slim complements Lennie’s good work as George spoke proudly “he cant do nothing himself but he sure can take orders” George is talking as though a parent to Lennie and what he has accomplished. Steinbeck has used Slim as a character o listen to George to open up to so that the reader be told about past experiences. Steinbeck shows Georges ability to change as he talks to Slim about how he took advantage of Lennie and his simplicity in the past, he uses the conversation’s between Slim and George to show how George has grown and how he has changed to have a greater understanding of Lennie, now he no longer does this. Steinbeck presents the reader with Georges Quick wittedness and ability to understand other mens feelings and reaction’s this could be attributed with his long time spent looking after Lennie.

Georges intelligence helps him to avoid hurting anyone as most men gang up on Candy and decide to shoot his dog George shuffled his cards loudly and stayed out of conversation to stay neutral unlike the character of Carlson. When Steinbeck was writing this novella he was living through the great depression at this time many people wanted to escape the poverty and futility of their live and so the American dream was born giving people hope for a better life. This is presented through George and Lennie’s dream of owning there own farm.

This is very much Georges dream as Lennie does not have the capacity to think of this. Although George understands this is a unrealistic aspiration he keeps it alive through Lennie and gives them both something to look to. He gives Lennie a role in his dream the easy part of tending the rabbits. George always perceived the dream with him and Lennie however when Candy here’s about this and offers money they begin to believe that this dream could come true, George says reverently “I bet we could swing her” the adverb reverently shows a hopeful tone.

Steinbeck shows another example of how George has grown morally through the conversation about going into town between the other men George is seen to avoid committing himself to this “I might go but i ain’t putting out no two and a half”. But when they do eventually go to town George come’s back early suggesting he didn’t take part in all the activities. But Steinbeck is showing a part of George that wishes a reprieve of Lennie and that he can go on without Lennie.

Steinbeck tests Georges strength of character for a final as he out that Lennie has killed Curley’s wife he says “oh Jesus christ… his eyes were hard and tight as wood” Steinbeck shows through this reaction that George always knew that was Lennie was a danger but when it happens he partially blames himself he realises that his dream is over and all emotion leaves him. “i should have known this could happen “. When the other men find the body of Curley’s wife George beg’s them not to kill Lennie showing he still loves even through what he has done.

When George finds Lennie hiding in the brush he tells Lennie to look away and as the last thing he does, he talks about their dream farm and compassionately kills Lennie to save him from a terrible death. George has changed in many ways since he started in the novella. From being a man who took advantage of the simplemindedness of his friend Lennie to caring for him his whole and eventually taking his life in a final act of kindness. We have seen Georges character change from a cocky and stern man to being a person of higher morale standards and a caring individual.

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Great Depression In “Of Mice of Men” By John Steinbeck. (2017, Jan 07). Retrieved from

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