This is an essay talking about the question "What do you learn about Californian ranch life in the 1930’s from the reading of “Of Mice and Men”?". It included a wide variety of points as well as featuring quotes from the book.
Cover of Of Mice and Men
From the book “Of Mice and Men” you can learn a lot about the Californian range life of the 1930’s. This is learnt from the book written by John Steinbeck who was an American writer, well known for his award winning novel “The grapes of Wrath” as well as “Of Mice and Men”, which was written in 1937. The book “Of Mice and Men” talks about migrant workers, who travelled around the country, looking for work. This was due to the unstable economy and the lack of a stable job. The economy was unstable and in ruins after the recent Wall Street Crash which lead to “The Great Depression”. This was where jobs were scares, pay was low and it was hard to find a job that would last. The Wall Street Crash was due to the American stock market crashing and sending the worlds economy’s and stock into chaos. The Wall Street Crash affected everybody from rich to poor, and was devastating for people because it meant that people lost their jobs as well as money losing its value. The main crash started about 1929, and ended in the late 1930’s and early 1940’s in some countries.
In the time of the great depression people became very lonely and without friends. This was because people were worried about themselves and were only worried about surviving. People were also lonely because of the traveling they did looking around for jobs as there was not much work going. This meant people were always leaving people they knew and travelled to a new place.
In the book “Of Mice and Men” a character called slim, who works on the ranch harvesting barley, points out to George that him travelling with Lennie is strange. He tells him “’I hardly never seen two guys travel together…Never seem to give a damn about nobody.’” From this the reader can clearly tell what Slim is thinking about George and Lennie travelling together. To him it is very strange that two people would travel together as friends because of the hard time. This is because everyone in the hard times was trying to find work for themselves. First this shows Slims attitude and beliefs of people and he assumes that everyone would be selfish in these hard times. Also this shows how kind and caring George is towards Lennie, for the reason that he feels sorry for him and wants to try to look after him and protect him. This shows what Californian ranch life was like in the 1930’s and how most people would travel on their own except for George who decided to travel with Lennie and help and look after him.
In the 1930’s racism was still around and people were still being discriminated. In the period people were racist because of the loss of jobs they would be targeted. In the novel many characters are racist including the boss of the ranch, slims father. It was normal for people back in those days to be racist towards people because he is singled out and somewhat blamed for the depression.
Racism and loneliness is seen in the book when Crook’s, the black stable hand says to George, “A guy needs somebody to be near him!… A guy goes nuts if he aint got nobody” Crook’s says this to George because being the only black ranch worker h is singled out from the other workers and is not allowed to sleep in the same room as all the other men. Instead, Crook’s has to sleep in the stable with the horses in a room all to himself. On top of this, Crook’s says how he would like “A guy goes nuts if he aint got nobody” This implies that he would like someone to talk to, or to share a room with as he is lonely all on his own and would just like someone to be around, otherwise with only himself to talk to, he feels he would start to go crazy because he feels detached from the rest of the world and everybody else. Therefore this tells the reader what ranch life in the 1930’s was like with racism and loneliness.
Another way racism is show is from Curly’s wife when she says to Crook’s “Listen Nigger.’ She said, ‘You know what I can do if you open your trap?” from the way she says this to him by telling him to “Listen Nigger” the reader can clearly tell that because she is white and he is black she is demanding authority. On top of this by telling him “You know what I can do if you open your trap?” the reader can clearly tell that she is threatening him with her authority as Curly’s wife. It also leads the reader to believe that she has already done whatever she is threatening to do before. This clearly shows that even in 1930 when men had more authority over women, on ranch life due to racism Curly’s wife had authority over Crook’s and is able to control him.
The American dream was a goal that many Americans where trying to accomplish in the 1930’s. The idea of it was that a person would save up enough money and with it, buy a house with some land and tend to the land and animals and live off the ‘Fatta the land!’ The American dream was important to people back then as in the hard times people needed a dream or a goal to try and archive; otherwise they would soon get dragged down in the great depression. Other American dreams would have been to earn enough money to settle down, be able to support a family, or to become famous and rich as money was extremely important in the 1930’s.
The American dream is first told by Curly’s wife when she says “I tell ya I could of went with shows. Not just one, neither. An’ a guy tol’ me he could put me in pitchers’”. This is one version of the American to become famous and rich with enough money to live and do whatever she wanted. This shows the naivety of Curly’s wife as she believes what a guy told her in these desperate times. As well as this, it is clear to the reader that her dream is just an American dream because she says she “could of went with shows”. This show it is a dream as if offered she would not of passed up the offer. Clearly the American dream in Curly’s wife’s case would be something she strongly would like and would be latching onto, dreaming for it to come true. This clearly shows the desperation and ambition of people with their own American dream in Californian ranch life in the 1930’s.
Another strong example of the American dream is between George and Lennie. This is when George tells him that “Some day- we’re gonna get the jack together and we’re gonna have a little house and a couple of acres an’ a cow and some pigs and…” This clearly demonstrates the American dream between the two of them and what they plan to do. The dream shows the determination George and Lennie have as George says it without hesitation or any pauses, this shows how well thought out the plan is and how determined he must be to make his dream a reality. Also, George is very strong willed and determined, and this is shown when he says “…we’re gonna get the jack together…” This is shown when George uses slang to say that ‘we will get the money together’. This is a very positive attitude in a hard time like this and shows how strong willed they are to gain this American dream. As well as this, the way George talks about having cows and pigs on the farm they are going to buy, relates back to his caring attitude he has for Lennie. This is because he is portrayed as tough men who is still able to look after Lennie and proves this with him want for animals and his patients with Lennie. To add to this, as George talks about his American dream he shares with Lennie he finished on an ‘and…’ this lets the reader know that he after he has said it he has paused and is now thinking about it again himself, showing his optimism in these harsh times. From this we get a clear understanding of the ranch life in the 1930’s with the American dreams people believe in.
In conclusion, the novel “Of Mice and Men” is about the ranch life of California in the 1930’s. It includes the loneliness faces by characters, racism that some face and the American dream that everyone is striving to archive. From the book I can clealy see how loneliness affects people, wandering the country as migrant workers, always switching jobs, and never having a safe structured lifestyle or friends to share it with. I have also learnt about the problems faces by people who were being discriminated such as black people, who were lonely, but on top of that, singled out because of skin colour, treated differently, and avoided. This left then alone and upset. As well as this, I have learnt about the American dream and all the hopes and ambitions people dealt with and try to gain in the hard time of the great depression. Overall I feel the novel is a very powerful and moving account of the life of no ordinary migrant working pair who, like most, found it hard to gain long term work, and secure a future for themselves and ultimately follow their American dream.