Of Mice and Men Context

Olivia Pena

The Great Depression

The Great Depression was the most severe economic downturn in the history of the modern industrial world. It was initiated by the stock market crash of 1929. The crash led to decreased consumer spending and investments. These factors forced businesses to lay of many workers, causing unemployment rates to skyrocket. Profits, prices, personal income, and tax revenue also dropped dramatically.


The effects of the Great Depression were numerous. Rates of crime, suicide, malnutrition, prostitution and alcoholism were on a rapid rise. Mass migrations swept across America as people tried to escape poverty. President Franklin D. Roosevelt worked hard to create job opportunities and repair the financial system. He had a great impact in lessening the suffering of American citizens. Eventually, in the late 1930's America was on the road to recovery just as World War II began.

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This graph shows the increase in unemployment rates during the Great Depression.

Video on the Great Depression

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The American Dream

The American Dream is essentially the ethical appeal of America. Values such as freedom, democracy, liberty, and equality all embody the American Dream. These values draw people to the United States in hopes of a better life for themselves and their families. The American Dream promises achievement and prosperity for citizens. It promises that children can grow up with education without restrictions. Importantly, the American Dream assures a life free of judgement or punishment according to race, religion, ethnicity, or class.


James Truslow Adams popularly defined the American Dream in 1931 by saying "life should be better richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement." The American Dream also finds its roots in the Declaration of Independence. The statements that "all men are created equal" with a right to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" are commonly used to reference the American Dream. These words were what brought many immigrants to America in its early days.

These pictures are all symbols of the American Dream.

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John Steinbeck

John Steinbeck was an American novelist who lived from 1902-1968. Some of his most notable literary works include Of Mice and Men, Grapes of Wrath, and East of Eden. His novel Grapes of Wrath even won him a Pulitzer Prize. He wrote twenty-seven books total, many of which are known to be Western classics. Towards the end of his life, Steinbeck received the Nobel Prize for Literature.


Many of Steinbeck's works have common themes. Some of his most famous pieces, like Of Mice and Men and Grapes of Wrath, are set during the Great Depression. The characters in his books are often struggling against social and economic issues. The works capture the atmosphere of what it was like living during the Depression. Steinbeck's books frequently take place in southern and central California, where he grew up.

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This picture shows the cover art for some of Steinbeck's classic works.

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