Of Mice and Men Historical Context

Ivy D'Agostino

The American Dream

The American Dream seems very far away for many people. Some people spend all of their lives trying to attain this goal that isn't even definable. The American Dream could simply mean living in America, earning a living, and being free. It could also mean earning money, earning money, and earning money. This dream is very specific to each and every person that lives here. James Truslow Adams, a writer and historian, defines the American Dream as the “dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement.” He also defined it as a dream in which every man and woman could attain the absolute best they can, rather than being judged based on status.

This dream is dreamt by many people in a poor state of wealth. They envision America as a place where they can be free to earn a living for their family. Some immigrants come to America and are so overcome with joy that they don't mind having low paying jobs, such as gas station workers or cashiers. They are so happy to be able to "live the American Dream". We Americans should be proud and thankful that we, too, get to live the American Dream, whatever that means to us.

The Great Depression

The Great Depression was a terrible time to be alive. Lasting from 1929 to 1939, it made America less of a place to have the American Dream. There were very little job opportunities, as the stock market crash of 1929 lost a lot of American money. The unemployment rate soared as the stock market plummeted. There were so few jobs that poverty began to sweep across the land. President Hoover struggled to fix the huge problem that the stock market crash caused, but wasn't successful. He seemed to worsen the Depression, if that was possible, by making the wrong moves in this elaborate game of poverty chess.

The job of being a farmer was even unattainable in the Great Plains region because of the horrible Dust Bowl that was created. The settlers that migrated into that area worked on the land so often and so roughly, that the soil lacked the strong root system of grass. This posed as a problem because of the high winds in the area that picked up the topsoil and swirled it into thick clouds. Both animals and people were affected by this. Cattle and other animals choked to death on the dust and soil clouds. 60% of the population even fled the region to avoid the clouds of death. The Great Depression explains itself very well in its own title.

John Steinbeck's Literary Work

John Steinbeck, the author of Of Mice and Men, produced over forty books in his entire lifetime. His biggest hits, however, were those written in the mid 1930's to early 1950's. His first big hit was Tortilla Flat in 1935, though he wrote three novels and two short story collection books before that. He then went on to write great novels such as The Grapes of Wrath, Cannery Row, East of Eden, and many others. Steinbeck also went on to earn a Nobel Prize.

A common theme in Steinbeck's work is the dreams and aspirations of humans. This theme is especially present in Of Mice and Men. Characters in the novel strive to accomplish these goals, different to each man. The dream may be the American Dream, it may not be, but whatever the dream is, Steinbeck states that without dreams and goals, life is useless.