Of Mice And Men Context Infographic
The Great Depression, The American Dream, and John Steinbeck
The Great Depression
The longest lasting economic downturn in the history of the Western Industrialized world lasted from 1929-1939. Elected president in 1928, Herbert Hoover, a popular hero of World War I, promised more prosperity and more help for big business. Hoover tried to remain true to his word even after the stock market crashed on Black Tuesday in October 1929. Before Black Tuesday, consumer spending dropped and unsold goods piled up, leading to slow production during the summer of 1929. The start of the Great Depression as an effect of the sudden devastating collapse of US stock market prices began on October 29, 1929, often referred to as as Black Tuesday. On Black Tuesday, 16 million shares (aggregation of buyers and sellers) were traded after another wave of panic swept Wall Street Stock prices kept rising and by fall, it reached levels “that could not be justified by anticipated future earnings”. Millions of shares ended up being worthless, and millions of investors were wiped out. The crash in the stock market led to a series of chain reactions.
There was a downturn in spending and investment which led to factories and other businesses to begin to slow production and construction which led to not as experienced people being fired from their jobs. Citizens who were lucky enough to keep their jobs experienced low wages and their “buying power” was decreased. Americans forced to buy on credit fell into debt. Personal income, tax revenue, profits, and prices dropped, while international trade plunged by more than 50%. Unemployment in the US rose up to 25% and in some countries, it rose as high as 33%. “The adherence to the gold standard, which joined countries around the world in a fixed currency exchange, helped spread the Depression from the US throughout the world especially Europe.” With the Great Depression threatening the US, many cities all around the world became impacted. Especially those dependent on heavy industry. Construction was halted in many countries. Farming communities and rural areas suffered greatly as crop prices fell by approximately 60%. With few alternate sources of jobs, areas dependent on primary industries such as mining and logging suffered the most. Between 1929 and 1932 the GDP (Gross Domestic Product) world wide fell an estimated 15%.
The American Dream
The American Dream is defined by the dictionary as “the ideal that every US citizen should have an equal opportunity to achieve success and prosperity through hard work, determination, and initiative”. Historian James Truslow Adams popularized the phrase "American Dream" in his 1931 book Epic of America. He wrote, “But there has been also the American dream, that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for every man, with opportunity for each according to his ability or achievement”. Some say that the American Dream has changed to become the pursuit of material prosperity, like bigger cars and fancier homes. Others say that the American Dream is beyond the reach of the poor, where someone might be working two jobs to just keep their family going and be unable to pursue opportunities due to being financially incapable. And yet others see a new American Dream with less focus on financial gain and more on living a simple, fulfilling life.
Surveys continue to show that many Americans still believe in many original aspects of the American dream. For example, majorities of Americans believe that hard work will lead to success. However, their belief in the American Dream is lessening. Around 50 percent of those polled by Pew Between 1986 and 2011 said they felt the American dream was “somewhat alive.” Over that same time period, the share who said it was “very alive” were cut nearly in half, and the share that felt it was “not really alive” more than doubled, and majorities of Americans think it will get worse in the future.
Many people have different views and opinions about the American Dream. But it seems that many of those who believe it is still very possible are those who have lower expectations for their dream. It has long been equated with moving up the class ladder and owning a home. But polling leading up to the 2012 election revealed that middle-class Americans expressed more concern about holding on to what they had than they were with getting more. Pew reported in 2015 that when asked if they would prefer financial security or moving up the income ladder, 92 percent selected security. Today, the desire to own a home or to move up economically is often replaced by a desire to be debt free and to have financial stability. For many more people, reaching the traditional American dream has become only that: a dream.
What is the American Dream to you?
John Steinbeck was an American novelist whose books often dealt with social and economic issues. He was born on February 27, 1902, in Salinas, California. Before he achieved success as a writer, he dropped out of college and worked as a manual laborer. He wanted to be a freelance writer, and eventually gained fame and won awards for some of his books. After serving as a war correspondent during World War II, he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1962. In New York City in 1968, he died as a result of being a smoker.
John Steinbeck wrote a total of twenty-seven books. This includes six non-fiction books, sixteen novels, and five short story collections. His most famous works include the comic novels Tortilla Flat (1935) and Cannery Row (1945), the multi-generation epic East of Eden (1952), and the novellas Of Mice and Men (1937) The Red Pony (1937), and The Grapes of Wrath (1939). The Grapes of Wrath, about the migration of a family from the Oklahoma Dust Bowl to California, brought to light the problems of migrant workers during the Great Depression. This book, considered Steinbeck's masterpiece, won a Pulitzer Prize and a National Book Award and is regarded by many as part of the American literary canon. Some of the themes in his books are poverty, relationships, hardship, redemption, and injustice.