Of Mice and Men

Background Information

The Great Depression

The Great Depression started in 1929 with the Stock Market Crash on October 29th, known as “Black Tuesday”. 16 million shares were traded that day, but many ended up being completely worthless, and those who had bought stocks on borrowed money were wiped out. It was the most devastating stock market crash in the history of the US. Although the crash lasted only a few days, the Great Depression didn’t completely end until World War II in 1939, spanning over 10 years.

During the crash, factories and businesses slowed in production and construction and started firing many of their workers. 13 to 15 million people were unemployed, and those lucky enough to stay in a job had very low wages. This was due to the loss of spending and investment in companies. The crash affected the world economy as well. The falls in share prices were almost instantaneous in all markets around the globe, except in Japan. Since the crash, stock markets in many countries have improved by instituted measures to stop trading in the event of rapid declines.



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The American Dream

The American Dream was the hope that there would be a land of opportunity and prosperity to all. It incorporated American ideals as well, including democracy, rights, liberty, opportunity, and equality. The American Dream was influenced by the Declaration of Independence, in which it states that “all men are created equal” and have the right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”. In society now, we can easily see that the American Dream was not fulfilled as the American wealth structure still contains racial and class inequalities.

Many writers often incorporated the American Dream and its ideals into their works. Writers such as Hunter S. Thompson, Edward Albee, John Steinbeck, Langston Hughes, and Giannina Braschi were known to use the American Dream in their works of American literature. In F. Scott Fitzgerald’s 1925 classic, The Great Gatsby, the death of Jay Gatsby is said to reflect the pessimistic views of today’s Americans and the demise of the American Dream.



John Steinbeck

John Ernst Steinbeck, Jr.was born on February 27th, 1902 in Salinas, California. His mother was Olive Hamilton, a former school teacher who shared his passion for reading and writing. His father was John Ernst Steinbeck, Sr., who served as Monterey County treasurer. He and his family lived in a small rural town and spent his summers working on nearby ranches. He graduated from Salinas High School in 1919 and studied English Literature at Stanford University but left without a degree in 1925. In January 1930, he married his first wife, Carol Henning, in Los Angeles. While still married to Carol, he met Gwyndolyn Conger, who became his second wife in 1943, a year after he was divorced from Carol. In May 1948, Steinbeck took an emergency trip to see his friend Ed Ricketts, who was seriously injured from a train hitting his car. Ricketts died hours before he arrived and, upon returning home, Gwyn asked for a divorce that was final in August. In December 1950, he married his third and last wife, Elaine Scott. Steinbeck died of heart disease and congestive heart failure December 20th, 1968, living to be 66, and was cremated and interred in the Hamilton family grave on March 4th, 1969.

John Steinbeck’s first novel was Cup of Gold, which was published in 1929. He’s written 15 other novels, 6 nonfiction books, and 5 collections of short stories, totaling to 27 books. He is most known for Tortilla Flat, Cannery Row, East of Eden, Of Mice and Men, and The Red Pony. His greatest work is The Grapes of Wrath, which won the Pulitzer Prize. Steinbeck also won the 1962 Nobel Prize in Literature and is referred to as “a giant of American letters”.



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