John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men

Historical Context Explained

The Great Depression

Background Information

Prior to The Great Depression, a tragic event struck the United States in 1929. This event is commonly known as the U.S. stock market crash. The U.S. stock market crash is known as the greatest stock market crash in the history of the United States. This disastrous crash happened on Tuesday October 29, 1929 on the New York Stock Exchange. This dark day is known as Black Tuesday. In little time, this crash sparked The Great Depression.

Facts About The Great Depression

After the stock market crash, The Great Depression occurred. Wall Street went into a panic because millions of investors started to pull out of their investments in stock. Since investors buying stock helped people to make money, this event hurt the economy terribly.

People in The Great Depression

During The Great Depression, many people were unemployed. These unemployed adults, recognized that children were being hired. Over 2.25 million children, ages 10-18, were employed to work in factories, canneries, mines, and farms. Many children dropped out of school because their parents could not afford their children's education. At this time, everyone was doing anything they could to gain money.

The American Dream

What is the American Dream?
The American dream is a very opinionated concept. This concept is generally based on people's personal beliefs and views in life. The American dream suggests that anyone in the US can be successful and live a happy life by pursuing their dreams. Some view this dream as a set of ideals and a national ethos for our country. This would include people's rights and liberty. In the book The Epic of America, James Truslow Adams wrote that the American dream is "that 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".

Living the American Dream

Some American dreams are people's goals in life. However, everyone doesn't have the same American dream because every individual has different accomplishments that they would like to achieve in their lifetime. For example, someone who is training to be a nurse may want to live their American dream and eventually become a doctor. Other people may have the stereotypical American dream such as living in a huge mansion on the beach. Therefore, the American dream is based on an individual's personal take on their American dream.

Examples of American Dreams

John Steinbeck

An American Novelist

Early Life

John Steinbeck was born on February 27, 1902 in California. He was very bright, but had a shy personality. As a child, he found a great appreciation for land. Most importantly, California's Salinas Valley, which later impacted Steinbeck's life by introducing him the art of writing. At the age of 14, he decided that he wanted to become a writer.


Further along in his life, Steinbeck enrolled in college at Stanford University during the year 1919. However, college did not help him to pursue his dream of one day becoming a writer. In 1925, Steinbeck had finally dropped out of college with no degree to carry on with him for the rest of his life.

Becoming a Writer

After dropping out of college, Steinbeck decided to handle things on his own by becoming a freelance writer. As a freelance writer, he worked for short amounts of time as a writer, but only as a temporary position. He began to write short stories such as his very first story, Cup of Gold. After writing for many years, he wrote a collection of short stories that displayed a more serious mood. These stories would include: Dubious Battle, The Long Valley, and Of Mice and Men.

Accomplishments and Ending Career

Lastly, John Steinbeck was a very accomplished American novelist. Towards the end of his career, he wrote what is considered his finest novel, The Grapes of Wrath. At the time, this novel was a great success and there were 10,000 copies of The Grapes of Wrath sold each week. Steinbeck's hard work had finally repaid him in 1940 when he was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for The Grapes of Wrath. As he grew much older, Steinbeck still wrote novels, but also served as a war correspondent. During the year of 1962, he won the Nobel Peace Prize. However, John Steinbeck's life came to an end due to heart disease. Steinbeck was an accomplished novelist who changed American literature forever.

Biggest Literary Works

John Steinbeck has written nearly 30 novels during his career as a writer. However, there are three popular novels that truly demonstrate Steinbeck's best work.

John Steinbeck's Awarded Novels and Recognitions:


John Steinbeck's written works mostly display the theme of whether people should go alone in the world or be responsible for helping others who are less fortunate. The Grapes of Wrath would be the most obvious example of this theme because in the story, the world is developing into a more industrialized way of living. However, the majority of the society does not have interest in defending the people who this way of living displaces. This idea shows how some people need to reconsider their values or human relationships and helping others who are not as fortunate. Another theme that is related to John Steinbeck's work is the theme of how far people will go for eachother. In the novel, Of Mice and Men, George and Lennie's relationship show the infinite reaches one character would go for the other.