The novel ‘of mice and men’ was written about 1937 during the great depression this was when America was crippled by the wall street crash which lost them millions of dollars. People lost their life savings when firms and banks went bust and 12-15 million men and women- one third of America’s population were unemployed. In addition there was no dole to fall back on, food was short and people in cities could not pay their rent. This lead to some people packing their bags and leaving the cities to where ranches were and where they could earn money, have shelter and food. But not all of them were lucky enough to get a job so life was hard.
The work that men mainly did was to grain barley and then to sell them so they would get money from the profits although the pay would be very low. The settings in this novel are places Steinbeck knew and grew up so he knew what life was like therefore he could reflect it in his stories in addition he was a itinerant farmer himself for a period of time so this gave him accurate knowledge to portray in his novel. Men workers, how they moved around and their possessions Many men like George Milton and Lennie Small moved around the country looking for jobs in ranches even though the pay was small it was sufficient to keep them alive.
They moved around because they had no real home or family and mainly looking for jobs and money but in George and Lennie’s case it was because Lennie had a mental problem and he acts like a small child, he does things that get them both into trouble such as when he tries to stroke a woman’s dress for the reason that he likes soft items of clothing and so the woman gets confused and screams this scares Lennie and he grabs the dress and wont let go and this lead him to being accused of raping her so they had to run away.
As George states ‘I could get along so easy if I didn’t have you on my tail’ this suggests that George is tired of being ‘pushed around the country’ by Lennie. The possessions that workingmen carried around with them were only basic needs like; ‘Blanket rolls, food like tin cans and some money’. They only carried a small amount of possessions because it would be pointless to carry a lot of things around if you know you are not going to stay were you are for a long time or even permanently, these are called bindles and are quite small for easy carrying.
The way the working men talk is hardly formal and mostly informal with a lot of swearing like ‘bastard’ this is sometimes how George talked to Lennie when he was angry. Simple words such as yes would be pronounced as ‘yeah’ and just as ‘jus’, a reason they use these kind of words is because working men did not have a real education so their range for vocabulary is very low. The lifestyle was very simple for the working men, they would do a week of out in the field and then in the weekends they would spend the night out in the town drinking, gambling and in ‘cat houses’.
The ranch The ranch would consist of bunkhouses for the workers, in the bunkhouses there would be a bunk bed a small box next to each bed were they can keep personal belongings like ‘letters’ and ‘magazines’. The boss would have a separate house for him and his family including all the amenities like an inside toilet, the boss would also have his own office in the house or close to it. In the novel the character Crooks has to live on his own elsewhere because of his skin colour therefore he gets treated differently and unfairly compared to all the other workers.
The ranch would be quite large because of the barley fields taking up most of the space. This photo shows what a ranch looks like. The jobs the men do In the ranch men are ranked accordingly to who they are and what they do for example in the novel Slim is a leader of a team and is highly respected, his first appearance in the novel is described as a ‘tall’ man and his entrance is said to be only achieved by ‘royalty’ and ‘master craftsmen’.
Slim is also described as the ‘prince of the ranch’ giving him a high ‘authority’ in the ranch. He is described to be an expert in his work and knows what he is doing however on the other hand the stable buck Crooks does not get any respect from anyone and his is work is not professionally done like Slims because he has a injured back and his colour adds to this as well as they consider him to be an outcast.
In the ranch your status is how hard you work and how good you get to know with the other workers so if you work hard then your status will rise but if you do not work hard then you will be ‘canned’ this is the term used for when you get sacked this links to my second paragraph when I talk about how the men use language in slang. The men used to work with their hands because they did not have any machinery back then or because it was too expensive to buy, and because men are a lot stronger than women they would use their hands to pick up heavy sacks of barley consequently men dominated.