1). What sorts of life do men like George and Lennie lead? 2). Why is the dream such an attractive alternative? QUESTION 1; Part A: George and Lennie are migrant American labourers who travel from ranch to ranch looking for work and some money at the end of the month and after about two there sacked because “the boss” doesn’t want them anymore because they have done their bit. They have no use to “the boss” so he sends them on their way thus the name “migrant American labourers”.
The book was set in the 1930’s, in the era of the Great Depression when work was rare and workers would travel hundreds of miles to get to their next ranch where they would hope that they would be accepted there. Agriculture was in the worst state it had been in ages because of the great dust storms that were coming straight through the Mid- West, immortalised by the folk/blues singer, Woodie Guthrie. Jobs the workers are expected to do are grain collecting (which is driving the cultivator to dump a big pile of grain then the men are expected to put all the grain into bags).
Skinning (for assorted reasons, mostly for making covers for things). ‘Rassel’ grain bags (this is simply loading BIG grain bags onto a truck to be taken away, usually 1 grain bag takes at least two men to lift it but Lennie can lift one by himself). Drive cultivators (these are machines that collect the grain). Load bales (this is pretty much the same as ‘rasseling’ grain bags except with hay bales). All involve hard physical work labour with little reward at the end of it but one mans nightmare, is another mans goal.
The labourers are only paid $50 a month depending on how well they work through the month, the position they have at a certain ranch will be short term as before once the boss doesn’t need you anymore you will have to leave to find other work somewhere else. QUESTION 1; Part B: At the end of a hard day’s work, they have very little comfort to look forward to. The bunkhouses are long, rectangular buildings. Inside, the walls were whitewashed and the floor unpainted. In three walls there were small, square windows, and in the fourth a solid door with a small wooden handle.
Against the walls were eight bunks, five of them were made up with blankets and the others showing their ‘burlap ticking’. Over each bunk would be nailed an apple-box with the opening forward so that it made two shelves for the personal belongings of the occupant of the bunk and these shelves were loaded with little articles, soap and talcum-powder, razors and those Western magazines ranch men love to reads and scoff at and secretly believe. And there would be medicines on the shelves, and little vials, combs; and, from nails on the box sides, a few neckties.
Near one wall there was a black cast-iron stove, its stove pipe would go straight up through the roof. In the middle of the room would be a big square table and around it would be boxes for occupants to sit on. QUESTION 1; Part C: Also after work there would be very little for the workers to do, activities they could do would include playing cards at the table, reading Western magazines that ranch men love to read, a game called horse-shoes. This was a game where a metal pole was stuck in the ground, and horseshoes would be thrown at it. The object of the game was to wrap the horse-shoe round the pole from about 5 meters away.
Also if workers had a dispute on the ranch then it would be settled by a boxing match in the bunkhouse. A common way to ‘get away from it all’ was to drink (just like now), the workers would go into town on the Friday and drink till there hearts were content. QUESTION 1; Part D: It is a very unfriendly, lonely life. Slim a ‘what he says goes’ sort of character often talks about how everybody is afraid of each other, this is because it is a hard life and many workers do not have many possessions and if they do they are liable to have it stolen from them.
Even if it is a dream it is something more than other workers have and they will do anything to shatter that dream. For example Candy has a dog and to him this is a friend or a companion he shares things with the dog like he was a human, to the other workers this creates jealousy, so they decide to shoot the dog because it looks a bit old. Another good example of the way each worker treats another is when George and Lennie were first introduced to the boss.