During this essay I will be writing about 1930’s America and the affects it had on the characters in John Steinbeck’s novella- ‘Of Mice and Men. ’ A main event that triggered the novella was the Great Depression which struck America at around this time, leaving behind social, cultural and historical events that affected everyone in completely different, yet similar ways. I will be basing most of my thoughts on this time around Part 4 of the novella, featuring different aspects of the topics: society, history and culture.
The novella features many issues of 1930’s America, including racism, sexism, ageism and a large lack of sentimentality. These are all displayed through the behaviours of the characters in the book in different ways. Also there is a main theme linking in with the Great Depression called the ‘American Dream’, which many people though that one day they would achieve despite the lack of money throughout America. Many of the characters have a very cynical outlook on this dream for example Crooks, the stable buck who suffers racism, featured very heavily in Part 4.
However the main characters George and Lennie believe that they can accomplish this dream if they stay together. In the bulk of the story we grasp a feel for humanity as despite the lack of money, and the fact that times are hard so many men would go solo and lose all trust in other men, we still see an air of friendship through the main characters George and Lennie. As well as being about the difficult times of America in the 30’s and how people coped, the story is also majorly about friendship, and how people are sociable animals, and need friendship and company to stay sane.
As we progress through the story we see how these friendships are torn apart as ranch life isn’t the life for friends, for example, a character Candy and his dog are split up through lack of sentimentality, Curley and his wife realise they don’t love each other and eventually George and Lennie realise that fate is forever going to be against them. A harsh nickname brought on by an accident concerning his job, Crooks also suffers racism: a large part of social hierarchy of that era.
Isolated from the group and used as a punching bag, so to speak, by the boss, the stable buck is introduced fully into part 4, and from there we really gauge how not only white people suffered in these times, but how on top of a lack of money, black people suffered more. All of the ranch hands would suffer in some way, but no way as serious and soul destroying as racism and lack of respect. We first see how this racism has a large impact on Crooks socially, and how he communicates with other people. He isn’t great at conversing with Lennie, as he probably doesn’t get much time to socialize, so sets off on the wrong foot.
With Lennie having the mental ability of a child, he doesn’t understand racism and the rules Crooks goes by and how they are different to the rules white people follow. Lennie steps into Crooks’ doorway searching for company as all of the other men apart from Candy have gone into town. ‘I seen your light,’ sets off the conversation, however Crooks isn’t as welcoming as Lennie was probably expecting him to be. Lennie’s persistence gains him entry only for him to be tormented about George never coming back; ‘suppose he never come back?
’ Of course Lennie doesn’t understand this so believes that George really isn’t going to come back and Crooks has something to do with George possibly being injured. Before this incident Lennie is tormented about his mental disability: ‘you nuts,’ he is told after he tells the stable buck about Candy ‘figurin’ about the rabbits’. As well as the way Lennie is treated, we have an insight into Crooks’ mannerisms by the state of his room in the barn. He owns a lot of small items, several pairs of shoes, a pair of rubber boots, a big alarm clock and a single barrelled shotgun.