Of Mice and Men is a novel written in 1937 by an author called John Steinbeck, a rising novelist after other successes as “Tortilla Flat” and “Dubious Battle”. The focus of these books as well as “Of Mice and Men” is of the migrant workers. “Of Mice and Men” is set during the height of the great depression where unemployment and widespread droughts had forced thousands of workers on to the road in search of work, moving from ranch to ranch harvesting the crops and moving on again. This is the exact situation that two of the novels main characters are in, Lennie and George.
Despite there being so many, the migrant workers share similar characteristics. As the name might suggest, migrant workers migrated around the country in search of work on ranches. When all of this work had been done and all of the crop planted and harvested, they would move on. Workers would get work by going into employment offices and getting a little slip. We know this when George said “They give us work cards”. Moving around a lot meant that the migrant workers could not hold down friendships. Leading them to become selfish and self-centered.
But George and Lennie’s situation is different. They have developed a strong relationship over time, with George being the brains and Lennie the braun, with them both looking out for each other. This is well displayed when Lennie said; “But not us! An’ why? Because I got you to look after me, and you got me to look after you”. Their friendship contrasts with the average migrant worker, as the boss of the Ranch suspects George is ‘using’ Lennie. “Say, what you sellin? ” Arguably the best example of a lack of friendship was when Candy said to George.
“A guy on a ranch don’t never listen nor don’t ast no questions”. Reflecting the isolated loneliness they all feel. With finding friends being such a hard task, it should come as no surprise that permanent women were a rarity. It was socially accepted that because migrant workers were constantly on the move and could not settle down, they would contact women via brothels or “cat houses” as they were more commonly known. The migrant workers can do what they want to and move on, without any responsibilities or ties.
They would prefer to have real girlfriends but they can’t as they are victims of their circumstances. The brothels to them were home substitutes where they could interact socially as you would in a house, sit, talk and generally relax. The migrant workers were so desperate for a home substitute because they are always constantly on the move. This meant that the migrant workers had no real sense of home or family and no contact with them. We know this when George says “Guys like use, that work on ranches are the loneliest guys in the world. They got no family. They got no place. “