Originally titled ‘something that happened’, Of mice and men was written in 1936 and published sometime later in 1937 Steinbeck himself was born in Salinas, California in 1902 and spent time as a ranch hand and working with migrant workers which gave him first hand accounts of what life was really like during the depression in America, this being around the time the book is set.
Steinbeck died aged 66 in 1968 having secured his place in the history books with his well known novels and having won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1962. I believe ‘Of mice and men’ is a compassionate story of the lives of the unskilled workers “ranch hands” in the case of the book during the great depression that affected the whole of America from the catastrophic wall street crash of 1929 the ripples of which shaped the 1930’s and the hardships felt throughout that period.
It also has the underlining message of hope and the ‘American dream’, Freedom and equality the book doesn’t follow these ideas specifically but is a story much the same as now most people could relate and identify with the age old themes of loneliness and friendship inequality the difference between right and wrong and balance with much of the book foreshadowing and coming full circle, this is displayed with much of the scenes opening and closing the same way.
From the very beginning it is clear the main focus is loneliness set in ‘Soledad’ (Spanish for loneliness) the story centres around an unlikely couple of ranch hands George and lennie, and its obvious from the first page they are a lonely pair having just fled an anywhere town called weed due to lennie’s mental handicap and the prejudice of what wasn’t understood at the time. The relationship between them is more parent-child than that of two friends and as such see’s them outcast from the everyday folk trying to make ends meet during this time.
Not that you could see it to look at them mind but they have a dream of having their own plot of land and being self sufficient best described by lennie’s immortal line ‘ “An’ live off the fatta the lan’ the American ideal. As simple as this idea is from an early stage in the book we begin to see the foreshadowing and it is quite apparent this pipe dream is one they will never achieve. Scene four is really where the loneliness comes into play and is where we have quite a long period of time with the four loneliest characters in the book.
I don’t this is a co-incidence I really feel Steinbeck put all his thoughts and energy into ensuring we can pick up on the lonely four in the fourth scene and in a perfect setting for them to really show there true albeit lonely colours. We learn that Crooks is no longer living his life as he reminisces about his childhood but now is reduced to merely existing in the shadows and away from everyone else within the main storyline he allows Lennie into his room somewhat begrudgingly but secretly you feel craves human contact and if it has to be in the form of a ‘dum-dum’ well it’ll do.