Of Mice and Men Historical Context 📖

‘Of Mice and Men’ is one of the leading books that recapture the impact of the Great Depression on the lives of working-class Americans.

Of Mice and Men

John Steinbeck

Published during the 1930s, just in the thick of a historic economic collapse in the United States, Of Mice and Men documents the struggle for freedom and self-sustenance for the ordinary people in a dispensation that is largely dependent on the agricultural sector.

It’s Personal To John Steinbeck

Putting together a piece that is as deep and revealing as the book ‘Of Mice and Men’ goes beyond mere fictional creativity for Steinbeck. The author had some infusion of real-life, firsthand experience of these times in which he himself lived.

John Steinbeck was born during the times that the Great Depression began taking its toll on American society; it particularly had a more severe impact on the working class or the society’s most vulnerable.

The creation of peasant characters such as George and Lennie are in some way the author’s idea of reliving his tough experience during this time, seeing as he was among the migrant workers who searched for and did various kinds of odd jobs at farms around Central Valley, California, in a quest to get back on track economically.

The Great Depression and its Impact

From 1929 to 1940, the United States suffered what was known as the Great Depression, an event that saw its economy hit by an unprecedented decline caused by the collapse of the stock market.

The event led to millions losing their jobs and source of livelihood and caused ensuing mass migration from badly affected regions, such as Texas and Kansas, to mildly affected ones like California. These migrants, of which Steinbeck was part, traveled across the plains of different states in search of jobs that were very few, outnumbered, and unbelievably competitive.

The Dust Bowl of the 1930s

The historical dust storms which devastated the major parts of midwestern America also had a strong influence on Steinbeck’s ideas for the book ‘Of Mice and Men’.

While the Great Depression was more of a national catastrophe, the Dust Bowl was regional and specific to certain parts of America, which destroyed large acres of farmlands and caused other agricultural damages.

Steinbeck was unfortunate to be among the parts that were affected as the event drove victims away from their homes, completely devastated economically, psychologically, and otherwise.

The Search for The American Dream

The migrants who were chased away from their homes traveled far and wide and sought employment and livelihood in strangers’ lands. They didn’t get a welcoming reception from the indigenes, who saw them as a threat to their own territory.

But, despite the harsh circumstances surrounding their living, the migrants were determined to survive and reclaim the American Dream in a stranger’s land, not only for themselves but for the sake of their families who are dependent on them for survival.

Being part of the group in exile, Steinbeck, who stayed a while in the migrant camp, saw with his eyes the grueling conditions these migrants lived.


Is ‘Of Mice and Men’ a historical book?

John Steinbeck’s ‘Of Mice and Men’ is pinned against a historical background and the then state of affairs of the 1930s. However, Of Mice and Men’ is purely a made-up story but hinged on Steinbeck’s real-life experience, and what was obtained in a society of the Great Depression.

Does ‘Of Mice and Men‘ have a social call to action?

Of Mice and Men’ is largely based upon the struggles the ordinary Americans faced due to the hardship caused by the Great Depression, however, a big part of Steinbeck’s intention for the book was for the purpose of activization for the then suffering social class in the United States.

What literary genre is ‘Of Mice and Men‘ classified?

The book ‘Of Mice and Men‘ belongs to the literary genre of tragic fiction.

Victor Onuorah
About Victor Onuorah
Victor is as much a prolific writer as he is an avid reader. With a degree in Journalism, he goes around scouring literary storehouses and archives; picking up, dusting the dirt off, and leaving clean even the most crooked pieces of literature all with the skill of analysis.
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