Of Mice and Men: Background Info

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Background Info

Author Bio

Full Name: John Steinbeck

Date of Birth: 1902

Place of Birth: Salinas, California

Date of Death: 1968

Brief Life Story: John Steinbeck grew up in and around Salinas, California. Steinbeck's comfortable California upbringing instilled in him a love of nature and the land, but also of the diverse ethnic and socioeconomic groups featured throughout his fiction. He attended Stanford University, but never completed his degree. Instead he moved to New York in 1925 to become a freelance writer. He returned to California after that plan failed and earned his first real recognition for Tortilla Flat (1935), a collection of stories about peasant workers in Monterrey, California. He published many more novels throughout his lifetime and today is best known for the novella Of Mice and Men (1937) and the novel The Grapes of Wrath (1939). He won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1962 and died six years later.

Key Facts

Full Title: Of Mice and Men

Genre: Novella (short novel)

Setting: Salinas and Soledad, California during the Great Depression in the early 1930s

Climax: Lennie accidentally kills Curley's wife

Protagonist: Lennie Small and George Milton

Antagonists: Curley

Point of View: Third person omniscient

Historical and Literary Context

When Published: 1937

Literary Period: Modernist Novel

Related Literary Works: John Steinbeck and Woody Guthrie were perhaps the two most famous chroniclers of the Great Depression. Steinbeck's trilogy of novels portraying the struggle of migrant workers in California is the most enduring literary chronicle of the Great Depression: In Dubious Battle (1936), Of Mice and Men (1937), and The Grapes of Wrath (1940). Woody Guthrie (1912–1967), the leading American songwriter of the late 1930s and 1940s, released the Dust Bowl Ballads in 1940, an album of songs inspired by the drought-ravaged region of the American West that came to be known as the "Dust Bowl" in the early 1930s.

Related Historical Events: When the stock market crashed in 1929, an already awful situation for farmers and farm workers got considerably worse. Following World War I, crop prices plunged, forcing farmers to expand their farms and buy more equipment to make up for the shortfall. This situation was exacerbated when a severe drought crippled much of the American West. So when the market crashed, farmers could not pay back the debts they had built up in buying more land and equipment. As a result, many farmers and farm workers, migrated to California in hopes of finding enough work to live.