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"Of Mice and Men" – Historical Background (Steinbeck) 04:57 min

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Transkript "Of Mice and Men" – Historical Background (Steinbeck)

“Of Mice and Men" - Historical Background and Public Perception In 1937, the novel “Of Mice and Men” was published. It was written by the American author John Steinbeck... … in a time, when many people, known as migrant workers, were wandering around the country and dreaming of owning a farm and living on it. This video deals with the life of the author John Steinbeck and his works, particularly with “Of Mice and Men”. Moreover, it looks at the socio-historical background of the novel. Steinbeck was born in 1902 in Salinas, California. The region acts as the setting for much of his fiction, including “Of Mice and Men”. In his teenage and student years, Steinbeck worked as a farm hand on nearby ranches. There he came into contact with rural California and its people. His experiences made him aware of the harsh conditions migrant workers had to live and work in. After High School, he went to Stanford University where he stayed for six years until he finally left without having earned a degree. Following this, he took simple jobs, for example as a caretaker in an estate. In his sparetime he tried to write fiction there. In 1929, Steinbeck’s first novel, the adventure story “Cup of Gold”, was published. However, he had no success for another six years. But when “Tortilla Flat” was released in 1935 Steinbeck was able to live from his writing. Other important works of his are “The Grapes of Wrath” and “East of Eden”. In 1962, he received the Nobel Prize for Literature "for his realistic and imaginative writings, combining as they do sympathetic humour and keen social perception". He died in 1968, aged 66. Many of Steinbeck’s early works center closely around the misery of desperately poor Californian migrant workers, as in “Of Mice and Men”. The novel is part of a trilogy of “California novels”, which also include ”In Dubious Battle” and “The Grapes of Wrath”. At the time the trilogy was written the economic conditions were very bad. This time was referred to as the Great Depression. Workers suffered from the impact of forces such as capitalism and, what is more, natural disasters.
Especially the massive migration of farmers from the Great Plains to California in the 1930s is often viewed in connection with the novel. Farmers migrated because of a recession in the beginning of the 1920s that let the market price of crop farms drop.

To keep their living standard, farmers had to produce more than before. They had to borrow credit to buy more land and machines. With the stock market crash of 1929 and the following Great Depression they couldn’t pay their depts anymore. Many farmers lost their properties and were forced to find other work. Also, the extensive farming activity harmed the soil. To top it all, a seven-year drought began in 1931 and turned the once fertile grasslands into a desertlike region. This region was called the Dust Bowl. All in all, “Of Mice and Men” is set in the time in which it was written, that is to say during the Great Depression. It focuses its impact on people’s lives and their psychological condition. Moreover, the novel deals with the loneliness and friendship of two migrant farm workers and the failure of their dream.