What did Steinbeck chose to write the book “ of mice and men “ during the Great Depression?
We can’t know for sure unless Steinbeck has stated somewhere his motivations but The Great Depression was a huge period of upheaval and Steinbeck, having worked on such ranches as George and Lennie, saw what it was doing to men - it made them angry and unsympathetic and most of all, lonely. He was interested in the human condition during this period; how it forced men from their families and the subsequent psychological effect on them; the lack of intimate relationships, both sexual and personal, and how this created an undercurrent of violence; the constant worry about finding work and the exploitation of the men by the employers on such ranches. The men are vulnerable and this is shown through the need to prove themselves (Curley), the absence of empathy (Carlson), the treatment of those who are emotionally vulnerable (Lennie and Candy) and those who are subject to racial abuse and in humane treatment (Crooks). A cross section of the men in society at the time is represented as well as the role of women (Curley’s wife); seen as ‘jail bait’ despite her own loneliness and the treatment she receives from Curley. There’s only one man content with himself and it is Slim - unafraid, unapologetic, kind and used to the ways of the men. He is seen as ‘godlike’ - admired and respected but with arrogance. He respects the men and listens to them - in a time when their voices were seldom heard. Steinbeck gives a voice to men at a time when they were being emasculated and exploited.
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