Of Mice And Men Themes

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“Of Mice and Men” by John Steinbeck takes place in California, during the Great Depression. Within this setting, key themes are introduced at the very beginning of the novella, namely the American Dream and status. These themes are introduced via symbolisms in the first two major locations, which are the Salinas Valley and the bunkhouse.

The theme of the American Dream is raised at the very start of the book, where the novella is introduced with the panning landscape of the Salinas Valley before closing in on George and Lennie. On one side of the Salinas River, there is “golden foothill slopes curving up to the strong and rocky Galiban Mountains”, where in contrast, the other side is covered in debris. The foothills are described as being
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The first is hinted at when the Salinas Valley is being illustrated, as it describes a path (representative of the American Dream) as being “beaten hard by boys coming down from the ranches to swim in the deep pool, and beaten hard by the tramps who come wearily down from the highway in the evening to jungle-up near water.” This shows that people with varying levels of status can still attempt to conquer the American Dream, even if they are not successful. This is shown later in the novel with Slim (reasonably high in the ranch hierarchy, as a natural leader) being willing to pool his life savings with George and Lennie (both reasonably lowly ranked) to pursue the American Dream. Status is also briefly shown in the animal kingdom, as rabbits represent the ranch workers, therefore dehumanising them. They are described as “coming out of the brush to sit on the sand in the evening”, which creates a link as to how the ranch workers are labouring during the day and relax in the evening, similar to the rabbits. The connection to rabbits makes the workers appear lower than humans, as they are compared to a hated pest. This is also relevant during the Great Depression, as due to the high levels of unemployment, ranch workers were abundant, like rabbits and of little value, like rabbits. They are in constant competition, but instead of competing for food (like rabbits) they are competing for jobs. This introduces the reader to the theme of status and causes them to expect poor treatment for the
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