Social Criticism Of John Steinbeck's Of Mice And Men

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Of Mice and Men is John Steinbeck’s most successful early novel containing elements of social criticism shaped by this real life experience. Steinbeck drew his inspiration for the work from his experience living and working as a “bindlestiff” during the 1920’s. Instead of graduating from Stanford University, Steinbeck chose to support himself through manual labour whilst writing. His experience amongst the working classes in California lent authenticity to his depiction of the lives of the workers - who are the central characters of this novel; and the social issues that ensue. To further emphasize the loneliness of the itinerant worker Steinbeck then decides to set the novel near Soledad, California, a town name that means “Solitude” in Spanish.…show more content…
This poem features a couplet that has become widely known and quoted: “The best laid schemes of mice and men / Gang oft aglay”. That last phrase, written in Scottish dialect translates as “often go wrong”. The quotation clearly relates directly to George Milton and Lennie Small, two migrant workers who do indeed have a “scheme” to get out of the cycle of poverty and alienation that is the migrant worker’s life: they plan to purchase a farm of their own and work on it themselves. A dream largely motivated by a desire to achieve the independence of this farm life, the American Dream.

The novel contains different themes which help to present Steinbeck’s view of social issues during the Great Depression. From idealism to reality, alienation and loneliness, prejudice and discrimination, “meanness” and class conflict, race and racism, “handiness” in violence and sex, women and sexism. However, the American Dream and loneliness are without doubt the main themes in Of Mice and Men, in parallel with social fitness. How can ageing, weak or physically & mentally disabled humans and animals fit into
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His characters can be described as fit or unfit for their social roles on the basis of their physical and intellectual abilities. Candy, for instance, is an aged man with a missing hand, who is thus relegated to a low place in the social hierarchy - he is a “swamper”. Whereas Slim, the most respected and impressive worker on the ranch, is described as "ageless." Similarly to Candy, Crooks - named for his crooked back - works menial tasks. Steinbeck suggests that both characters are cruelly relegated to unrewarding jobs in order to keep them isolated, thus implying that they are unjustifiably treated as "sub-par" people and being treated disrespectfully. The same rule applies just as mercilessly to other characters in the novel, animal and human alike. Candy's old dog, for instance, is judged offensive by the more fit members of the bunk house society - Slim and Carlson - and so the dog is killed. Candy can do nothing to stop this; he is weak, and in this world “the strong” survive. The dog himself is a symbol of the cruel fate that awaits the feeble and is used to foreshadow forthcoming events in the book. His crime is smelling bad, and though there are other solutions to this problem - a bath, a new place to sleep - Carlson insists upon killing him. Lennie, clearly, is not fit to live in society as it exists in Of Mice and Men. His intellectual weakness parallels Candy's physical weakness. When, in the end, he is
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