A Comparison Of Migrant Workers In The Grapes Of Wrath And Of Mice And Men

2952 words - 12 pages

Migrant Workers in The Grapes of Wrath and Of Mice and Men

     John Steinbeck wrote about what surrounded him. At the time he was writing, the nineteen-thirties, a great depression was plaguing the United States. Many people were out of work. Many farmers were losing their farms and homes. An extreme drought had also wrecked the farms of the Midwest and made them into what is now referred to as the "dust bowl". It was a terrible time to be poor, and most were. People died of malnutrition every day. In California, where Steinbeck resided, migrant workers dominated the workforce. Thousands traveled from all around to pick fruit in the farms of the Salinas Valley for minuscule wages. Thousands more could not find suitable Many people theorize why the depression happened. Speculation in the stock market was one reason. The dust bowl also multiplied the depression's effects. The depression did happen to coincide with another event though. It happened soon after the last frontier vanished from the United States. There was no longer free land for the taking. The long held American dream was no longer simple and cheap to achieve. Many Americans simply wanted their own plot to take and set up their lives, but the depression made this an impossibility. Steinbeck wrote about this class of people.

Throughout his writing he uses many minor themes and biblical references to get his point across, but the ubiquitous theme is the story of the poor, depression era migrant worker simply trying to retain dignity, achieve the ever important American dream of owning their own plot of land, and end the depravity that is the life of a migrant worker. Characters in Steinbeck's writing always have dreams. Many of the characters in Of Mice and Men have dreams, though they may be quite diverse literally, they all want something to have. Lennie, for example, becomes fixated on the dream of having a farm with George. George tells him, "we're gonna get the jack together and we're gonna have a little house and a couple of acres an' a cow and some pigs and....a big vegetable patch and a rabbit hutch and chickens" (Steinbeck, Of Mice and Men 13,14). Lennie, because of his lower than normal mentality, takes George's story to be fact and just dreams of when it will happen. George's dream is essentially the same, but is based on if it will happen not when it will happen. George has to dream more realistically than Lennie. Lennie wants to "live off the fatta the lan'", but George has to determine whether they could survive or would starve. George, who looks after Lennie through the whole story, fulfills, at least in a way, Lennie's dream. At the end of the book, George describes the happy place he and Lennie will have. George seems to be describing their heaven. So, he sends Lennie to heaven -- with a gun shot to the back of the head -- to live off the fat of the land. George knows that shooting Lennie is the best thing he can do. ...

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