The First Chapter of John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men
'Of Mice and men' was written by John Steinbeck, and was set during
the 1930's, in Salinas, California (The Golden State). Salinas is the
place where Steinbeck himself grew up, and he has focused the entire
novel on the landscape around Salinas.
In 1929, the Wall Street stock market crashed, and in 1932 it fell to
the lowest point in American history. This economic disaster, combined
with a severe drought in Middle America, and the commencement of World
War 2 precipitated the start of the Great Depression in America, which
lasted for over a decade, and affected everyone.
Steinbeck's choosing of the title 'Of Mice and Men' was derived from a
poem called 'To a Mouse' by the Scottish poet Robert Burns. Burn's
poem proposes that grief and pain, instead of elation, affect all
creatures in the natural world, not just humanity. At the core of the
poem is the notion that we are free to make our plans and lay our
schemes, but far less free or probable to accomplish them. This
concept is clearly illustrated through 'Of Mice and Men'; George and
Lennie's best-laid scheme for a little farm does go wrong, and leaves
misery and sorrow where there should have been happiness.
I also feel that Jean-Paul Sartre, a well known writer and philosopher
also may have inspired Steinbeck. Sartre's thoughts and ideas revolved
around the notion of humans having to accept responsibility for their
George and Lennie are examples of the 'itinerant' farm workers who
fuelled and made possible the intensive farming economy. These men
would trek huge distances, seeking work. They usually travelled alone,
and therefore became very lonely. Lennie and George are an exception
because of their unique relationship and closeness. Countless farm
workers would share George and Lennie's dream of a smallholding or a
small farm. This aspiration would keep them going through the times of
the Great Depression. Such dreams are one part of the much larger
phenomenon known as the American Dream. The American Dream was the
popular idea that America was a country that allowed men and women to
make a clean start, to achieve prosperity and security. The reality
did not always match the dream. The American dream lasted until the
late 1920's. By then there was no more frontier, no more virgin land
to be claimed and America had built its own aristocracy on the basis
of wealth and its own system of repression based on race.
In the first chapter, Steinbeck portrays many things to the reader, he
wants to give the reader an impression, and wants to prepare them for
the rest of the novel.
The novel is opened with a portrayal of the terrain around the Salinas
River, south of Soledad in California. Steinbeck mentions numerous
animals (dog, rabbit, raccoon, deer and...