John Steinbeck 1902-1968
“[The writer’s first duty was to] set down his time as nearly as he can understand it [and serve as] the watch-dog of society…to satirize its silliness, to attack its injustices, to stigmatize its faults.” Think about what this means. When I tell you, discuss with a partner. Be prepared to share with the class.
John Steinbeck • Born in 1902 in Salinas, California • Attended Stanford University 1919-1925, though he never graduated • Received a Pulitzer Prize for The Grapes of Wrath about a family of farmers who are trying to escape the Dust Bowl • Focused his writing on the lives of American migrant workers
Of Mice and Men • From a Robert Burns poem: The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men Gang aft a-gley, [often go awry] An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain, For promised joy.
Of Mice and Men • Originally titled “Something that Happened” • Set in the Salinas Valley • Follows two migrant workers, George and Lenny, as they spend 3 days working on a farm
Of Mice and Men • Written in play-novelette form • Easily adapted into a play • Most of events and motivations of characters are revealed through dialogue • Substantial vulgar language • Realistic • Empathy for characters
Of Mice and Men • Parts are written in lyrical style with naturalistic imagery that describes the beauty of the valley • Example: • “A few miles south of Soledad, the Salinas River drops in close to the hillside bank and runs deep and green. The water is warm, too…” (1)
Of Mice and Men • Transitions to naturalistic style focusing on dialogue Example: • “Lennie!” he said sharply. “Lennie, for God’s sakes, don’t drink so much.” Lennie continued to snort form the pool. The small man leaned over and shook him by the shoulder. “Lennie. You gonna be sick like you was last night.”
In your journals… • Given what you know about the Dust Bowl and Steinbeck’s tendency to write about migrant workers, why do you think he began each chapter with a lyrical description and then transitioned into a realistic description of farm life? Be prepared to discuss your answers.