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Book covers are more than just protective bindings or a means to sell more copies of a book. Book covers can be used to portray events that happen in the book, events that have happened in the author’s life, events that have happened in the cover designer’s life, or events that are happening at the time of publication. For the sake of this essay, we will be looking at four book covers form John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men and how they relate to the context of the decade they were released in.
To begin our look into the past, we’re going to start with the first book cover that Of Mice and Men released with in 1937. The 1930’s were a busy year for Steinbeck. We see that the bottom of the cover says “a novel by John Steinbeck author of Tortilla Flat”.
Tortilla Flat released just two years prior to the publication of Of Mice and Men and Tortilla Flat was Steinbeck’s first breakout success as a writer, they included it in the cover for the new novella in an attempt to remind consumers how great his writing is.
Looking through a wider lens, the 1930’s was also when the United States was going through the Great Depression. A depression is “a broad economic collapse that produces high unemployment from which there is no easy and obvious escape”. The Great Depression caused the unemployment rate to plummet and banks were closing left and right. The average American had little to no money to spend on things that weren’t essential.
The Great Depression lasted almost the entirety of the 1930’s, but it didn’t stop there. Due to severe drought and erosion, the Dust Bowl occurred.
The Dust Bowl was a time from 1935 to 1938 where colossal sand storms, sometimes miles in length, wreaked havoc on farmers and their land in the Midwest. Because of this, hundreds of thousands of farmers and their families were displaced. Some were forced into homelessness while others were forced to abandon their farms and head west in search of work. Although Of Mice and Men doesn’t specifically mention the Dust Bowl, both George and Lennie are heading west to find work. The cover of the book portrays the two men as they head west. Continuing our look into the past, the next book cover we’re going to talk about its context and analyze is from a reprint of the book in 1993. During the 1990’s the United States had two Presidents, George H. W. Bush and William J. Clinton.
From 1989 – 1993, George H. W. Bush lead the country. During his presidency, the United States took part in the Gulf War. “When Saddam Hussein invaded his small, oil-rich neighbor in the summer of 1990, the Department faced its first full-scale post-Cold War international crisis. Bush’s foreign policy team forged an unprecedented international coalition consisting of the NATO allies and the Middle Eastern countries of Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Egypt to oppose Iraqi aggression” (The First Gulf War). The Gulf War lasted about a year and concluded when Iraq left Kuwait on Feb. 28th 1991. The 1990’s also saw the end of the Cold War, also in 1991. Another Major event in the 1990’s was Hurricane Andrew. Hurricane Andrew was a category 5 hurricane that struck Florida. According to the Medical Examiner Reports of Deaths Associated with Hurricane Andrew, there were 32 deaths that were directly associated with Hurricane Andrew.
The next section if the 90s occurred after Bill, William, Clinton won the 1993 election. In 1993 President Clinton signed ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ (DADT) into law. DADT was a law that prevented openly gay and openly bisexual couples from serving in the military. Another big thing that happened in the 90s was in 1995 when O. J. Simpson was acquitted of from the two first degree murder charges of his ex-wife Nicole Simpson and Ronald Goldman. The trial lasted about nine months and is know as one of the most publicized events in history. In 1996 President Clinton was reelected but didn’t stay in office for the full term. In 1998 Clinton became the 2nd president in history to be impeached due to him being accused of having sexual relations with Monica Lewinsky, a 22-year-old white house intern. Although he was impeached, he is later acquitted of the charges.
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