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Of Mice and Men and Great Expectations, have many similarities. They both show the way certain characters are treated by society. These similarities may be strong but there are natural differences that come from the different times and places the stories are set in.-as well as the way the authors approach the topic. Steinbeck begins Of Mice and Men by creating a tranquil scene where everything is seemingly at peace.
Steinbeck creates with words images of paradise such as when he writes: “A few miles south of Soledad, the Salinas River drops in close to the hill-side bank and runs deep and green. The water is warm too, for it has slipped twinkling over the yellow sands in the sunlight before reaching the narrow pool.” A river, which is said to “run deep”, is calm and slow moving. Its water is clear too, “twinkling over yellow sands,” it has warm water too and seems perfect-almost too good to be true. Inevitably it is.
Of Mice and men is set in the 1930s during America’s great depression. After the stock exchange crashed in New York, money and jobs became hard to find. There was poverty all over America and California, which affected everything. Like the American dream, paradise can only exist with money. Therefore only the wealthy can enjoy this and even then it is spoilt by the poverty surrounding it. The American Dream is a paradox, just like the paradise of Salinas River. They cannot exist because they contradict themselves. Paradise is bliss but how can this exist with so much poverty and suffering in the world?
The Salinas River seems briefly to have escaped the paradox. There is no sign of poverty, just peace and tranquillity. Then human life enters the scene. Human life is introduced when a path is described; “There is a path through the willows and among the sycamores, a path beaten hard by boys coming down from the highway.” It’s the point that the track has been “beaten hard” that really emphasises what effect humans have had on the river. Other animals leave tracks that are temporary and blend into the scene. Humans have left their path permanently, like a scar it proves that not even the Salinas River can reach paradise. But it is not the only scar, “In front of the low horizontal limb of a giant sycamore there is an ash pile made by many fires; the limb is worn smooth by men who have sat on it.” Two more scars.
The introduction of humans into the scene sees the end of the animal life in the scene. As the humans approach all the wildlife is scared of and the area is completely deserted. “For a moment the place was lifeless.” The peace is broken and with it any chance of the Salinas River truly becoming paradise. The story is set in California where few people owned land. They had either lost it due to the financial problems the depression caused or were just too poor to afford any in the first place. The people needed to find work; one of the most common jobs was to work on a farm. These people became known as migrant farmers. They would drift from one farm to the next, rarely settling for long. The two characters that enter the scene are migrant farmers and are looking for work. This is the first introduction of human life into the scene.
Great Expectations is set in Victorian England, where just like in 1930s California, the rich thrived and the poor suffered terribly. Even more distressing perhaps was the disease that swept through towns and killed many children as well as adults. This led to an increase in orphans, who have the same feelings of being alone and poor. They have the same problems as many others and weren’t much better off than the criminals in jail. Criminals were treated like animals, as were the poor community as a whole. Just like during the dust bowl, if you weren’t rich then you were a social outcast.
After introducing the character Pip, Dickens begins describing his surroundings. Dickens goes into great detail to set the scene. He describes the area as “Marsh Country” which stretches for twenty miles up to the coast. Pip is in a secluded graveyard overgrown and derelict. Beyond the graveyard is a “dark flat wilderness,” “Intersected with dykes and mounds and gates, with scattered cattle feeding on it, was the marshes.” It is a “raw afternoon towards the evening.” The setting is dark and there is a sense of evil and death about the place. It seems to be building upto something sinister, and does so when the criminal enters the scene. He is described as a “fearful man, in all course grey with an iron on his leg.” He almost represents death in this scene, an evil presence trying to seize Pip.