Of Mice and Men Assignment Essay
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Q. With reference to chapter four, what do you learn about prejudice and injustice in 1930’s America?
“Of Mice and Men” was set around the 1930’s in California, America; where at the time of this classic novel was located. The New York Wall Street stock market had hit an all time low which led to and helped contribute to “The Great Depression”. Unemployment had hit and harsh poverty too had meant that migrant workers travelled to California in search of work.
As the paragraph continues, we learn that the living conditions and working conditions were very poor. Workers couldn’t do their jobs properly and were always worried about being “canned as they say”. Living conditions weren’t very good either; the ranches were very dirty, compact etc.
I believe that Steinbeck wrote this novel because of his past experiences. He was a labourer, he worked very hard, the characters in this book can relate to Steinbeck himself, he wanted to express his views for everyone to see.
Also, you can really tell that in Steinbeck’s opinion he is in favour of the workers in this novel. He being a labourer sways his views as in favour of the workers; you can tell he really thought “The Great Depression” was an awful experience to be involved in. When you see what his characters are saying, they reveal his feelings and thoughts, give good and bad memories, only inside a book.
As we are in chapter four, we learn many things about some of the main characters. At the very beginning, we learn about the relationship of some of the characters with each other. The scene is set in Crook’s room, many of the men have gone to the cathouse which is basically a ‘whore house; most of the men have gone but Crooks, Lennie, Candy and Curleys wife have not gone. The most probable reason for this is due to the fact that Crooks, is a black stable buck and also an outsider, Lennie was told not to go by George, Candy is a very old man and Curley’s wife is a woman. Even though Lennie doesn’t really understand, he stumbles across Crooks room and decides to go in. Lennie really sets this chapter alight; he breaks off the divide between black and white and wants to make friends with Crooks: “Lennie smiled helplessly in an attempt to make friends”.
Despite not knowing he is doing it, he is helping out a divide of people and bringing it together. He is such an interesting character but he wouldn’t really know that he is so different to the other characters. “Noiselessly Lennie appeared in the open doorway and stood there looking in…” no one else in the bunkhouse would have had the guts to enter Crooks’s room although Lennie didn’t really know he wasn’t supposed to. Lennie does quite the opposite to the others, which makes him so astonishing. A major part in this chapter shows how the other characters act when he is around. His actions and works influence others to bring back memories of their childhoods and really open up to him.
k”I was born right here in California. My old man had a chicken ranch…” is one example of Crooks opening up to Lennie as he would do to no other person. The characters relax more with Lennie in reflection of this chapter. One more interesting thing in this section of the book is the way Lennie is and is not affected by prejudice and injustice. At one part, he is affected by prejudice and injustice as he witnesses it happening and is picked on by others; “Listen Nigger, you know what I can do to you if you open your trap?” This shows prejudice and injustice around him towards Crooks. On the other hand, he is not affected by it as he has George to protect him from it and also doesn’t really understand what it is.
A vast part of prejudice and injustice in his book is the way Crooks is treated. Crooks is a middle aged black man who has had to work hard all of his life. Sadly, his role on the ranch is an unfortunate one. He is not allowed in the bunkhouse at all, or play games with the other members or be with them at certain times. He lives way out of the way of everyone else in a small room and spends most of his time there. This really shows how black men were treated in this period of time. Luckily, Crooks is not treated as badly as he could have been. He has an education and can read and write which can and also cannot help him at times. For instance, he can understand what others are saying about him, which is not very good. They don’t like him because of the colour of his skin. “Listen Nigger.”
This shows the colour of his skin being used against him by Curley’s wife. As Lennie enters the room, Crooks does not really want him to come in, “You got no right to come into my room.” Soon after, they get into conversation and are soon talking normally after opening up to each other like friends would. When Candy enters, he tells him he might as well come in as ‘everyone else’ is. Soon, he joins in conversation too. Not until Curley’s wife enters though, do we see a change in Crooks.
He doesn’t have any power over anyone in the ranch and soon goes back into his shell. Women were not treated well either, of course, but Curley’s wife could say or do whatever she wanted to a black man, including Crooks. “You know what I can do to you if you open your trap?” This shows Curley’s wife overpowering Crooks and unfortunately Crooks cannot do anything about it. With Crooks being educated and able to read, he has set himself real goals. He has learned how to cope with the bullying and racism and knows what to do. By not setting his goals too high, he does not expect anything too good, therefore does not mean he is too sad about what happens to him through his lie.
Another person who plays a part in giving and experiencing racism is Curley’s wife. She has certain powers compared to other women yet is still treated badly like other women. We learn that with women along with black people, had less power and were discriminated badly; therefore this shows that Curley’s wife situation was similar to most other women, they were not respected and were treated badly. The men do not really like her in reflection, the likes of George, Crooks etc. don’t really warm to her at any time. Her reaction to this is to snap at Crooks in this particular part of the book, she cannot take her anger out at anyone as she does not really have the power to apart from Crooks, so she bullies Crooks in this part, “Well, you keep your place then, Nigger. I can get you strung up on a tree so easy it ain’t even funny.”
Curley’s wife enters Crooks room with auction, she asks a question to which she knows the answer to, so she can join them, “Any you boys seen Curley?” shows this. In this chapter, we have to feel a bit sorry for her. We see how lonely she is at this time and since she is not allowed to be with anyone else, she cannot help herself looking for companionship. The reason behind her being so bitter about her life is simple; nothing has ever really gone right for her. By marrying Curley it has not helped her at all and she really thought she would make it as a Hollywood star, however, this did not turn out to be the life that she wanted, “Think I’m gonna lead with his left twice and then bring in the ol’ right cross?” This piece shows her loneliness and her trouble which leads on to when she is told she is not wanted by the guys, she tells of her sadness and also decides to take it out on Crooks to help herself, it shows a similarity with Crooks, deprived of her rights and very lonely.
Finally, the last person in this chapter to experience injustice and prejudice is Candy. A very old man, he was a typical old man who was not well liked, lonely and had a poor time of living with a bad job too. Candy, like most old men back then had a big worry of being ‘canned’ as he was not really needed. There was no pension schemes or benefits, he would have had no where to go and would have probably just died. “I planted crops for dam near everybody in this state, but they wasn’t my crops, and when I harvested them, it wasn’t none of my harvest.” This shows Candy has worked very hard but does not have much and is not appreciated. The dream to have a place with George and Lennie means so much to him as if it does not happen, he will be eventually canned and have nowhere to go, “You god dam right were gonna do it.” This shows passion for the dream ranch. In truth, Candy is very similar to the dog he had. He, like the was old, not wanted and not of much use. This is very significant as you can see how much he was appreciated by everyone; not at all.
In conclusion, we learn so much about life in the 1930’s in America. We have four different accounts of people being treated unfairly and having injustice upon them. Lennie, Crooks, Curley’s wife and Crooks all experience racism in some way. Lennie is abused for being quite clumsy and slow as well as being big, Crooks was racially abused for being old and black, Curley’s wife is not liked because she is a woman and Candy is abused for being an old man. As you can see, there is not ethnic minority groups that escaped being abused; 1930’s America was a racist and prejudice place to be. The writer Steinbeck is really sending a strong message out to the readers here.
He tries to tell us all about how life could be if you were in a minority group. He repeats certain phrases and words to show enthusiasm of how bad it really was. All of his characters have strong points of view towards one another and really act as if they were real people. Basically, John Steinbeck shows that racism and injustice were strong in the 1930’s and whoever you were, you could not really avoid it. Steinbeck gets this message across very well to the readers, by showing the characters different attitudes towards each other; most of the time there were not very pleasant. Whether you were black or white, male, female, disabled or anything else, you had a very good chance of either giving or being racially abused in America in the 1930’s.