Where are the connections between Steinbeck's work and The Great Depression in America during the 1930s?  

Asked on by donjet

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

I think that one of the strongest connections between the Great Depression and Steinbeck's novel is how the need to find work is a challenging one.  Lennie and George are introduced to us as vagabonds, to a great extent.  They wander in search of work.  They go wherever there is work.  They are not working as a part of their own existence.  Work is their existence.  Similar to the Great Depression, where millions struggled to find work, any work, Lennie and George move from place to place wherever there is a pair of jobs to be available.  I think that the reality of thwarted dreams is another element that the novel brings out which is embedded in the Great Depression.  Part of what makes the time period so painful is that it is the sum total of so many dreams that have been ruptured.  The bonds that tied people to their dreams were severed as a result of the Great Depression.  Dreaming, as it were, came with the price of disappointment and this is seen in several contexts in the novel.  Crooks is afraid to dream because of the disappointment that is evident as a result.  Certainly, this can connect to the time period where abject poverty and the pain of economic need reduced individuals to both needing dreams, but understanding how little hope there was in them.  Additionally, characters like Lennie and George have dreams, but are bound to never achieving them because of the money that is involved.  The time period represents a scarcity of money and the need to claw and scratch for something that isn't there, something true to both men and the time period.


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