Having grown up in the Salinas Valley of California, the setting of his novella, Of Mice and Men, John Steinbeck became sympathetic to the workers of this area. A socialist himself, Steinbeck rallied for those who were oppressed by writing about them and presenting a realistic--if not naturalistic--portrayal of their condition.
Reflective of the title, George and Lennie are mice in the "maze of life," inferior to the bosses who have control over them. By having them speak in the realistic dialect of their class, Steinbeck indicates this social inferiority. Having taken his protagonists from the agricultural working class of California, Steinbeck, in his social realism, presents effectively the problematic relation between the workers and the land (represented by the owners) on which they labor:
The boss said suddenly, 'Listen, Small!'....'What can you do?'
In a panic, Lennie looked at George for help. 'He can do anything you tell him,' said George.
The boss turned on George. "then why don't you let him answer? What you trying to put over?'