What is the historical information of Of Mice and Men?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Of Mice and Men, a tragic tale that was originally written as a play, has as its intent the illumination of a facet of America Steinbeck’s audience did not understand. It has as its setting the Great Depression and presents the plight of the itinerant worker during this period. In his own words, Steinbeck explains the role of Lennie, the mentally challenged man who travels with George Milton,

"Lennie was not to represent insanity at all but the inarticulate and powerful yearning of all men."

It is this yearning that so many felt in the Depression. But, specifically, Steinbeck wrote about the white male migrant workers during this period of disenfranchisement, a group that was to disappear from the American scene. These men were unable to organize into a union because their work was not year-round and they spent time traveling; consequently, they were at the mercy of those who hired them. Because of their transitory positions, George Milton always expresses a certain paranoia about others around him. As the male characters of Of Mice and Men dream of having a place of their own--the proverbial "piece of the pie," the American Dream--and as they devlop a fraternity, they express the perspectives of Steinbeck, who leaned towards Socialism. For, he felt that in joining together, men gained the power to negotiate for a better life as well as being able to help one another. In their recital of their dream of owning a ranch Lennie repeats these lines as though they are the refrain of a psalm,

Because...I got you to look after me, and you got me to look after you, and that's why.