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So you’re going to teach John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men. Whether it’s your first or hundredth time, Of Mice and Men has been a mainstay of English classrooms for generations. While it has its challenging spots—racism, sexism, and classism abound—teaching this text to your class will be rewarding for you and your students. Studying Of Mice and Men will give them unique insight into the Great Depression, John Steinbeck’s writing style, and important themes surrounding prejudice, loneliness, and the American experience. This guide highlights some of the most salient aspects of the text before you begin teaching.

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Facts at a Glance

  • Publication Date: February 6, 1937 
  • Recommended Grade Levels: 8th and up 
  • Approximate Word Count: 29, 160 
  • Author: John Steinbeck 
  • Country of Origin: United States 
  • Genre: Novella, Realism 
  • Literary Period: Modern 
  • Conflict: Person vs. Person, Person vs. Society, Person vs. Self 
  • Narration: Third-Person Omniscient 
  • Setting: Soledad, California, the mid 1930s 
  • Dominant Literary Devices: Prose, Colloquial Dialogue 
  • Tone: Honest, Sympathetic, Objective

Texts that Go Well with Of Mice and Men

Das Kapital, by Karl Marx, and The Communist Manifesto, by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, describe and critique the capitalist economic system that resulted in the premier economic calamity of the 20th century, the Great Depression. The Communist Manifesto acts as a call to arms, inviting workers of the world to unite against the powerful few who control resources in a capitalist economic structure. 

The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck, is the epic incarnation of the setting, ideas, and themes that exist so succinctly in Of Mice and Men. The novel was published in 1939, and went on to win the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize. The text was also singled out as exceptional by the Nobel Prize committee that awarded Steinbeck in 1962. The novel details the experiences of the Joad family as they travel from Oklahoma to California looking for work during the 1930s. 

“Rehabilitation of the Mentally and Physically Handicapped” is a 1929 speech given by Franklin D. Roosevelt when he was the governor of New York. Though most of the voting public of the era was unaware, Roosevelt struggled with disabilities associated with childhood polio over the course of his life. In this speech, Roosevelt describes the challenges facing the handicapped at the time and puts forward his vision of a social policy that addresses these issues. 

The Sound and the Fury, by William Faulkner, is a modernist novel that addresses similar themes as the works of John Steinbeck. The novel captures the experiences of the Compson brothers as their sister, Caddy, becomes estranged from the family. Considering themes surrounding the social decay occurring in the American South, as well as the inability of language to convey the human experience, The Sound and the Fury was one of many novels that earned Faulkner a Nobel Prize in 1949. Like Of Mice and Men, The Sound and the Fury features a protagonist with mental disabilities. 

“To a Mouse,” by Robert Burns, is the poem from which Of Mice and Men takes its title. Originally published in 1785 in Scots dialect, the speaker describes working with a plow and accidentally disturbing a mouse’s nest. The speaker uses the occasion to comment on how easy it is for one’s planning and hard work to be destroyed: “the best laid schemes of Mice and Men / go oft awry.”

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Key Plot Points