Context of "Of Mice and Men"

Essay by aliblahblahHigh School, 10th gradeA+, October 2004

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Context of the novel "Of Mice and Men"

John Steinbeck celebrated friendship; it mapped the contours of his life and art. "In every bit of honest writing in the world," he noted in a 1938 journal entry, "...there is a base theme. Try to understand men; if you understand each other you will be kind to each other. Knowing a man well never leads to hate and nearly always leads to love. There are shorter means, many of them. There is writing promoting social change, writing punishing injustice, writing in celebration of heroism, but always a base theme. Try to understand each other." These words shaped Steinbeck's career and can be witnessed in his fiction. Steinbeck's greatness as a writer lies in his empathy for common people, their loneliness, joy, anger, and strength, their connection to places and their craving for land. "Of Mice and Men" owes much of its appeal to Steinbeck's ability to orchestrate this complexity within the context of the abiding commitment between two friends.

"Of Mice and Men" tells us that this is the way things are and that men makes all these plans when in the end, it doesn't work out like that. When reading "Of Mice and Men", we are asked to acknowledge the inevitability of a situation in which two men, each with a particular weakness and need, cling to the margins of an unforgiving world. The novel is about commitment, loneliness, the dispossessed, hope, and loss, drawing its power from the fact that these universal truths are grounded in the realistic context of friendship and a shared dream. It is the energy of that friendship, real but hardly sentimental that changes this richly suggestive and emotional text.

"Of Mice and Men" is the middle book in Steinbeck's trilogy about agricultural labor in...