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Of Mice and Men Critique

  • Date Submitted: 05/25/2010 06:00 PM
  • Flesch-Kincaid Score: 47.8 
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John Steinbeck's work is most often considered in the literary tradition of Social Realism, a type of literature which concerns itself with the direct engagement with and intervention in the problematic (usually economic) social conditions in society. The height of Social Realism — and of its close relative, Naturalism, which blends social critique with a tragic narrative structure wherein a sort of natural fate irresistibly propels the characters toward their downfall — dates from the end of the nineteenth century and is represented by such authors as George Gissing, Theodore Dreiser, and Frank Norris.
By the 1930s, this literary style was already waning, having given up its position of primacy to what has come to be called Modernism, which, although not uninterested in social or political thinking, is far more experimental in the way it uses and manipulates literary and aesthetic techniques. James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, and Ezra Pound are some representative Modernist writers from Ireland, England and the United States respectively. Steinbeck's decision to forego very radical experimentation and use the more explicitly engaged realist style in his work from the 1930s may owe to the urgency of the social problems of the Great Depression and Steinbeck's desire to register an immediate and direct critical protest.
Of Mice and Men, like Steinbeck's two other major works from the 1930s, In Dubious Battle and The Grapes of Wrath, takes its subject and protagonists from the agricultural working class of California during the Great Depression. George and Lennie are itinerant laborers who roam the state looking for any sort of temporary work on large commercial ranches and farms. They work in these places as long as there is a specific task to be done — in Of Mice and Men, for example, George and Lennie are hired to bag the barley harvest on a farm near the city of Soledad — and when they are finished they collect their wages and move on in search of another ranch and...


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