On October 29 1929, millions of dollars were wiped out in an event that became to be known as the Wall Street Crash. This led to the Depression in America which crippled the country. People lost their life savings when firms and banks went bust. Shares became worthless and many people had all of their money in them. 12-15 million men and women went unemployed. Food was short and the unemployed in cities couldn’t pay rent. Some ended up moving to shanties made from old packing cases and corrugated iron. Thousands of poor people, many from the Dust Bowl of Oklahoma and Arkansas, drifted into California drawn by the gentle climate and the chimera of work. Money was scarce so lots of people tried to do what they could to make their lives happy. Movies, parlour games and board games were popular. In the Great depression the American dream had become a nightmare. What once was the land of opportunity was now the land of desperation. What once was the land of optimism and hope had become the land of despair. Between 1929 and 1932 the income of an average American family was reduced by 40%. Instead of advancement the keyword was survival.
John Steinbeck has a personal link with the story. He was born in Salinas, California in 1902 making hm 27 at the time of the crash. Although his family was fairly wealthy, he was very interested in the lives of the farm labourers and spent his time working with them. He used his experiences as material for his novels. He wrote a number of novels about poor people who worked on the land and dreamed of a better life.
Ranch hands like George and Lennie were lucky to get a job. Ranch hands were grateful for at least a bunk-house to live in and to have food provided, even though the pay was low. Think about how the men quieten the fight between Curley and Lennie and the claim Curley got his hand caught in a machine. They knew that Lennie and George would be fired if the boss heard about it, and then Lennie and George could be left with nothing.
The victims in ‘Of Mice and Men are the poor, elderly, women and blacks. They are victims of inequality such as racism and cultural prejudice. When you first read ‘Of Mice and Men’ Curley’s wife seems a bit floozy in the way she acts around the men. Several times the men will have to make a comment like when Candy says “You got a husban’. You got no call foolin’ aroun’ with other guys, causin’ trouble” which suggests that she has been told a few times and the way she acts around the men is looked down on for a married woman. Further on into the story Curley’s wife is seen more of a victim. Throughout the book, Steinbeck victimizes Curley’s wife like an object and a person. Steinbeck just labelled her as 'Curley's wife' and without a name she’s not as important as the guys. Also, Steinbeck described Curley's wife as a bit of a flirt and gave other guys "the eye". Curley's wife was also hoodwinked by Curley as he treated her as his property. Steinbeck defrauded Curley's wife because in the 1900's, women weren't equal with men. Steinbeck treated Curley's wife that way because that's how men saw women as just an object. Curley would treat her as his property and not a partner. He would also make her stay in the house while everyone was out and she was the only female in the house so she had no one to talk to or keep her company. Finally, Curley's wife was a victim of the 1900's. In the 1900's, women didn't have any rights. Women couldn’t even get out of the house or wear short skirts until the 1920’s. They weren't equal with the men and didn't get treated like men. The way that Steinbeck wrote Of Mice and Men, showed how bad the men thought of the women. When Curley’s wife talked to Lenny saying how she dreamed life would be, she says “He says I could go with that show.” showing she did have dreams and now is tied down with her husband.