Explore some of the ways in which Steinbeck presents disadvantaged characters in the novel In 1937, the American author John Steinbeck published ‘Of mice and Men’. Set in the Salinas Valley of California, it conveys the story of the struggles of the American people during ‘The Great Depression’. The Great Depression was a massive devastation throughout the whole of America where people suffered and the economy was at a huge crisis.
The Unemployment rose from 3% to 26% and many people had died, showing how hard the citizens coped to survive in-between this difficult period.
The Americans were in a depriving financial state full of high inflation after an economic fall known as the ‘The Wall Street Crash’ The nation only helped themselves by believing in their own dreams, which meant mostly to have their own lands, be rich and live a good-life- “The American Dream”. This ideology gave the public hopes of life and something to work towards. John Steinbeck does not only explore how people struggled for their American dream, but also describes how difficult this melancholy period in history was for the “lesser” group of individuals at the time: the disadvantaged characters.
Lennie, a big simple-minded character, is a highly disadvantaged individual due to poor mental health. As Lennie is one of the predominant characters in ‘Of Mice and Men’, he is perhaps the least dynamic. He experiences no change in developing or growing in mental or practical abilities; the plain figure remains as illustrated at the start of the opening pages in the novel. Although his character is displayed in this way, despite being under privileged he is based as a central protagonists in the story. Steinbeck conveys a general initiative to his readers that, Lennie’s actions make great affection.
Being basic makes his choices morally incorrect- this shows his difficulties. Steinbeck uses the character of Lennie to symbolise the mentally underprivileged people of this period. “Let’s have different colour rabbits, George. ”Pg 16 “Just ain’t bright”24 Steinbeck shows his readers the stage of which Lennie’s mind is developed; still like a child’s, even though he is a fully-grown man. From the start of the novella, the reader must know that Steinbeck creates an illustration of Lennie as sadly being doomed, and must be sympathetic towards him.
This is a construction built to present to the reader at the current time of the 1920’s a huge disadvantage to the mentally handicapped society. The simple-minded character of Lennie also leads him to lack in responsibility and trust. He is shown to have no knowledge of any financial or general life problems, therefore Steinbeck creates a main part for George to play in, and this is where he has to take the weight on his shoulders for Lennie. ”if you jus’ happen to get in trouble like you always done before, I want you to come right here an’ hide in the brush”, ”Leggo his hand, Lennie”, 64 You tol’ me to George,”64 The author is trying to portray an image to his readers that Lennie cannot think for his self and has to be controlled; this is another big under privilege towards the mentally handicapped people. Lennie also speaks without grammatical sense and this shows he is uneducated and not taught to talk proper English, “they was so little” pg 11 “Don’t tell nobody” PG61 Lastly the biggest let down for the simple minded figure is not being able to adapt a level of understanding to the normal person , Lennie cannot tell the strength he applies or has when used.
This makes him very innocent when attacking someone without knowing, He also loves to pet animals and furry material but while this process, as he is a strong figure, he kills the being. ”’Don’t you go yellin’, he said, and shook her; and her body flopped like a fish. And then she was still, for Lennie had broken her neck. ”90 The author uses the word ‘and’ repetitively showing how dramatic the moment is. Steinbeck depicts towards his audience that Lennie was only trying to quite Curley’s wife but accidentally fails as he cannot handle his abnormal great strength.
This use of dramatics and panic shows where Lennie is innocent. From my view I think Lennie is also based upon the theme of an animal, there are areas where Steinbeck refers to Lennie as animal like “He’s as strong as a bull” “the way a bear drags his pours” In addition, Steinbeck uses the comparison of Candy’s dog and Lennie to depict the value and status of less mentally capable individuals. Just how candy’s dog is eradicated once he becomes ‘useless’, the same image is created for Lennie as his fate is controlled and chosen by the ‘normal’ ranch hands.
Similarly, The death of Lennie, is constructed as an illustration towards the readers that his own friend kills him because it is a ‘necessity’. The author is portraying to his readers that even George, Lennie’s tightest companion, shoots him out of sympathy so his friend does not go through the wrath of Curley’s torturing death. This conveys to us that the people of the 1930’s thought it was right to choose a death of a mentally handicapped because it was ‘obligatory’,Of mice and men, shows a greater emphasised picture, where a very close friendship is ended.
The dramatics used by Steinbeck when showing us George kills his best colleague Lennie, tells the reader how life was a great hardship for the discrimination against the mentally handicapped, especially when it was very unlikely to see two friends travelling together. The book demonstrates this concept by putting the ‘rights’ of a dog identical to the ‘rights’ of a mentally incapable person. Today, this sought of situation is taken seriously, where the rights for any being is equally judged. Steinbeck presents another character which I think is one of the most hindered upon-Crooks.
Crooks is highly discriminated, especially at this time, because he is black. He is a black man that lives in America at the time of segregation from the colour of his skin. This was tragic and sad for the black community as they were marginal. Living as a black man being employed was one of the most hardest job, this caused a lot of unemployment for the ‘coloured’ public . The only upper hand crooks had was a job in the ranch, it still was very risky, the boss beat him for no reason, but this was all he could do for a living. S’pose you didn’t have nobody. S’pose you couldn’t go to the bunk house and play rummy ’cause you was black. ”72. Steinbeck often demonstrates towards his audience that Crooks is a victim of isolation and loneliness, this illustrates the high level of prejudice and separation against the black ethnic minority of the 1930s. Crooks use of the word ‘S’pose’ twice in short time to show the emphasis of his feelings. The appearance and physical disability of Crooks also makes him impoverished, he has a crooked back and thus is called by the name ‘Crooks ‘. Now and then he poured a few drops of the liniment into his pink-palmed hand and reached up under his shirt to rub again.
He flexed his muscles against his back and shivered. ”67. Steinbeck provides his readers with a description for the appearance of Crooks. This description shows us where ‘Crooks’ is named by the ranch hands. When Steinbeck uses this method, he produces nicknames to portray to his readers how the men do not take any interest in knowing a full name; this shows the loneliness. The black community was often assaulted by the white public, this was a great hardship in the 1930’s. I could get you strung up on a tree so easy it ain’t even funny. ”80 “Crooks had reduced himself to nothing. There was no personality, no ego- nothing to arouse either like or dislike. ”80. The black minority was too downgraded and this quote is evident. When any black man spoke for his self, he was threatened and could not fight on. Steinbeck expresses to his readers how life was for the black people when abused. As he is black, Crooks is segregated from the other workers, this causes a great amount of desolation, he is trapped in solitude day and night and resorts to reading books.
In the novel, when Lennie enters Crooks room, at first his reaction is to be alone and unwanted but then his lack of unsociability wins over him and allows Lennie to set in. During his conversation, Crooks reveals his sorrow of being alone, segregated and divined from others. “I seen it over an’ over a guy talkin’ to another guy and it don’t make no difference if he don’t hear or understand. ” He is referring to Lennie but actually talking of himself. Steinbeck creates an image to his reader, how the life of someone already disliked, deprives as he is lonely and separated.
In the 1930’s, Steinbeck shows his readers where the black people’s status stood and where they were disadvantaged. The use of the word ‘n**ger’ was normal for people to remark, this just portrays how downgraded the black community were. I think as Crooks was in the bracket of an ethnic minority, he was extremely unlucky and discriminated, the author shows us another disadvantaged character based at the time of the novella. From the perspective of Curley’s wife, I think that John Steinbeck uses analogy to represent the place for woman and how they were the underdogs towards the men.
Living in the male world, Curleys wife is mostly shown as a bad sign as she is an uncommon person in the ranch. She undergoes a difficult and antagonistic period through her life. “You wasn’t no good. You ain’t no good now, you lousy tart”94 “Well, ain’t she a looloo? ”51 “I ain’t seen that much of her, PG 51 When whit describes her as this it shows what they think of her, also the emphasis of George speaking when saying, “I ain’t seen that much of her,” shows the care and intensity that he does not give when he replies. In the beginning of the novel, Steinbeck introduces Curley’s wife through Candy’s description.
The critical comments leave the reader to have a negative opinion; as she seems to be a woman in a male world. ‘I’ve seen her give slim the eye… an’ I’ve seen her give Carlson the eye. ’ (pg 29) By classifying Curley’s wife as a ’flirt’, she is effectively prohibited from the men. There are certain areas where Curleys wife’s image is described evil and unhappy, Steinbeck tries to portray towards his readers that when she is there the mood is struck negatively and falls immediately at her presence, “Both men glanced up, for the rectangle of sunshine in the doorway was cut off. A girl was standing there looking in.
She had full, rouged lips and wide-spaced eyes, heavily made up. Her fingernails were red. Her hair hung in little rolled clusters, like sausages. She wore a cotton house dress and red mules, on the insteps of which were little bouquets of red ostrich feathers. “I’m lookin’ for Curley,”she said. Her voice had a nasal, brittle quality. ”PG 32 From this extract of the book, there are different ways in which the author describes Curley’s wife as a cynical approach at this moment of the story. Steinbeck shows us that as soon as she comes in the sunlight is cut off- blocking the admirable scene.
Even with the clothing, Curley’s wife wears a lot of the colour red conveying the evil colour and the emphasis of her voice when she speaks,” Her voice had a nasal, brittle quality. ” Steinbeck describes the disadvantages women had when she is first illustrated. Throughout the book, Curley’s wife’s character is fairly mysterious and complicated. She is continuously referred to as her husband’s belonging or possession, this shows us where she is unidentified, through this misidentification we can figure out her status as a woman; she did not need to be known.
Steinbeck’s use of identification against Curley’s wife is her most disadvantage. When someone has no identification, it describes to the reader where his or her reputation is, the name Curley’s wife portrays an image that her name is a tool, owned by her husband and is not much importance. Through the book she is foreshadowed in many areas, where her sly flirty actions lead to hazardous trouble, despite this matter, when reading between the lines, the reader is made to show some part of sympathy to express towards her.
The author also uses other ways to describe the loneliness and emotions in the book, words like ‘solitaire’ (meaning ‘ a card game played by one person), shows us how he referred to the people working at the ranch as desolate and unsocial, he also uses nick names, except for George and Lennie, such as “Slim” or “Curley”, this is another sign, of the low and sad mood. In the novel, there are a few areas where the writer presents short snappy sentences to show the effects, “The silence came into the room. And the silence lasted”. 9 Additionally, Steinbeck chooses the use of circulation in situations, just like a life cycle, In each chapter the setting in the beginning is the setting at the end, this conveys a message that the situation always ends at point one, , for example Lennie and George have a dream in the beginning which is just a plain dream that has no hope, it develops as the book stages itself at chapter 3 ,in the middle, there is sudden hope and it looks like an easy grab, but it circulates and drops back down, where Lennie kills Curley’s wife, this illustrates the method of death and that there is no hope left.
John Steinbeck the author reveals to his audience how, in a general view, people were highly disadvantaged especially at the time of discrimination towards them. He mentions three obvious characters , Lennie, Crooks and Curley’s wife. These individuals all have main deficiencies and all have different types of disadvantages. Steinbeck uses a mentally handicapped individual, a black physically disabled man and a women in a male’s world, this shows us an occurring pattern from the author, trying to describe the sadness and discrimination to people at the time of ‘The Great Depression’
The novel, ‘Of Mice and Men’ depicts to the readers how the daily struggles for the working class were, being greatly underprivileged and the reality of failing plans for a living, resembling ‘The American Dream’. John Steinbeck shows his audience individuals who constantly face one problem after another. Moreover, he describes people of America who struggled a torrid time through “Survival of the fittest”, especially the discriminated.