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Life Of John Steinbeck Essay, Research Paper

John Steinbeck was a writer who used naturalism in his works to to bring

awareness about problems in society that he dealt with in his own life. He

frequently dealt with the economic and social problems of migrant workers in

California and how they dealt with everyday life. He wrote through his fiction

about what he knew and what affected him personally. Specifically, he wrote

a novella entitled, Of Mice and Men, about two California migrant workers,

George Milton and Lennie Small, who are trying desperately to earn enough

money to buy a couple of acres of their own so that they won?t have to keep

running from there problems all the time. Naturalism was a literary movement

throughout the U.S. and Europe in the late 19th century to the early 20th

century. Naturalism writers had a strong belief in the natural sciences, and

used the ideas of Darwin?s theory of evolution to show how humans are

animals that are changed by external factors, forced to adapt to the conditions

surrounding them (GRO 1). Naturalists often looked at the other side of life,

such as promiscuity, alcoholism, drug use and so on. They saw human beings

as creatures who are controlled by influences beyond their control and

therefore, being denied free will and moral choice. This often made gave them

the reputation of being pessimistic, for there stories were far from fantasy and

the ?high life? (GRO 1). Steinbeck grew up in Salinas, California, where he

was born on Feb. 27, 1902. Salinas was a quiet agricultural center close to

the Monterey Peninsula, Carmel and King City. During high school he worked

on nearby farms and ranches. When he graduated from Salinas High School in

1919, he went on to Stanford University where he studied intermittently there,

never receiving a degree. While at Stanford he submitted many manuscripts to

publishing companies but they were constantly rejected. He began taking jobs

at factories for manual labor (LIS 7). He worked as a bench- chemist at

Spreckels beet factory and at the Willoughby Ranch south of Salinas as a

ranch hand (MCC 6-10). In 1925, Steinbeck left California for New York,

where he worked on the construction of Madison Square Garden. After

construction was completed, Steinbeck got a job at the New York American

newspaper where he wrote human interest stories. He was fired from this job

after a short period of time (LIS 7). In 1936, Of Mice and Men reached

Steinbeck?s agents and it was published in January of 1937. It was

Steinbeck?s first successful novel. At age 35, because of the success of Of

Mice and Men, it was named a Book-of-the-Month Club choice and

Steinbeck was named as one of Ten Outstanding Young Men of the Year.

Also, Steinbeck was asked to write articles about migrant workers for

magazines and newspapers, bringing further awareness to the hardships of the

migrant workers (LIS 7 ). In Of Mice and Men , Steinbeck wrote about two

laborers, George Milton and Lennie Small. George is a small, slender and

smart man; Lennie is a large, clumsy mentally challenged man who is

physically strong. George had promised Lennie?s Aunt Clara that he would

take care of Lennie when she died. They have traveled from Weed,

California, to work together on a ranch in Soledad. Lennie and George have

fled from Weed because Lennie was accused of trying to assault a girl. He

was touching her dress and when he stroked it too hard she screamed and he

hung on to her in fear. George and Lennie have a dream, to earn enough

money so that they can have a place to call their own. They want to have

rabbits ?An? live off the fatta the lan?? (STE 5). They arrive in Soledad and

meet The Boss, and his son Curley. George and Lennie also meet Slim, the

ranch hand who seems to have authority in the bunkhouse, Curley?s wife, and

Candy, the old swamper. Candy has a dog, it?s very old and dirty, and smells

up the bunkhouse; so when Slim?s dog has puppies, they convince Candy to

let them kill the old dog and give him one of the new puppies. The night they

kill Candy?s dog, George tells him about the dream that he and Lennie have,

and Candy puts his $350 dollars into the dream with them. The next Sunday,

while in the barn, Lennie accidentally kills his puppy that Slim has given to him

when he pets it too hard. Curley?s wife shows up in the barn and tells him to

stroke her hair if he likes soft things. When she screams for him to stop, he

grabs her neck in fear and breaks it. Candy finds her in the barn and shows

George. When the men come back from playing horseshoes and find Curley?s

wife in the barn, they grab their shotguns, but Curley?s is missing. He assumes

that Lennie took it, and they go out to search for him. George finds Lennie

near the river bank, right where he told him to go if there was ever any

trouble. He talks to to him about their dream, and at the same time puts a gun

to his head and fires it. When the rest of the men find him they assume that

George found Lennie with the gun and took it away from him and shot him.

Steinbeck?s motivation to write this novel came from the anger he felt about

the conditions of workers he saw and interacted with in California. His work

on the Willoughby ranch inspired the setting for Of Mice and Men. Many of

his stories came from the places he was familiar with in California. When

Steinbeck was young, he would drive in the family car and take in the scenery.

He would also hike in the Galiban Mountains (MCC 6). Steinbeck later

reflected on this to create the settings for his books. Soledad, a small town

below Salinas, is the town that Of Mice and Men is set in. The beginning of

the novel starts on the banks of the Salinas River, a region he was very

familiar with from his youth (MCC 6). The descriptions of the region that

Steinbeck gives in the novel shows his familiarity with the area. In the

beginning of Of Mice and Men, Steinbeck gives this beautiful description of

the Salinas River valley, south of Soledad: On one side of the river the golden

foothill slopes curve up to the strong and rocky Galiban mountains, but on the

valley side the water is lined with trees- willows fresh and green with every

spring, carrying in their lower leaf junctures the debris of the winter?s flooding;

and sycamores with mottled, white, recumbent limbs and branches that arch

over the pool (STE 1). Steinbeck wrote many novels that were based in

California in the Long Valley, Of Mice and Men was one of the most well

received (MCC 6). By reading this novel, one can get in touch with the plight

of the migrant workers during the Depression through a work of fiction.

Naturalism literature is one of the better ways writers can express themselves

to the greater public, and Steinbeck has done just that with Of Mice and Men.

He showed no indication of believing in a perfect man, that would be

inconsistent with naturalist thinking that humans are ?conditional and controlled

by environment, heredity, instinct or chance? (BLO 77). Also, Steinbeck

shows that in life, nature takes control, as Darwin explained. Lennie was

eliminated from a society where he was not considered normal, he was weak,

and he did not fit with the society (BLO 113). Steinbeck wrote about what he

knew and what he believed, and he raised issues that he felt were important

and told stories of the life that he knew.


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