A Comparison of Migrant Workers in The Grapes of Wrath and Of Mice and Men

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Migrant Workers in The Grapes of Wrath and Of Mice and Men


John Steinbeck wrote about what surrounded him. At the time he was writing, the nineteen-thirties, a great depression was plaguing the United States. Many people were out of work. Many farmers were losing their farms and homes. An extreme drought had also wrecked the farms of the Midwest and made them into what is now referred to as the "dust bowl". It was a terrible time to be poor, and most were. People died of malnutrition every day. In California, where Steinbeck resided, migrant workers dominated the workforce. Thousands traveled from all around to pick fruit in the farms of the Salinas Valley for minuscule wages. Thousands more could not find suitable
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Lennie, for example, becomes fixated on the dream of having a farm with George. George tells him, "we're gonna get the jack together and we're gonna have a little house and a couple of acres an' a cow and some pigs and....a big vegetable patch and a rabbit hutch and chickens" (Steinbeck, Of Mice and Men 13,14). Lennie, because of his lower than normal mentality, takes George's story to be fact and just dreams of when it will happen. George's dream is essentially the same, but is based on if it will happen not when it will happen. George has to dream more realistically than Lennie. Lennie wants to "live off the fatta the lan'", but George has to determine whether they could survive or would starve. George, who looks after Lennie through the whole story, fulfills, at least in a way, Lennie's dream. At the end of the book, George describes the happy place he and Lennie will have. George seems to be describing their heaven. So, he sends Lennie to heaven -- with a gun shot to the back of the head -- to live off the fat of the land. George knows that shooting Lennie is the best thing he can do. He seems to follow Candy's words: "I ought to of shot that dog myself, George. I shouldn't ought to have let no stranger shoot my dog." George knows that Curly will shoot Lennie when he finds him, so, by taking his life quickly and essentially painlessly, George fulfills Lennie's dream and shows one last instant of companionship toward his friend…