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10ENG - Of Mice and Men: Home

This guide contains resources relating to the study of 'Of Mice and Men' by John Steinbeck.

John Steinbeck

John Ernst Steinbeck was born on Feb. 27, 1902, in Salinas, Calif. He took classes at Stanford University for several years but left without a degree. He worked as a laborer to support himself while he wrote. Steinbeck’s first novel was published in 1929, but it was not until the publication of Tortilla Flat in 1935 that he attained critical and popular acclaim.

He followed this success with In Dubious Battle (1936) and Of Mice and Men(1937). The Grapes of Wrath (1939) earned for Steinbeck a Pulitzer prize. In these works Steinbeck’s proletarian themes are expressed through his portrayal of the inarticulate, dispossessed laborers who populate his American landscape. Both Of Mice and Men and The Grapes of Wrath were made into motion pictures.

John Steinbeck 2016. Britannica School. 

Steinbeck, John [Image]. Encyclopædia Britannica. 


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About the book

Of Mice and Men is a novel set on a ranch in the Salinas Valley in California during the Great Depression of the 1930s. It was the first work to bring Steinbeck national recognition as a writer. The title suggests that the best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry, a reference to Robert Burns's poem "To a Mouse." Of Mice and Men was selected for the Book of the Month Club before it was officially published, an honour that encouraged 117,000 copies of the novel to be sold before its official publication on February 25, 1937. Critical response to the novel was generally positive. There were, however, critics who were offended by the rough earthiness of the characters and their lives. By April 1937, the book was on best-seller lists across the country, and it continued to remain a top seller throughout that year. Steinbeck said that he was not expecting huge sales, and he was surprised by the substantial cheques he received from his agents. In fact, Steinbeck became a celebrity with the publication of his novel, a status that he feared would negatively affect his work. Steinbeck conceived Of Mice and Men as a potential play. Each chapter is arranged as a scene, and each scene is confined to a single space: a secluded grove, a bunkhouse, and a barn.

"Plot Summary: Of Mice and Men." DISCovering Authors. Detroit: Gale, 2003.

Historical Context

During the late 1930s, California was struggling not only with the economic problems of the Great Depression, but also with severe labour strife. Labor conflicts occurred on the docks and packing sheds and fields. Steinbeck wrote movingly about the struggles of migrant farm workers in three successive novels: In Dubious Battle (1936), Of Mice and Men (1937), and The Grapes of Wrath (1939). Agriculture as a working-culture was undergoing a historic change. In 1938, about half the nation's grain was harvested by mechanical combines that enabled five men to do the work that had previously required 350. Only a short time before, thousands of itinerant single men had roamed the western states following the harvests. Their labour had been essential to the success of the large farms. By 1900, about 125,000 migrants travelled along a route from Minnesota west to Washington state. Many travelled by rail in the empty boxcars that were later used to transport grain. At the turn of the century, the men were paid an average of $2.50 to $3 a day, plus room and board. The "room" was often a tent.

"Historical Context: Of Mice and Men." EXPLORING Novels. Detroit: Gale, 2003. Research.

"Sinise, Mice and Men." UXL Biographies. Detroit: UXL, 2011. Research in Context. 



Rating: E   Production Year: 2014   Duration: 24:19

 Description: This series of four clips explores the context, characters, themes and writing style of Steinbeck's popular classic. Presenter led and supported by dramatised sequences and direct quotations from the novel.

Uploaded on Nov 2, 2010

Check out Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men Video SparkNote: Quick and easy Of Mice and Men synopsis, analysis, and discussion of major characters and themes in the novel. For more Of Mice and Men resources, go to


Rating: M   Production Year: 1992  Duration: 1:46:13

 Description:Two migrant farmhands try to make a better life for themselves during the Depression. Based on the novel by John Steinbeck Starring: John Malkovich, Gary Sinise.