Life Of John Steinbeck

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