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Ways in Which Steinbeck Makes Violence so Important in the Novel

In: English and Literature

Submitted By rueXO
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John Steinbeck’s novella “Of Mice and Men” was written the 1930s, during the great American Depression. He used the ranch as a microcosm to show society’s desensitisation to violence, the inhumane ways in which the marginalised were treated and the prevalent misogynistic attitudes. Steinbeck focused on lives of itinerant farmworkers who constantly searched for work. The economic crisis led to high unemployment rates and fierce competition for jobs. Many people were poverty stricken, violence became their ultimate source of escapism and a cheap source of entertainment thus creating a hostile environment. Steinbeck resigned from the prestigious Stanford University in order to gain insight of the hardships faced by peripatetic workers. His strong socialist views and empathy towards the marginalised inspired him to write this story. During his time on the farm, he witnessed a lot of violence. He based most of his characters on people he met; Lennie’s character was based on a man who killed a ranch foreman and stabbed his boss in the stomach with a pitchfork. 
 
 One way Steinbeck portrays the importance of violence in the novel is through the way in which characters treat each other to determine status. When Curley is introduced in chapter two, he “glanced coldly” at George, his arms “gradually bent at the elbows” and his hands “closed into fists”. Curley “stiffened” and “went into a slight crouch” making Lennie “squirm” and “shift his feet nervously”. His actions foreshadow his malevolent intention to assault Lennie in chapter three in order to regain his status in the hierarchy. However, the direct opposite occurs when Curley was “flopping like a fish”, his fist “lost in Lennie’s paw”. Steinbeck uses animalistic imagery reflecting Curley’s loss of power and Lennie’s aggression which momentarily places him further up the hierarchy. Curley’s treatment of…...

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