dyGrapes of Wrath and Of Mice and Men: Character StudyThe American Novelist, John Steinbeck was a powerful writer of dramaticstories about good versus bad.
His own views on writing were that not onlyshould a writer make the story sound good but also the story written shouldteach a lesson. In fact, Steinbeck focused many of his novels, not on averageliterary themes rather he tended to relay messages about the many hard truths oflife in The United States. Upon winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 1962 theSwedish academy introduced him by saying “He had no mind to be an unoffendingcomforter and entertainer. Instead, the topics he chose were serious anddenunciatory” This serious focus was not exempt from his two works “The Grapesof Wrath” and “Of Mice and Men”.
“The Grapes of Wrath” has been recognized bymany as “the greatest novel in American History” and it remains among thearchetypes of American culture. Although “Of Mice and Men” may not havereceived as much fanfare as the other it is still a great classic that wasrecently made into a motion picture. The focus of “The Grapes of Wrath” Is one family, the Joads, who hasbeen kicked off their Oklahoma farm and forced to move to California to look forwork. The story has historical significance as it is true that many familieswere forced, in the same way as the Joads, to leave their homes to look forwork during the depression.
It is in this fact that one can see how Steinbeck’sintention in “The grapes of Wrath” was to depict the hardships people wentthrough during an actual event in American history. Perhaps the most solemnmessage in this novel was the poor treatment of the dispossessed families asthey reached California. In “Of Mice and Men” the reader is presented with astory that takes place in the same setting of “The Grapes of Wrath” This storydetails the hardships of two traveling companions while they are working at aranch in California. The common thread between these two novels is not necessarily the plotor the setting rather, it is the way in which Steinbeck relays his message.
That is to say that, although both novels carry different story lines they bothportray hard truths about human suffering. Steinbeck reveals these truthsthrough his depiction of characters. In each story it seems that the characterswere crafted by Steinbeck in a bias manner so as to emphasize the overallmessage of the book. It is quite obvious that all of Steinbeck’s characters areeither good or bad.
Steinbeck himself said “as with all retold tales that arein people’s heart’s there are only good and bad things and black and whitethings and no in-between anywhere” In both novels the dispossessed charactersare good and well intentioned and the wealthy people are brutal and mean. Thisof course is done to make the situation seem all that more hard on thedispossessed characters. In “The Grapes of Wrath” the character of young Tom Joad is a primeexample of how bias Steinbeck’s portrayal was. With a quick glance at thehistory of Tom’s life one would say that he is not really the good guy.
Yetafter reading “The Grapes of Wrath” the reader feels sorry for Tom and all ofhis faults are justified because of his situation. Likewise, the characters ofMa and the preacher, Jim Casey do not fit their traditional roles but, again,their actions are justified by Steinbeck. In the same way, the book “Of Miceand Men” portrays two men (Lennie and George) running from the law, looking forwork. Lennie is a mentally handicap person who brings most of the trouble tothe pair.
Yet, despite all of his downsides the reader is made to feel sorryfor him. George is portrayed in a good way until the end of the book where hekills Lennie, and even then the reader feels for George because of thepredicament he is in. The rest of the characters in both novels are the richand powerful. In “The grapes of Wrath” these rich people were not even givennames and Steinbeck’s dislike for them is obvious. This fact truly illustratesthe message he is trying to get across . In “Of mice and Men” the boss and hisson Curley are portrayed as the bad guys.
Note: This is only my introduction unfortunately due to some extenuatingcircumstances I have not had enough time to do a complete rough draft. My planis to characterize the characters in light of Steinbeck’s bias portrayals andillustrate how the technique he used was effective in getting his point across. My next four points or paragraphs will be: 1. ) Description of Tom Joad how hewas bad yet good in the sense that his actions were bad but his cause was forthe better. 2.
) Description of Ma and the preacher, how they were characterizedout of their traditional roles and how their straying form the norm wasjustified and helped relay to the reader the desperation of the family’ssituation. 3. ) The roles of Lennie and George, how they were outcasts andLennie killed a women yet the reader felt sorry for them both because they wereon the opposite side of a greater injustice. 4. ) Portrait of the rich andpowerful. How Steinbeck’s ignorance of not giving them names proved he did notlike them.
Every time they came up in the story they were doing something bad. And my conclusion. Hopefully I will get a chance to see you today, I have thirdperiod prep so I will look for you and we could chat. Thanx. Max Raffoul ENG OAC March 3, 1997 Mr.