Of Mice and Men

Violence and Sadism in John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men

In John Steinbeck's powerful American masterpiece Of Mice and Men, first published in 1937 during the height of the Great Depression, the main characters of George Milton and Lennie Small experience many hard and difficult situations which on occasion are steeped with violence and sadistic behavior, due to living and working in "a world where personal interaction is marked by. . . petty control, misunderstanding, jealousy and callousness" (Scheer 14). Yet after a careful reading of the text, it becomes clear that George and Lennie are at times the true instigators of the violence while also being pawns in the hands of such men as Curley, the prizefighter who finds much sadistic delight in picking on the ranch workers and those whom he sees as socially beneath him.

Interestingly, Steinbeck himself was quite familiar with the trials and tribulations associated with being an outsider and a common laborer, much like George and Lennie in Of Mice and Men. During his youth, Steinbeck worked diligently as a hired hand on ranches close to his home in Salinas, California, where he met and talked with migrant farm workers who told him of their adventures and mishaps before and during the Great Depression when millions of...

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