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dyGrapes of Wrath and Of Mice and Men: Character Study
The American Novelist, John Steinbeck was a powerful writer of dramatic
stories about good versus bad. His own views on writing were that not only
should a writer make the story sound good but also the story written should
teach a lesson. In fact, Steinbeck focused many of his novels, not on average
literary themes rather he tended to relay messages about the many hard truths of
life in The United States. Upon winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 1962 the
Swedish academy introduced him by saying “He had no mind to be an unoffending
comforter and entertainer. Instead, the topics he chose were serious and
denunciatory” This serious focus was not exempt from his two works “The Grapes
of Wrath” and “Of Mice and Men”. “The Grapes of Wrath” has been recognized by
many as “the greatest novel in American History” and it remains among the
archetypes of American culture. Although “Of Mice and Men” may not have
received as much fanfare as the other it is still a great classic that was
recently made into a motion picture.

The focus of “The Grapes of Wrath” Is one family, the Joads, who has
been kicked off their Oklahoma farm and forced to move to California to look for
work. The story has historical significance as it is true that many families
were forced, in the same way as the Joads, to leave their homes to look for
work during the depression. It is in this fact that one can see how Steinbeck’s
intention in “The grapes of Wrath” was to depict the hardships people went
through during an actual event in American history. Perhaps the most solemn
message in this novel was the poor treatment of the dispossessed families as
they reached California. In “Of Mice and Men” the reader is presented with a
story that takes place in the same setting of “The Grapes of Wrath” This story
details the hardships of two traveling companions while they are working at a
ranch in California.

The common thread between these two novels is not necessarily the plot
or the setting rather, it is the way in which Steinbeck relays his message.

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That is to say that, although both novels carry different story lines they both
portray hard truths about human suffering. Steinbeck reveals these truths
through his depiction of characters. In each story it seems that the characters
were crafted by Steinbeck in a bias manner so as to emphasize the overall
message of the book. It is quite obvious that all of Steinbeck’s characters are
either good or bad. Steinbeck himself said “as with all retold tales that are
in people’s heart’s there are only good and bad things and black and white
things and no in-between anywhere” In both novels the dispossessed characters
are good and well intentioned and the wealthy people are brutal and mean. This
of course is done to make the situation seem all that more hard on the
dispossessed characters.

In “The Grapes of Wrath” the character of young Tom Joad is a prime
example of how bias Steinbeck’s portrayal was. With a quick glance at the
history of Tom’s life one would say that he is not really the good guy. Yet
after reading “The Grapes of Wrath” the reader feels sorry for Tom and all of
his faults are justified because of his situation. Likewise, the characters of
Ma 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 Mice
and Men” portrays two men (Lennie and George) running from the law, looking for
work. Lennie is a mentally handicap person who brings most of the trouble to
the pair. Yet, despite all of his downsides the reader is made to feel sorry
for him. George is portrayed in a good way until the end of the book where he
kills Lennie, and even then the reader feels for George because of the
predicament he is in. The rest of the characters in both novels are the rich
and powerful. In “The grapes of Wrath” these rich people were not even given
names and Steinbeck’s dislike for them is obvious. This fact truly illustrates
the message he is trying to get across . In “Of mice and Men” the boss and his
son Curley are portrayed as the bad guys.

Note: This is only my introduction unfortunately due to some extenuating
circumstances I have not had enough time to do a complete rough draft. My plan
is to characterize the characters in light of Steinbeck’s bias portrayals and
illustrate 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 he
was bad yet good in the sense that his actions were bad but his cause was for
the better. 2.) Description of Ma and the preacher, how they were characterized
out of their traditional roles and how their straying form the norm was
justified and helped relay to the reader the desperation of the family’s
situation. 3.) The roles of Lennie and George, how they were outcasts and
Lennie killed a women yet the reader felt sorry for them both because they were
on the opposite side of a greater injustice. 4.) Portrait of the rich and
powerful. How Steinbeck’s ignorance of not giving them names proved he did not
like 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 third
period prep so I will look for you and we could chat. Thanx.

Max Raffoul ENG OAC March 3, 1997 Mr. Chevallier

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