Of Mice and Men is a novel based on two migrant workers during the Era of the Great Depression. It shows the struggles and challenges they face, particularly focussing on the theme of prejudice. Steinbeck aimed to raise the issues of societal discrimination and the negative stigma surrounding individuals based on their appearances. The main forms of discrimination presented within the novel were ableism, racism and sexism. These themes were carried out through the characters Lennie, Crooks and Curley’s wife. Not to mention displaying the treatment from society and the effect on the individual from preconceived judgement.
The novel focuses on looking beyond a character’s appearance and understanding them as an individual who has a sense of purpose. Steinbeck’s novel Of Mice and Men explores the theme of prejudice in a thought provoking manner which raises the issue of social discrimination and stigma. Ableism is a form of prejudice that is explored throughout “Of Mice and Men” and is portrayed through the main character Lennie. Within the novel Lennie displays a mental disorder that affects his thought processes and his level of understanding.
This disorder causes Lennie to think and act differently from society norms. However despite this disorder Lennie managed to maintain a strong work ethic, achieving maximum results. Within the novel Steinbeck aimed to highlight not only the difficulty of mental disorders in society but the preconceived judgement others form and the effect these have on the individual. For example, George advises Lennie to keep quiet while speaking to the boss, which gives an understanding of the disadvantage of disabilities and the undeniable prejudice against ableism.
This may lead to unjust treatment or (doubt in work ethic) “That ranch we’re going’ to is right down there about a quarter mile. We’re gonna go in an’ see the boss. Now, look—I’ll give him the work tickets, but you ain’t gonna say a word. You jus’ stand there and don’t say nothing. If he finds out what a crazy bastard you are, we won’t get no job, but if he sees ya work before he hears ya talk, we’re set. ” (1. 44). This highlights George’s concern about potential prejudice towards Lennie and the discrimination he is bound to face based on his disability.
Considering the fact that other characters didn’t understand Lennie like George, it is clear they would form an opinion without understanding Lennie as an individual. Lennie’s disability took away from his character. It created a wall where others were unable to see past and understand his true self but rather focus on they way he presented himself. In the novel, purely because of his diminished intelligence process he is faced with possible unemployment, harassment and social oppression. Other examples of when Lennie was discriminated against include,…..
The issues raised in “Of Mice and Men” relate back to ableism prejudice on a broader scale and the stigma surrounding mental disorders. Lennie is a prime example of prejudice against ableism that was displayed within the novel “Of Mice and Men”. Crooks from the novel “Of Mice and Men” was another character that displayed the consequences of racial prejudice and discrimination. As an African-American during this time period, Crooks was severely disadvantaged and faced racial discrimination and segregation on a regular basis. Not to mention that alongside his race he dealt with a crooked back which only further disadvantaged him.
Within the novel Steinbeck portrayed the little power Crooks possessed and the racism aimed towards him based on the colour of his skin, without understanding him as an individual. Not only that but Crooks’ insight on prejudice and how he views the discrimination and stigma surrounding social issues, but also the advantages that come with it. “In the world of the ranch, there are a lot of disadvantages to being crippled, black, mentally handicapped, or female. But, Crooks slyly points out, there are some advantages, too: no one holds you responsible for your actions. Whatever you say, “it don’t mean nothing. Good point, but we’re still not sure it’s worth it. “The issue is conveyed throughout the novel in which the surrounding characters act upon their preconceived judgement excluding Crooks and restricting him from his rights. For example, Crooks is barely fed. isn’t allowed to drink, is beaten and occupies different housing compared to the others.
The novel highlights the lack of rights attributed African-Americans These significant differences are solely because of his race. Besides being treated differently Crooks encounters racial prejudice which leads to inferiority in power and social status. She turned on him in scorn. “Listen, Nigger,” she said. “You know what I can do to you if you open your trap? ” Crooks stared hopelessly at her, and then he sat down on his bunk and drew into himself. (4. 116-117)”. Steinbeck aimed to raise awareness to the fact that women had more authority over an individual of coloured skin, and to the fact that despite a women was also at the bottom of the social hierarchy she still had to power over Crooks to the point of death and how defenceless an African-American was in society.
Therefore racism was Prejudice against women was another form of discrimination displayed within the novel “Of Mice and Men” alongside the objectification of women and their social status is regards to men. Steinbeck raised the issue of the prejudice women faced by depicting Curley’s wife, who was considered insignificant to the point where she was never given a name. Not only does it focus on her insignificance but the objectification of women, and how she was regarded as an object for men rather than an individual.
This meant that the prejudice judgement of Curley’s wife, was based on her appearance and behaviour which to others saw as ‘slutty’ and ‘tramp’. However their judgement fails to account for her vulnerability and innocence which she displays to those who look past the prejudice. Within the novel, (the comments and stigma) gave an insight to the social status and power women had in comparison to men. Steinbeck focused on depicting sexism and social discrimination towards women. Also representing the effect negative stigma has on the individual.
Which in this case Curley’s wife faced challenges such as isolation and misery. Further into the novel, the audience begins to fully decipher Curley’s wife and understand her true intentions and thoughts. Curley’s wife, then proceeds to open up about her dreams and aspirations”I tell you I ain’t used to livin’ like this. I coulda made somethin’ of myself. ” She said darkly, “Maybe I will yet… If I’d went, I wouldn’t be livin’ like this, you bet. ” (5. 34). This is turn allows us to understand the sacrifices she made for social acceptance and fear of social discrimination.
As expressed above Steinbeck portrayed women as objectified sexual objects and raised the issue of prejudice towards women. In conclusion Of Mice and Men follows the journey of two displaced workers George and Lennie. It aims to highlight the hardships they face and the standard of society in terms of prejudice and social discrimination. Steinbeck presented this theme through his depiction of the characters Lennie, Crooks and Curley’s wife. The overarching concept of prejudice Steinbeck was trying to convey is the fact that there is more to a person that society’s preconceived judgement.
Social discrimination causes a negative stigma that impacts on individual well being. Racism, ableism and sexism were the most common forms of prejudice. Alongside raising the issue of prejudice Steinbeck also illustrated the consequences social discrimination has on an individual and how they are perceived by society. Overall, Steinbeck’s novel Of Mice and Men explores the theme of prejudice in a thought provoking manner which raises the issue of social discrimination and stigma.