We've briefly looked at the main characters of the novel in previous blogs, now we have some historical facts of the time which give you context.
- 29th October 1929 known as ‘Black Friday’ in America.
- On this date the Wall Street Crash occurred where billions of dollars were lost as a result of the crash in the stock markets.
- Sparked the Great Depression and signalled the end of the prosperity experienced throughout the 1920’s.
- Banks went out of business and many people lost all of their savings.
- Unemployment rose from 3% on 1929 to 26% in 1934.
- Estimated that at one point 34 million men, women and children had no income to support them.
- No welfare state meaning no government hand-outs to assist those in need.
- Many people were evicted from their homes and ended up living in shanty towns (‘Hoovervilles’ named after the then president, Herbert C Hoover).
- Increase in farming activity the previous years and a seven year drought beginning in 1931 led to severe erosion of the once fecund grasslands, leaving much of the mid-West a barren and infertile desert known as the ‘Dust Bowl’.
- Hundreds of thousands of farmers and their families packed up whatever belongings they had left and headed for California.
- For many, California was perceived as the promised land and referred to as ‘Golden’ California.
- California’s mild climate, long growing season and soil suited to growing a greater variety of crops attracted many.
- Many Californians turned people back and treated incomers with scorn fearing they would become overrun.
- Few migrants had anywhere to travel back to and ended up in ‘Hoovervilles’, making their lives even harder.
- Many sought work as casual farm labourers.
- Life was gruelling, unrewarding and challenging for the majority of migrants and few found it to be the land of opportunity and plenty they had once dreamed it to be.
- As ranch hands (like George and Lennie), although the wages were very poor, workers were provided with lodgings to sleep and food to eat.
The American Dream:
- In America the popular belief was that if you worked hard enough you would be successful.
- This idea was known as the ‘American Dream’.
- Peoples faith in this idea was severely tested during the 30’s.
- Many people lost all possessions, all self-respect and faith in society.
- Some did however hold onto the notion of the American Dream despite the prevailing economic and social conditions.
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