Connecting with History

Steinbeck's writing was deeply connected to the time and place in which it was set. The characters and events portrayed in his fiction were meant to be realistic. Understanding the time period in which Steinbeck was writing in and about creates a deeper connection to the characters and the issues Steinbeck illuminated in his writing.

These lessons focus on specific historical themes and topics found in Of Mice and Men. Each lesson is linked to historical context resources to help teachers and students connect the novel to its place in time.

Controversial Issues – Jim Crow and Lynch Law Introduction

A PowerPoint introduction to lingering racist attitudes in the United States since the Civil War, especially relating to the treatment of Crooks.

Migrant Workers and the Great Depression – Leaving Home

This activity is meant to expand students' analytical skills and to give them a greater understanding of life during the Great Depression. The experiences that they will read about are those of teenagers during the 1930s. Like George and Lennie, these teenagers are on the move finding temporary work where they can.

Migrant Workers and the Great Depression – Why California?

Several hundred thousand people fled North and West during the 1930s. Yet these regions were not immune from the effects of the Depression. Why then did so many people uproot their lives and head to California and the West? Using first hand accounts archived in the Library of Congress, students will attempt to help answer this question.

Ranch Life

Understanding ranch life in the 1920s/1930s and the migrant ranch experience from that period, and today, are essential for understanding the novel.

Riding the Rails

This activity incorporates the PBS American Experience documentary "Riding the Rails." Students will see, hear, and read about life riding the rails and looking for work in the 1930s. The experiences that they will see and read about are those of teenagers during the 1930s. Like George and Lennie, these teenagers are on the move finding temporary work where they can.

Character Reactions – Crooks's Quarters

Students tackle issues of race and gender in this activity centered around the scene in Crooks's quarters. Students work together to create internal monologues for the characters present, challenging the student to consider issues of race and gender, but in the context of the 1930s.

Understanding Lynching

Lynchings were illegal acts of vigilante "justice" that have been a part of United States history since the Colonial Period. The theme of lynching appears several times during Of Mice and Men, and is integral to understanding the conclusion of the novel. In this activity, students examine the lynching of Emmett Till to better understand the state of race relations prior to the major accomplishments of the Civil Rights Movement.