The Crucible and the Mice of Men
The Crucible and Of Mice and Men John Steinbeck’s novel, Of Mice and Men, and Arthur Miller’s play, The Crucible, both have similarities and differences that appear through the history of the United States, prejudice, and also through the themes. Of Mice and Men and The Crucible, share the similarity of teaching the history of the United States throughout the pieces. In the novel, Of Mice and Men, the reader will be able to learn the history of the United States through the writing style of the author, John Steinbeck.
The setting of this novella takes place in Salinas Valley in California during the 1930s, the time of the Great Depression. The Great Depression began when the stock market in the United States dropped rapidly. Thousands of investors lost large sums of money and many were wiped out and lost everything. This period was the longest and worst period of high unemployment and also with low business activity in modern times.
Banks, stores, and factories were closed and left millions of Americans jobless, homeless, and penniless. With the economy in ruins, millions were struggling to find a job, and Salinas Valley was one solution.
Because Salinas Valley had large farms that employed several workers at a time, many migrant farm workers, such as George and Lennie from John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, travelled there in order to find work. During this time of depression, work cards were extremely important in the United States’ history. Without work cards you wouldn’t be able to get the job. When Lennie thinks he lost his work card, “he looked down at the ground in despair” (5) which shows the importance of the card, during the time of the depression. The play, The Crucible, the reader will also be able to learn about the history of the United States.
The setting of Arthur Miller’s play, The Crucible, was set during the 17th century, in a theocratic society in the small town of Salem, Massachusetts. The fact that the story takes place during the 17th century is important because in order for this type of play to happen, the town needed to be superstitious and gullible, and during this time period, there was a lot of paranoia of communists and witchcraft. Also, the event needed to be in a Puritan society to have such a strong hate to witches. People in the twentieth and even the nineteenth centuries would be too doubtful about the supernatural to believe the girls in the lay. Puritanism is a very strict form of religion. Due to the theocratic nature of the community, government and religion were one. It was mandatory for people to conform into the social standards of the town because there was no room for variation. In Salem, everything and everyone was technically black or white, belonging either God or the devil. If you went against the social norm, you were considered having to deal with satanic activity. During this time, there were many witch hunts, searches for witches or even the slightest evidence of witchcraft, and this would lead to the death of many innocent people.
Puritans believed that there really were witches and that they have the ability to harm other people. They would have trials for people who they believed were witches based on even the slightest of evidence. From these two literary masterpieces, the reader can understand the history of the United States during those times. Steinbeck makes George and Lennie migrant workers not only because they go along well with the setting, but also because they would be able to show the loneliness that was felt during the time of the depression.
These men had nothing of their own, and they were seasonal unemployed, which means that their jobs depended on the season’s weather. If they weren’t needed because of the bad weather or other circumstances, they would then have to pack up, leave, and find a new job. These types of workers would want to be settled and have a sense of permanency, and that may be the reason why George and Lennie about getting a home with “a little house and a vegetable garden” (14). Another similarity between these two pieces is the prejudice that went on throughout the books, and the consequences that resulted due to it. Prejudice is everywhere.
It may be because of skin color, religion, or even someone’s fashion sense. No one fits into this idealistic world perfectly. In Of Mice and Men, there are several different levels of prejudice shown, all contributing to the failure of the American dream. The main types of prejudice shown in this novel are racial, sexual and social prejudice. There is a lot of racial prejudice shown in this novel towards Crooks, the black stable-hand. Crooks, the “more permanent than the other men” (67), had his own “little shed that leaned off the wall of the barn” (66) with “more possessions than he could carry on his back” (67).
He, “ain’t wanted in the bunk house” (68) just because he is “black, they play cards in there but I can’t play because I’m black” (68). Curley’s wife would never call him by his name, and treated him awfully while abusing her position as the boss’ son’s wife. “’Listen, Nigger’, she said, ‘you know what I can do to you if you open you trap’”(80). Curley’s wife, who is never given a name, but always called “Curley’s wife”, is shown with a lot of sexual prejudice.
She is referred to as a “looloo” (51) with a very flirtatious nature and “she got the eye goin’ all the time on everybody”, and she might “even gives the stable buck they eye” (51). A “ranch with a bunch of guys on it ain’t no place for a girl, specially like her” (51). She married Curley after a former man in her life told her that he’d write “soon’s he got back to Hollywood” (88) but never did. However, she “don’ like Curley. He ain’t a nice fella” (89). Curley’s wife has become lonely because all of the workers ignore her. Social prejudice is also seen during this novel.
Candy, the ranch handyman, is prejudiced against because of his age and his disability, the hand he lost due to an accident, and therefore becomes an outsider because he can’t do some of the same work as the other men. Lennie is a victim of social prejudice because of his size. Curley, the boss’s son, is very short, and “hates big guys. He’s alla time picking scraps with big guys” (26). Therefore, he tries to pick fights with Lennie due to his big size in order to feel significant for fighting with someone big with his small size. Like in Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, Miller’s The Crucible also experiences prejudice throughout the play.
Prejudice based on age, ageism, is shown in The Crucible when the young girls were first being accused of dealing with witchcraft. Due to their young age, their first alibi of just innocently dancing was believed. This example however, is an example of ageism that has helped the people involved, but for Rebecca Nurse, it wasn’t as good. When Ann Putnam and the other girls testified against her, Rebecca Nurse was innocent, but she was probably not believed due to her old age which caused he to be less believable. Another prejudice that was shown in this play was the religious prejudice.
Puritans were very strict against any acts that were against God or acts that were towards the devil, and they were all called witchcraft. Proctor is a victim of this kind of prejudice because he was “rarely in church on the Sabbath Day” (64) and cannot state all ten of the Commandments since he ironically missed the “adultery” (67) commandment. Another example of this would be when Danforth is questioning Proctor of his Christian faith because “he plow on Sunday” (90). Racial prejudice is also shown in this play because of Tituba, Parris’s slave.
Tituba is not a native to Salem, but instead a slave from Barbados. Parris accuses her of witchcraft because Abigail accused against her, and because Abigail has a higher social status than Tituba, whose race gave her a very low social status in Salem, Parris is more inclined to believe Abigail. As a result of all of the prejudice that happened throughout Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men and Miller’s The Crucible, there are consequences that resulted that could have been prevented, but due to the all of the prejudice, innocent people were negatively affected.
In Steinbeck’s novel, Lennie was prejudiced against just because of his large size and also because of his mental handicap. Curley, the boss’s son, would constantly try to pick fights with him in order to justify his small size. As a result of this prejudice, Lennie died even though he had done nothing wrong. Parallel to Of Mice and Men, Miller’s The Crucible also has deaths due to prejudice. Giles Corey who was held in contempt, had been pressed to death with stones, for refusing to name people, and also, Proctor who died instead of accusing more innocent people.
Both Giles and Corey and Proctor died due to prejudice and also heroic reasons. Proctor’s refusal to provide a false confession is heroic because he would rather die than having his family’s name be destroyed. While Steinbeck’s novel, Of Mice and Men, underscores themes of human nature, friendship, and the American Dream, Miller’s play, The Crucible reveals themes of intolerance, hysteria, and reputation. In Of Mice and Men there are many themes throughout this novel such as loneliness and the difficulty of achieving the American Dream. Miller’s novel shows the loneliness many people feel during the 1930s.
In this novel, many characters experience this loneliness. Nobody really talks to Curley’s wife and everyone basically avoids her, which makes her the lonely only lady on the farm. Crooks is also lonely because many of the workers avoid him because of the color of his skin. He tells Lennie that life is no good without a companion to turn to in times of confusion and need. Most of the characters confess to dreaming of a different life. Before her death, Curley’s wife talks about her desire to become a movie star. George and Lennie have had the dream of having their own farm with a garden, and later, Candy and
Crooks also want this dream. However sadly, situations have taken most of the characters’ dreams by making their dream unreachable. The reader will be able to see how difficult it is to carry on and succeed on getting this ideal American dream of total happiness. Miller’s play presents themes such as intolerance and also reputation. The Crucible demonstrates themes of intolerance because the 17th century way of life in Salem, Massachusetts was very strict. The theocratic society in that they lived in made everything sort of like an ultimatum- good or bad, God or the devil, etc.
A resident would need conform into the social norms of the community unless they would be considered a communist or a threat to the community. Reputation in the town of Salem had a big impact during the setting of this play. Parris was worried about his reputation because of his daughter, Betty, and also his niece, Abigail, was rumored to be dealing with witchcraft through their actions. Many of the Salem townspeople were worried about their reputation and wanted to protect it like John Proctor, who cared about his and his family’s reputation and good name more than saving his own life so he did not sign the confession.
If you didn’t have a good reputation, people would more likely not trust your words and, if you were accused of being a witch, you probably wouldn’t have a good end result. John Steinbeck’s novel, Of Mice and Men, and Arthur Miller’s play, The Crucible, contain part of the American history which the reader can learn, strong suggestions of prejudice and what it could do, and also they both express important themes to live on.
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