John Steinbeck’s novella Of Mice and Men tells the tragic story of George Milton and Lennie Smalls, two migrant ranch workers in Salinas, California. Published in 1937 and set during the Great Depression of the 1930s, Of Mice and Men explores the themes of loneliness and isolation. In a time when every man is for himself to survive, George and Lennie travel together and take responsibility for each other. They are seeking their version of the American Dream: to own a farm together “an' live off the fatta the lan’.” However, dreaming becomes desperation as circumstances continually conspire to rip it away. Because the novella is told in six parts, where each scene has a specific setting and the plot is chronological and dialogue driven, it has also been frequently adapted for the stage. Its first production in 1937 was written and produced by Steinbeck, himself.
Due to racism, profanity, and violence, Of Mice and Men is on the American Library Association’s list of the Most Challenged Books in the 21st Century. Of Mice and Men is still widely-taught in high schools across the United States eighty years after publication, not only because it is part of the literary canon, but because Steinbeck has packed so many literary devices and complex social issues into a tiny little package. This primary source set includes photographs, book excerpts, and documents that provide context for both events and themes in the novella.