John Ernst Steinbeck (February 27, 1902December 20, 1968) is one of the best known and most widely read American writers of the 20th century. He is best known for his novella Of Mice and Men (1937) and his Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Grapes of Wrath (1939), both of which examine the lives of the working class and the migrant worker during the Great Depression.

Steinbeck situated struggling, disadvantaged people at the center of his stories. His characters and his stories drew on real historical conditions and events in the first half of the 20th century. His body of work reflects his wide range of interests, including marine biology, jazz, politics, philosophy, history, and myth. Seventeen of his works, including Cannery Row (1945) and The Pearl (1947), went on to become Hollywood films, and Steinbeck himself achieved success as a Hollywood writer, garnering an Academy Award nomination for Best Writing for Alfred Hitchcock's Lifeboat, in 1945. He is known as a regionalist, naturalist, mystic, proletarian writer, moved to anger by the brutality of the Depression.

John Steinbeck's writings and characters are a window into the essential aspects of humanity: conflict, grief, fear, and the struggle that humanity has with itself. When students research Steinbeck's version of history and humanity, geography and politics, they see where America came from, who the people were, and how they have grown, what in the world has changed, and what remains. Very few pictures in American literature are as vivid as those depicted by John Steinbeck. History is no longer diluted with simple facts and dates, but rather becomes an intimate, uncertain journey full of neglected characters, their harrowing experiences, and the future's promise that urges them onward. In fact, Steinbeck has taken on, what he called in his essay On Teaching, the greatest of the arts. For under his influence, the horizons sprung wide and fear went away and the unknown became knowable. But most important of all, the truth, that dangerous stuff, became beautiful and precious."

Photography by Dorothea Lange

These iconic images of the Great Depression document the challenges of rural life in the Dust Bowl. These photographs have occupied a significant position in America's public consciousness since they first began appearing in print in the 1930s. But as America struggles to deal with the ongoing economic crisis they find a new contemporary resonance.....

What you can tell about the Great Depression from it? What is your reaction to what is going on in the picture? What are the people going through? Devise a caption for this image.

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Historians date the beginning of migratory farm labor in the United States to the years following the Civil War when agriculture became increasingly the domain of business enterprises rather than family or subsistence farms. Always at the bottom of the economic ladder, the migrant labor population was filled time and again with marginalized groups — the poor, immigrants and racial minorities.

The Department of Labor's National Agricultural Workers Survey provides a snapshot of today's migrant workers. Among their findings are the following:
  • 88 percent are men, many of them in the U.S. on their own so that they can send money back to families in their home countries.
  • 55 percent are married. Of those, 71 percent are not living with their spouses.
  • Their mean age is 31. Many start the migrant life in their early 20s and return to their home countries within a few years to live in the homes that were built with U.S. money. They may return to the United States several more times before they are too old to work such hard jobs.
  • They have a sixth-grade education, on average.
  • 93 percent are foreign-born, up from 88 percent 10 years ago.
  • 65 percent are here illegally, up from 62 percent 10 years ago.

The 13 million estimated migrant workers in the United States follow three general streams. In the East, workers begin in Florida and travel up through Ohio, New York and Maine, following crops that range from citrus to tobacco to blueberries. The Midwestern stream begins in Southern Texas and flows north through every state in the MidWest. Workers in the West begin their season in southern California and follow the coast to Washington state or veer inland to North Dakota.

THE IMMIGRATION DEBATEshutterstock_21404236.jpg
Each year millions of people cross the U.S. borders illegally in search of the American dream — a land of freedom and opportunity that can provide them and their families with a quality of life they cannot enjoy in their home countries.

Throughout the 2000s, Americans became increasingly concerned with illegal immigration, citing the rising cost of illegal immigrants and the strain they place on public services such as the education, legal, and emergency medical systems in the U.S. With some 11 to 12 million illegal immigrants currently residing in the U.S. and working in jobs that most Americans will not do, illegal immigrants feel they are a crucial part of the economic prosperity enjoyed by U.S. citizens.immigration-reform.jpg

With many varying opinions about illegal immigrants, people on all sides of the issue are calling for immigration reform. Everyday citizens, business leaders, and immigrants, legal and illegal, are making their views known to lawmakers in an attempt to spur immigration reform that will fairly address the problem of illegal immigration and provide a solution that is beneficial to all people residing and working in the U.S today.


In 2010, the Arizona Senate passed controversial immigration law SB1070, also known as the “papers please” law, igniting national controversy. Supporters call it a common sense law-enforcement tool; opponents feel it will inevitably lead to racial profiling. What do YOU think????

Some questions........

  1. What is a refugee?
  2. What do you know about the refugee crisis in Europe?
  3. What are some immigration issues in the U.S.?
  4. Should the U.S. have a program to bring Syrian refugees here? Why or why not?
  5. In recent years, the U.S. has seen a rise in immigration from Central America and Mexico. What are the differences between immigration from different parts of the world?
  6. Why is security an issue when talking about resettling Syrian refugees?

Some film clips:curleygeorgelennie.jpgMICE_PHOTO_1_t670.jpg


1. Compare the death of Candy’s dog in Chapter Three to the death of Lennie in Chapter Six. Note similarities and differences between the two. Cite your references to the novel.


2. Compare the incident with Lennie’s dead mouse in Chapter One with the incident with Curly’s wife in Chapter Five. Note similarities and differences between the two. Cite your references to the novel.

3. Do you agree or disagree with George’s decision and the outcome of Chapter Six? What is your opinion of the end of the novel? What textual evidence would you cite to defend or criticize George’s actions?

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