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The Portrayal of Verism in The Pearl and of Mice and Men

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On being a writer, American author John Steinbeck says, “In utter loneliness a writer tries to explain the inexplicable.” As a writer, Steinbeck effectively centralizes on society and it’s vices and virtues like in his novels The Pearl and Of Mice and Men. In both stories, Steinbeck accomplishes the portrayal of verism through events in the 1920s through the 1940s and the knowledge gained from tragedy.

Steinbeck hones in on the adhesional aspect of problems such as poverty and the Great Depression. In Of Mice and Men, main characters Lennie and George face poverty and find themselves on a journey through California to find work wherever they can. Steinbeck effectively describes how George felt when he says, “‘Guys like us, that work on ranches, are the loneliest guys in the world. They got no family. They don’t belong no place’” (13). In the 1920s through the 1940s, homelessness and poverty took a huge toll on American lives on behalf of the Great Depression. The novel Of Mice and Men accurately describes the struggle of poverty in America 90 years ago, due to Steinbeck living where the story took place.

Another example of poverty in Steinbeck’s novels is in the novella The Pearl. Kino, a poor pearl diver in Mexico, finds himself and his family struggling to get by with what little resources they have. This novella advocates socialism by depicting the issues of poverty and famine. To describe the conditions that the family lives in, Steinbeck writes, “chinks of the brush house… corn for the morning cakes” (2-3) These visual descriptions point out that the living conditions of Kino and his family are rather poor. Steinbeck portrays the issues of the underdevelopment of common folk with the use of verism through this story.

Relatively, Steinbeck focuses on tragic events in his writing and the knowledge to be gained through adaptation. In Of Mice and Men, George ends up killing his life-long friend, Lennie. However, like George has always done, he did what was best for Lennie. This emotional moment in the novel grabbed the reader’s feelings when Steinbeck writes, “George shivered and looked at the gun, and then he threw it away from him, back up on the bank, near the pile of old ashes” (106). Steinbeck writes that George never wanted to kill Lennie and that he did it out of love. This excerpt from Of Mice and Men helps bring life to the situation of knowledge gained through adaptation. George gained knowledge because he knew it was the best for everyone.

Another case where Steinbeck illustrates the same focus is in The Pearl with Kino and Coyotito. Through Kino’s ignorance, he becomes the reason of his son, Coyotito’s death. Steinbeck accurately describes how Kino and his wife, Juana, feel after Coyotito is viciously shot in the head. This is how Steinbeck captures the audience and clarifies how knowledge is gained through tragic experiences.

Using these techniques, Steinbeck has become a world renowned author. Steinbeck characterizes verism throughout the 1920s to the 1940s effectively while also developing strong stories to portray tragedy and how it is dealt with. As a writer, John Steinbeck considers the common life of Americans in many novels, especially Of Mice and Men and The Pearl.

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The Portrayal of Verism in The Pearl and Of Mice and Men. (2019, September 13). GradesFixer. Retrieved January 27, 2023, from
“The Portrayal of Verism in The Pearl and Of Mice and Men.” GradesFixer, 13 Sept. 2019,
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