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OMAM Pathfinder

Pathfinder for John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men

What is a pathfinder? It is a guide developed by a teacher or library media teacher, for finding and using relevant resources on a certain topic, in this case the book Of Mice and Men. It is different from a source list/web links list because it "guides" a student through the materials with advice and instruction on the resources. Hope this OMAM pathfinder helps you!



This pathfinder is organized by topics that are relevant for understanding the background of the novel Of Mice and Men. Steinbeck lived only a couple of hours from Fremont and he wrote about regular people who lived where he lived rather than about exotic people in far-off places. Steinbeck was especially interested in the poor, the immigrants, and the workers of California. He wrote about the Monterey area and the Salinas valley, an important agricultural area known as the "salad bowl of California." OMAM was written in 1937 and takes place during the Great Depression, a time when most Americans were struggling for survival and farm workers in particular were experiencing great poverty and hardship. George and Lennie's dream of a farm of their own conflicts with all these social and economic forces. This pathfinder also contains a little bit of extra information to help us understand Lennie, a character with ID (intellectual disability), a condition that causes a person's mental abilities to develop more slowly than an average person.


The first step in research is knowing what we're looking for and where to look:


 Topics to research in order to understand OMAM  Potential sources of information on those topics

Steinbeck's life 

The 1930s

The Great Depression

Farming in the 1930s

Robert Burns/title of the novel

Intellectual Disability


Biographical encyclopedias and reference sites

Literature encyclopedias and reference sites


Historians, historical researchers, university history departments


Educational and historical organizations


Group 1: John Steinbeck's Life and Works:

 1. Internet Public Library: a site that groups together websites reviewed by librarians. Try searching for your particular topic. Here is the page on Steinbeck:

2. Biography in Context This database, available through the Alameda County Library, is a great source for biographical information on any notable person. You will need a library card number to get in. If you don't have one, sign up for an e-card here.

3. Literature Resource Center: Information on the lives and writings of over 120,000 authors, including Steinbeck. You will also need a library card for this one. If you don't have one, sign up for an e-card here

4.  Martha Heasley Cox Center for Steinbeck Studies. This is a university research center on Steinbeck within San Jose State University.
Biography In Depth page:

A list of Awards Steinbeck won

5. Encyclopedia of World Biography


Group 2: Euthanasia/Mercy Killing/Assisted Suicide/"Right to Die" Debate

1. Internet Public Library

2. BBC Ethics Page: Euthanasia

3. The Guardian newspaper Assisted Suicide Page

4. Opposing Viewpoints Database

You will also need a library card for this one. Very reliable information. See Ms. McAuley for help. 



5. World Medical Association (WMA): This is a nonprofit organization composed of doctors' groups from around the world. The U.S. member is the American Medical Association. Their position is anti-euthanasia.

6. The World Federation of Right to Die Societies: An international nonprofit organization with a pro-euthanasia viewpoint

7. This site expresses the anti-euthanasia viewpoint from a religious, specifically Catholic, perspective

8. Assisted suicide ElderLawAnswers--a commercial legal advice site

CLARIFICATION: In the context of this assignment, we are referring to "euthanasia" as the killing of someone to end his/her suffering, not to euthanasia as practiced by Nazi Germany and others before that time who were motivated by prejudice to end the lives of people whom they believed to be inferior. For more info about this use of the word, see:


Group 3: Setting of the Novel (Time and Place):

Monterey County Historical Society, History of Salinas

Library of Congress American Memory Project--1930s and Great Depression:

-- and specifically about migrant workers

History channel--Great Depression

Great Depression

San Jose State--setting of OMAM

Historical Context of Steinbeck's Works (SJSU): Click on the time periods (blue links, right-hand side of screen)


Group 4: Migrant Farm Laborers, Then and Now: 

1. Farming in the 1930s: This review of 3 books about farming in the 1930s gives some good details about that time period:

3. "Okies"-- farmers moving to CA in 1930s: Although they came from many states such as Kansas, Texas, and Oklahoma, the displaced farmers who moved from the dried-out farms in the middle of the country to California in the 1930s became known as "Okies" after the large percentage (almost a quarter) who came from Oklahoma. One of Steinbeck's other novels, The Grapes of Wrath, deals with Dust Bowl migrant workers as they travel in search of work. In OMAM we see that migrant workers George and Lennie still face a hard life even after they have found a job on a farm:

4. Hispanic Migrant Workers in 1930s, 1940s: From the University of CA.

5. Migrant Farm Workers in the 1930s

6. The Economist: An article about modern migrant workers that compares them to Steinbeck's characters


Group 5: Robert Burns:

Ever wonder why an author picks a certain title, and what it says about the book? The title Of Mice and Men came from a poem by Scottish poet Robert Burns, which contains the line "the best laid plans of mice and men go often astray." The choice of this title says a lot about the book. Can you tell from reading about Burns and the poem why Steinbeck picked this title?


1. "To A Mouse": This poem was written in Scots, the traditional tongue of Scotland. It's a little hard to understand, so this site gives a modern English translation. The top of this page introduces the poet Robert Burns, and then you have to scroll down to find "To A Mouse" in the Scots language with its modern English translation to the right.

2. "To A Mouse"... read aloud in a proper Scots accent!: To really understand this poem, you have to listen to it. Plug in your headphones and hit the play triangle.w


3. The Scottish Poetry Library (scroll down, this one has more than just the poem):

4. Robert Burns, BBC

5. Biography in Context: This database, available through the Alameda County Library, is a great source for biographical information on any notable person. You will need a library card number to get in. If you don't have one, see Ms. McAuley.

6. Literature Resource Center: Information on the lives and writings of over 120,000 authors, including Burns. You will also need a library card for this one.

7. The Shmoop page about "To A Mouse" has some really helpful links


Group 6: Understanding Lennie--intellectual disability (ID):

What used to be called "mental retardation" is now called "intellectual disability." When the name of something changes in society, that can make it harder for us to search for research on that topic, since older sources will call it by a different name from newer sources. Keep this in mind as you search.


1. Medline Plus (National Library of Health)

2. Web MD intellectual disability page

3. American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities

4. CDC Intellectual Disability fact sheet


Group 7: Critical Response to OMAM and Banned Books:

1. Literature Resource Center: Information on over 120,000 authors and their works. Look for how the critics responded to OMAM. You will also need a library card for this one.

2. ALA's Banned Books List: OMAM has been banned or challenged many times over the years by groups who think people should not be able to read this book. Why? Check out the reasons given (this is the American Library Association's list of banned classics; you have to scroll down to the right book):

3. ALA again--scroll down to Of Mice and Men

4. A Critical Essay about OMAM: Including why it is an important novel and why it has been banned so much

5. Marshall University: A page about why OMAM has been banned

6. National Public Radio (NPR): A story about the banning of another of Steinbeck's books about the Depression, The Grapes of Wrath.

7. An article about why OMAM has been banned so much over the past 50 years

Primary Sources:

Primary sources are historical documents from the time period you are studying or directly from the person you are studying, like a photograph from the 1930s or a speech by John Steinbeck.


1. Text and Audio of Steinbeck's Nobel Prize Speech, 1962

 2. Library of Congress American Memory Project--1930s and Great Depression