Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck is a story about two men named George Milton and Lennie Small, two displaced migrant ranch workers during the Great Depression that show a dream, no matter how impossible to obtain, can forge friendship and give meaning to life. The story takes place South of Soledad, California in the 1930’s. Steinbeck picked the name “Of Mice and Men” based on a poem by Robert Burns. Titled “To a Mouse,” the poem has a line stating, “The best laid place of mice and men often go awry”. Steinbeck felt it was the perfect description for his latest book.
It perfectly summed up the difficulties the men had throughout the book. Mice refers to weak people, such as the characters Lennie, Crooks, and Candy, and men refers to strong people, like George and Slim. The novel is written in third-person the author never tells what any of the characters are thinking, except in the last chapter for some reason when Steinbeck describes the imaginary talking rabbit and the remembered Aunt Clara, who appear to Lennie in his imagination. Some of the themes included in this work are The American Dream, loneliness, friendship, innocence, discrimination and social protest.
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The theme of The American Dream is that everyone has a dream they are after, and the thought is contagious. George and Lennie both have a very strong dream of living in their own house and have their own land without having someone bossing them around. They want to be independent and treated as an equal. When Candy hears of this dream George and Lennie have, he too wants to be a part of it and offers to help out on the expenses of the land. Crooks the black man who lives in the barn of on his own learns of the dream and wants to be a part of it because he no longer whats to be alone.
Another theme is loneliness and friendship while most of the workers on the rancher are lone souls who have nothing else in their life, George and Lennie have a very strong and complete friendship. They keep each other in mind at all times and are two halves to a person. George states that what him a Lennie have is really special “Guys like us, that work on ranches, are the loneliest guys in the world… They got no family. They don’t belong no place… With us, it ain’t like that. We got a future. We got somebody to talk to that gives a damn about us… Social Protest is a underlying theme of this novel and can be connected to the time frame of The Great Depression. At that time society was extremely difficult to succeed in and basically the farmhands were doomed to working and earning just enough to get by. The workers are basically disposable and do not any reaping benefits from their work. Their is a cynical undertone in the novel because of the depressing state of all the workers. Their is also discrimination within this novel. “Crooks obviously illustrates one aspect of racial predudice. He reads books, is intelligent, and, like any human being, needs warmth and companionship.
Yet he is denied these, not because of any inherent fault, but because he is a negro. ” (Source: “York Notes on ‘Of Mice and Men'”, Longman) The novel really incorporates the feel of the state of the common working man during The Great Depression and makes the reader very aware of how significant and rare good friendship was during those times. George and Lennie show a connection that hints at the sparks of true happiness and show unconditional love for a fellow friend. Steinbeck creates a real sense of friendship and show how much it means for another man to not just care about himself, but to stand up for someone else.
In this passage, John Steinbeck uses descriptive languages and some literary devices to describe the fighting scene between Lennie and Curly in realistic tone showing the scene as the way it is. Through this scene, Steinbeck’s intention to explain the harmony of coexistence and the companionship between Lennie and George is described. Even though, this whole novel is consisted mostly of conversations and dialogues between the characters, there are some narrations in between to help the readers to understand the scene more clearly.
The structure is similar for this passage given too: the story progressing through the dialogues between the characters and some narrations to help readers’ understandings. Particularly in this passage, Steinbeck uses narration to illustrate the actions of the characters and the dialogues to show the storyline which shows the conflicts between Lennie and Curly. For example, ‘George put out his hand and grabbed Slim’ shows the action of George to stop Slim from calm Curly and stop him in harming Lennie. Steinbeck clearly described the motion that George took on Slim saying “Wait a minute”.
The usage of narration and dialogues helps the readers to be able to visually imagine this scene in the readers head. Not only for just this first part of the passage but also for the continuing part of the passage, has this kind of structure within them. The theme portrayed in this passage is the significance of companionship in the relationship of Lennie and George. Lennie is depicted immature in this passage when Lennie is being attacked by Curly and does not know what to do without George’s commands but to shout George for help and cry.
However, listening to George’s words to “Get him”, he shows that he was able to protect himself and even to take out Curly. This ironical scene heightens the emphasis in Lennie’s lack of ability to decide things by himself and significance of George’s companionship beside him. The background of this novel contains the theme of Social Darwinism which is also depicted in this passage. George is necessary to Lennie and his inexistence might result in Lennie as being useless regardless of power he has. However, since he is with George and George is with Lennie, they both compose the harmony of coexistence benefiting each other.
The mood of the passage is quite tense and violent because of the tension that is between the characters. In the first part of the passage, the tense mood between Lennie and Curly seems to be serious. However, as Lennie starts to hurt Curly with his power, the story progresses humorously instead. “He stood crying, his fist lost in Lennie’s paw” shows that Lennie’s action have turned the tide. Curly, who was attacking Lennie for a dumb reason , is sitting down on the floor looking at his crushed hand. Curly can be a symbol of honor and wealth with him being the son of the farm owner.
However, his honor and fame suddenly becomes humiliated by power of Lennie with his hand crushed. In addition, he is not able to speak this fact out because then this happening would be spread to everyone. One comes to find that Steinbeck pays attention to the description of the characters he mainly concentrates on the hands. Lennie’s hands are described as paws, Candy’s has one missing, Curley keeps his left hand in a glove, Crooks’ palms are noted on their color. George has strong but small hands, Slim hands are mentioned and Curley’s wife’s hands are only described in terms of fingernails.
Steinbeck presents the theme of loneliness through the characters. The language he uses to describe the landscape and characters show signs of loneliness. The character’s past reflect their loneliness and the death of both Candy’s dog and Lennie create the major theme of loneliness. George was the only friend that Lennie had, and the same for George, though one may conclude that George and Slim become friends eventually. Nature and animals play a large role in the story, the main comparison of man and nature is when Lennie is described as a bear.
Lennie usually harmless and humble, when evoked ha can be a force to be reckoned with just like a bear. Candy’s old sheep dog is his only companion until George and Lennie come along. The cynical sense of the hardened workers hearts is expressed when a worker named Carlson suggests that Candy should shoot his dog and put it out of its misery because it stinks and can hardly see. The killing of Candy’s dog foreshadows the killing of Lennie. The only person who truely cared and loved about the dog was candy, compared to the only person that loved and cared for Lennie was George.
Carlson suggests they kill the dog in a way that the dog will feel no pain. The most sane way of killing the dog is shooting it right in the back of the head with the luger. George performs the same kind of kill at the end of the book utilizing the method of a shot in the back of the head. George and Candy allow this because they see it more as an act of love to better both the dog and Lennie. Another character that displays the theme of loneliness is Curly’s wife. When people feel lonely their actions and way of life are affected.
In the plot they show that if it wasn’t for Curley’s Wife’s loneliness she may not have died the way she did or at all. Because she is so lonely she goes to the other men in the bunkhouse for company. When all of the men refuse to spend time with her because of the reaction Curley has on this, she goes to the one person on the ranch that she knows will talk to her, Lennie. While talking to him she asks him to feel her hair, which he does and this leads to her death by breaking her neck. If it wasn’t for Curley’s Wife’s loneliness, she would have never gone to Lennie for company and she wouldn’t have died on that day in that way.
While their are many themes that could be taken from reading Of Mice and Men, the most important and prominent of them is loneliness and companionship. The time this novel was written adds more to the understanding of what was going on at the time in this country. The lonely people tend to be the weakest in this story and meet an unhappy ending, while those with friendship are strengthened by the comradeship they have obtained from one another. Dreams were hard to keep during the depression and were rarely accomplished, but one may think that Lennie is now ultimately living his dream.