John SteinbeckJohn SteinbeckOne of The Great AmericanOne of The Great AmericanWriters of the 20Writers of the 20ththCenturyCentury
A Look at the AuthorA Look at the Author Born February 27Born February 27ththin 1902 in Salinas, California,in 1902 in Salinas, California,John was the third of four children, and the only son.John was the third of four children, and the only son. During his childhood, SteinbeckDuring his childhood, Steinbecklearned to appreciate his surroundings,learned to appreciate his surroundings,and loved the Salinas countryside andand loved the Salinas countryside andthe nearby Pacific Ocean; it would bethe nearby Pacific Ocean; it would bethis appreciation that would later comethis appreciation that would later comeout in his writing.out in his writing. Steinbeck worked during his summers as a hiredSteinbeck worked during his summers as a hiredhand in nearby ranches.hand in nearby ranches.
At the age of 14 he decided to be a writerAt the age of 14 he decided to be a writerand spent a lot of time writing in his room.and spent a lot of time writing in his room. In high school, Steinbeck did well in EnglishIn high school, Steinbeck did well in Englishand edited the school yearbook.and edited the school yearbook. From 1919-1925 Steinbeck attended StanfordFrom 1919-1925 Steinbeck attended StanfordUniversity to please his parents, but only choseUniversity to please his parents, but only chosecourses that interested him, classical and Britishcourses that interested him, classical and BritishLiterature, writing courses, and an odd scienceLiterature, writing courses, and an odd sciencecourse.course. However, Steinbeck did not receive a degree because heHowever, Steinbeck did not receive a degree because hewould drop in and out of school, sometimes to work withwould drop in and out of school, sometimes to work withmigrant workers and bindlestiffs on California ranches.migrant workers and bindlestiffs on California ranches.
What’saBindlestiff?What’saBindlestiff?A hobo, especially one who carries a bedroll.
During the late 1920s and 1930s, he concentrated onDuring the late 1920s and 1930s, he concentrated onwriting and wrote several novels set in California.writing and wrote several novels set in California. Steinbeck gainedSteinbeck gainedgreat success bygreat success byreaders and critics.readers and critics.
In 1929, he published his first novel,In 1929, he published his first novel, Cup of GoldCup of Gold In 1930, Steinbeck married Carol Henning, and theyIn 1930, Steinbeck married Carol Henning, and theymoved into his family’s home. His father helped supportmoved into his family’s home. His father helped supportthe struggling couple, but unfortunately, they divorced inthe struggling couple, but unfortunately, they divorced in1942.1942. In 1935, he won his first literary prize,In 1935, he won his first literary prize,Commonwealth Club of CaliforniaCommonwealth Club of CaliforniaGold Medal for Best Novel by aGold Medal for Best Novel by aCalifornian for his novel,Californian for his novel, Tortilla Flat.Tortilla Flat. In 1936,In 1936, Of Mice and MenOf Mice and Men was published,was published,and was so widely accepted that Steinbeckand was so widely accepted that Steinbeckbegan a book tour that led him to Europe.began a book tour that led him to Europe.
In 1939,In 1939, The Grapes of WrathThe Grapes of Wrathwas published and became anwas published and became aninstant best-seller; in 1940 it wasinstant best-seller; in 1940 it wasawarded the Pulitzer Prize, oneawarded the Pulitzer Prize, oneof the most prestigious literaryof the most prestigious literaryawards in the world.awards in the world. This novel, just likeThis novel, just like Of Mice and MenOf Mice and Men,,stemmed from his experience workingstemmed from his experience workingamong migrant workers.among migrant workers. Steinbeck’s experiences in the fieldsSteinbeck’s experiences in the fieldsresearching migrant workers led him toresearching migrant workers led him tohave more compassion for these workers,have more compassion for these workers,and stirred up his concern for socialand stirred up his concern for social
In 1943 he married GwendolynIn 1943 he married GwendolynConger who would father him twoConger who would father him twosons before their divorce in 1948.sons before their divorce in 1948. In 1943 SteinbeckIn 1943 Steinbeckworked as a war corre-worked as a war corre-spondent for the Newspondent for the NewYork newspaper,York newspaper, HeraldHeraldTribune.Tribune.
While living in Monterey,While living in Monterey,California, Steinbeck said that heCalifornia, Steinbeck said that hefelt unwelcome as no one wouldfelt unwelcome as no one wouldrent him an office for writing, andrent him an office for writing, andhe was harassed when trying to gethe was harassed when trying to getfuel and wood from a local wartimefuel and wood from a local wartimerations board. rations board. Steinbeck wrote that his old friendsSteinbeck wrote that his old friendsdid not want to be around him,did not want to be around him,partly because of his works, andpartly because of his works, andpartly because he was so successful:partly because he was so successful:“This isnt my country anymore. And“This isnt my country anymore. Andit wont be until I am dead. It makesit wont be until I am dead. It makesme very sad.”me very sad.” He left Monterey theHe left Monterey thenext year and moved to New York.next year and moved to New York.
In 1948 he moved back to Monterey. A yearIn 1948 he moved back to Monterey. A yearlater he met Elaine Scott, who in 1950 becamelater he met Elaine Scott, who in 1950 becamehis third wife.his third wife. Although he continued to write and publish,Although he continued to write and publish,he never felt at ease in his life, and once wrotehe never felt at ease in his life, and once wroteto an aspiring writer from Salinas:to an aspiring writer from Salinas:““Dont think for a moment that you will everDont think for a moment that you will everbe forgiven for being what they call ‘different.’ Yoube forgiven for being what they call ‘different.’ Youwon’t! I still have not been forgiven. Only when Iwon’t! I still have not been forgiven. Only when Iam delivered in a pine box will I be consideredam delivered in a pine box will I be considered‘safe.’ After I had written the Grapes of Wrath the‘safe.’ After I had written the Grapes of Wrath thelibrarians at the Salinas Public Library, who hadlibrarians at the Salinas Public Library, who hadknown my folks remarked that is was lucky myknown my folks remarked that is was lucky myparents were dead so that they did not have toparents were dead so that they did not have tosuffer this shame.” suffer this shame.”
One of Steinbeck’s two sons fought in theOne of Steinbeck’s two sons fought in theVietnam War, while Steinbeck himself was inVietnam War, while Steinbeck himself was inAsia covering the war forAsia covering the war for NewsdayNewsday, a Long, a LongIsland newspaper.Island newspaper. Steinbeck lost a number of friendsSteinbeck lost a number of friendsduring the anti-war movement due toduring the anti-war movement due tohis open support of the war andhis open support of the war andAmerica’s involvement.America’s involvement.
Steinbeck’s last twoSteinbeck’s last twobooks were nonfiction.books were nonfiction. Travels with Charley inTravels with Charley inSearch of AmericaSearch of America was anwas anaccount of his trip fromaccount of his trip fromMaine to California withMaine to California withhis poodle, Charley.his poodle, Charley. His final book,His final book, AmericaAmericaand the Americans,and the Americans, waswasabout his belief that inabout his belief that intime, America wouldtime, America wouldonce again feel united.once again feel united.
John Steinbeck died on December 20, 1968, at hisJohn Steinbeck died on December 20, 1968, at hisapartment in New York City.apartment in New York City. His wife took him home to Salinas to be buried nearHis wife took him home to Salinas to be buried nearthe land that he spent his life writing about.the land that he spent his life writing about.
Mural overlooking The NationalMural overlooking The NationalSteinbeck Centerin SalinasSteinbeck Centerin Salinas
The BookOf MiceandMen was originally called SomethingThatHappened. When Steinbeck first thought of the idea forthebook he intended it to be forchildren. Steinbeck told afriend that he was experimenting with a new“dramatic form.”In May 1936, he wrote a manuscript, but his puppy(a settercalled Toby) ate it!He said of the book:"Itis anexperimentandIdontknowhowsuccessful."
Of Mice and MenOf Mice and Men – Title’s Origin– Title’s Origin The title of the novel comes from a poemThe title of the novel comes from a poemby the Scottish poet Robert Burns (1759by the Scottish poet Robert Burns (1759-96)-96)The best laid schemes o’ mice and menThe best laid schemes o’ mice and menGang aft agleyGang aft agley [often go wrong][often go wrong]And leave us nought but grief and painAnd leave us nought but grief and painFor promised joy!For promised joy!The best laid schemes of miceThe best laid schemes of miceand men often go wrong-and men often go wrong-referring to a little mouse whoreferring to a little mouse whohad so carefully built her burrowhad so carefully built her burrowin a field to protect herself andin a field to protect herself andher little mice babies – and theher little mice babies – and theburrow is turned over andburrow is turned over anddestroyed by the man plowing.destroyed by the man plowing.
Of Miceand MenOf Miceand Men The novel deals with theThe novel deals with theissues deartoissues deartoSteinbeck’s heart -Steinbeck’s heart -poverty, homelessness,poverty, homelessness,the exploitation ofthe exploitation ofitinerant workers, theitinerant workers, thefailure of the Dream,failure of the Dream,America’s general moralAmerica’s general moraldecline.decline.
Main CharactersMain Characters::Lennie & GeorgeLennie & George
LennieSmall Lennieisalarge, lumbering, childlikeLennieisalarge, lumbering, childlikemigrant worker. Duetomigrant worker. Duetohismild mental disability, Lenniehismild mental disability, Lenniecompletely dependsupon George, hiscompletely dependsupon George, hisfriend and traveling companion, forfriend and traveling companion, forguidanceand protection. Thetwo menguidanceand protection. Thetwo menshareavision of afarm that they willshareavision of afarm that they willown together, avision that Lennieown together, avision that Lenniebelievesin wholeheartedly. Gentleandbelievesin wholeheartedly. Gentleandkind, Lennieneverthelessdoesnotkind, Lennieneverthelessdoesnotunderstand hisown strength. Hisloveofunderstand hisown strength. Hisloveofpetting soft things, such assmallpetting soft things, such assmallanimals, dresses, and people’shair,animals, dresses, and people’shair,leadsto disaster.leadsto disaster.
GeorgeMiltonGeorgeMilton Georgeisasmall, wiry, quick-wittedGeorgeisasmall, wiry, quick-wittedman who travelswith, and caresfor,man who travelswith, and caresfor,Lennie. Although hefrequently speaksLennie. Although hefrequently speaksof how much better hislifewould beof how much better hislifewould bewithout hiscaretaking responsibilities,without hiscaretaking responsibilities,Georgeisobviously devoted toGeorgeisobviously devoted toLennie. George’sbehavior isLennie. George’sbehavior ismotivated by thedesireto protectmotivated by thedesireto protectLennieand, eventually, deliver themLennieand, eventually, deliver themboth to thefarm of their dreams.both to thefarm of their dreams.Though Georgeisthesourcefor theThough Georgeisthesourcefor theoften-told story of lifeon their futureoften-told story of lifeon their futurefarm, it isLennie’schildlikefaith thatfarm, it isLennie’schildlikefaith thatenablesGeorgeto actually believehisenablesGeorgeto actually believehisaccount of their future.account of their future.
Meet the Other CharactersMeet the Other Characters CandyCandy CurleyCurley Curley’s WifeCurley’s Wife CrooksCrooks SlimSlim CarlsonCarlson
CandyCandy Candy isan aging ranchCandy isan aging ranchhandyman, Candy lost hishand inhandyman, Candy lost hishand inan accident and worriesabout hisan accident and worriesabout hisfutureon theranch. Fearing thatfutureon theranch. Fearing thathisageismaking him useless, hehisageismaking him useless, heseizeson George’sdescription ofseizeson George’sdescription ofthefarm heand Lenniewill have,thefarm heand Lenniewill have,offering hislife’ssavingsif hecanoffering hislife’ssavingsif hecanjoin Georgeand Lenniein owningjoin Georgeand Lenniein owningtheland. Thefateof Candy’stheland. Thefateof Candy’sancient dog, which Carlson shootsancient dog, which Carlson shootsin theback of thehead in anin theback of thehead in analleged act of mercy, foreshadowsalleged act of mercy, foreshadowsthemanner of Lennie’sdeath.themanner of Lennie’sdeath.
CurleyCurley Curley istheboss’sson, CurleyCurley istheboss’sson, Curleywearshigh-heeled bootstowearshigh-heeled bootstodistinguish himself from thefielddistinguish himself from thefieldhands. Rumored to beachampionhands. Rumored to beachampionprizefighter, heisaprizefighter, heisaconfrontational, mean-spirited, andconfrontational, mean-spirited, andaggressiveyoung man who seeksaggressiveyoung man who seeksto compensatefor hissmall statureto compensatefor hissmall statureby picking fightswith larger men.by picking fightswith larger men.Recently married, Curley isRecently married, Curley isplagued with jealoussuspicionsplagued with jealoussuspicionsand isextremely possessiveof hisand isextremely possessiveof hisflirtatiousyoung wife.flirtatiousyoung wife.
Curley’sWifeCurley’sWife Curley’swifeistheonly femaleCurley’swifeistheonly femalecharacter in thenovel, Curley’swifeischaracter in thenovel, Curley’swifeisnever given anameand isonlynever given anameand isonlyreferred to in referenceto her husband.referred to in referenceto her husband.Themen on thefarm refer to her asaThemen on thefarm refer to her asa“tramp,” a“tart,” and a“looloo.”“tramp,” a“tart,” and a“looloo.”Dressed in fancy, feathered red shoes,Dressed in fancy, feathered red shoes,sherepresentsthetemptation of femalesherepresentsthetemptation of femalesexuality in amale-dominated world.sexuality in amale-dominated world.Steinbeck depictsCurley’swifenot asSteinbeck depictsCurley’swifenot asavillain, but rather asavictim. Likeavillain, but rather asavictim. Liketheranch-hands, sheisdesperatelytheranch-hands, sheisdesperatelylonely and hasbroken dreamsof alonely and hasbroken dreamsof abetter life.better life.
CrooksCrooks Crooks, theblack stable-hand, getshisnamefrom hiscrooked back. Proud,Crooks, theblack stable-hand, getshisnamefrom hiscrooked back. Proud,bitter, and caustically funny, heisisolated from theother men becauseof thebitter, and caustically funny, heisisolated from theother men becauseof thecolor of hisskin. Despitehimself, Crooksbecomesfond of Lennie, andcolor of hisskin. Despitehimself, Crooksbecomesfond of Lennie, andthough hederisively claimsto haveseen countlessmen following emptythough hederisively claimsto haveseen countlessmen following emptydreamsof buying their own land, heasksLennieif hecan go with them anddreamsof buying their own land, heasksLennieif hecan go with them andhoein thegarden.hoein thegarden.
SlimSlim A highly skilled muledriver and theacknowledged “prince” of theranch, Slim isA highly skilled muledriver and theacknowledged “prince” of theranch, Slim istheonly character who seemsto beat peacewith himself. Theother characterstheonly character who seemsto beat peacewith himself. Theother charactersoften look to Slim for advice. For instance, only after Slim agreesthat Candyoften look to Slim for advice. For instance, only after Slim agreesthat Candyshould put hisdecrepit dog out of itsmisery, doestheold man agreeto letshould put hisdecrepit dog out of itsmisery, doestheold man agreeto letCarlson shoot it. A quiet, insightful man, Slim aloneunderstandsthenatureof theCarlson shoot it. A quiet, insightful man, Slim aloneunderstandsthenatureof thebond between Georgeand Lennie, and comfortsGeorgeat thenovel’stragicbond between Georgeand Lennie, and comfortsGeorgeat thenovel’stragicending.ending.
Other CharactersOther Characters CarlsonCarlson - A ranch-hand, Carlson complainsbitterly about Candy’s - A ranch-hand, Carlson complainsbitterly about Candy’sold, smelly dog. HeconvincesCandy to put thedog out of itsmisery.old, smelly dog. HeconvincesCandy to put thedog out of itsmisery.When Candy finally agrees, Carlson promisesto executethetaskWhen Candy finally agrees, Carlson promisesto executethetaskwithout causing theanimal any suffering. Later, Georgeuseswithout causing theanimal any suffering. Later, GeorgeusesCarlson’sgun to shoot Lennie.Carlson’sgun to shoot Lennie. The BossThe Boss - Thestocky, well-dressed man in chargeof theranch, and - Thestocky, well-dressed man in chargeof theranch, andCurley’sfather. Heisnever named and appearsonly once, but seemsCurley’sfather. Heisnever named and appearsonly once, but seemsto beafair-minded man. Candy happily reportsthat heoncedeliveredto beafair-minded man. Candy happily reportsthat heoncedeliveredagallon of whiskey to theranch-handson ChristmasDay.agallon of whiskey to theranch-handson ChristmasDay. Aunt ClaraAunt Clara - Lennie’saunt, who cared for him until her death, does - Lennie’saunt, who cared for him until her death, doesnot actually appear in thenovel except in theend, asavisionnot actually appear in thenovel except in theend, asavisionchastising Lenniefor causing troublefor George. By all accounts, shechastising Lenniefor causing troublefor George. By all accounts, shewasakind, patient woman who took good careof Lennieand gavewasakind, patient woman who took good careof Lennieand gavehim plenty of miceto pet.him plenty of miceto pet.
George and Lennie go to a ranch near Salinas, California, towork. George is Lennie’s keeper, and Lennie imitateseverything that George does. Lennie previously had beenkicked out of a town for grabbing a girl’s dress. He simplyliked to touch soft items. That is also the reason that he hasa dead mouse in his pocket: Lennie petted him too hardly.George promises Lennie that some day they will have theirown farm and raise rabbits as well as other animals.
The setting inThe setting in OfOf Mice and MenMice and Men The novel is set in the farmlandThe novel is set in the farmlandof the Salinas valley, where Johnof the Salinas valley, where JohnSteinbeck was born.Steinbeck was born. The ranch in the novel is nearThe ranch in the novel is nearSoledad, which is south-east ofSoledad, which is south-east ofSalinas on the Salinas river.Salinas on the Salinas river. The countryside described at theThe countryside described at thebeginning of the novel, and thebeginning of the novel, and theranch itself is based onranch itself is based onSteinbeck’s own experiences.Steinbeck’s own experiences.
Why Migrant Workers?Why Migrant Workers? Before technology createdBefore technology createdfarm machinery, humansfarm machinery, humanshad to do a lot of the farmhad to do a lot of the farmwork by hand.work by hand. Between the 1880s andBetween the 1880s andthe 1930s, thousands ofthe 1930s, thousands ofmen would travel themen would travel thecountryside in search ofcountryside in search ofwork.work. Such work included theSuch work included theharvesting of wheat andharvesting of wheat andbarley.barley.
Migrant WorkersMigrant Workers These workers would earn $2.50These workers would earn $2.50or $3.00 a day, plus food andor $3.00 a day, plus food andshelter.shelter. During the 1930s, theDuring the 1930s, theunemployment rate was high inunemployment rate was high inthe U.S., and with so many menthe U.S., and with so many mensearching for work, agenciessearching for work, agencieswere set up to send farmwere set up to send farmworkers to where they wereworkers to where they wereneeded.needed. In the novel, George and LennieIn the novel, George and Lennie(the two main characters) were(the two main characters) weregiven work cards from Murraygiven work cards from Murrayand Ready’s, which was one ofand Ready’s, which was one ofthe farm work agencies.the farm work agencies.
Chasing theAmerican DreamChasing theAmerican Dream ““Give me yourtired, yourpoor, yourGive me yourtired, yourpoor, yourhuddled masses yearning to breathe free,huddled masses yearning to breathe free,the wretched refuse of yourteeming shore.the wretched refuse of yourteeming shore.Send these, the homeless, tempest tost toSend these, the homeless, tempest tost tome, Ilift my lamp beside the golden door.”me, Ilift my lamp beside the golden door.”(( EmmaLazarus)EmmaLazarus)Written on the base of the Statue of LibertyWritten on the base of the Statue of Liberty
The American DreamThe American Dream You can be successful if you workYou can be successful if you workhard and live morally.hard and live morally. America is the land of opportunity.America is the land of opportunity. Freedom to work hard and beFreedom to work hard and behappy is enshrined in thehappy is enshrined in theConstitution.Constitution. The Dream assumes equality ofThe Dream assumes equality ofopportunity, no discrimination,opportunity, no discrimination,freedom to follow goals andfreedom to follow goals andfreedom from victimization.freedom from victimization.
The American DreamThe American Dream From the 17From the 17ththCenturyCenturyonwards, immigrantsonwards, immigrantshave dreamed of a betterhave dreamed of a betterlife in America.life in America. Many people immigratedMany people immigratedto America in search of ato America in search of anew life for themselves ornew life for themselves ortheir families.their families. Many others immigratedMany others immigratedto escape persecution orto escape persecution orpoverty in theirpoverty in theirhomeland.homeland.
Immigrants dreamed ofImmigrants dreamed ofmaking their fortunes inmaking their fortunes inAmerica.America. For many this dream ofFor many this dream ofriches became ariches became anightmare.nightmare.– there were horrors ofthere were horrors ofslavery,slavery,– there were horrors of thethere were horrors of theAmerican Civil War,American Civil War,– there was a growingthere was a growingnumber of slums that werenumber of slums that werejust as bad as those injust as bad as those inEurope,Europe,– there was also greatthere was also greatcorruption in the Americancorruption in the Americanpolitical system which ledpolitical system which ledto many shattered hopes.to many shattered hopes.
The idea of an American Dream forThe idea of an American Dream formany was broken when in 1929, themany was broken when in 1929, theWall Street crashed, marking theWall Street crashed, marking thebeginning of the Great Depression.beginning of the Great Depression. This era affected the whole worldThis era affected the whole worldduring the 1930s, but even in the midstduring the 1930s, but even in the midstof hardship, some people’s dreamsof hardship, some people’s dreamssurvived.survived. Thousands of people made their wayThousands of people made their waywest towards California to escape fromwest towards California to escape fromtheir farmlands in the Midwest thattheir farmlands in the Midwest thatwere failing due to drought.were failing due to drought. The characters of George and LennieThe characters of George and Lenniedreamt of having a “little house and adreamt of having a “little house and acouple of acres” which was their owncouple of acres” which was their owndream.dream.
IstheAmerican dream possiblein thehistoricalIstheAmerican dream possiblein thehistoricalcontext of thenovel?context of thenovel?
MajorThemes inMajorThemes in Of MiceandMenOf MiceandMenThe Nature of DreamsThe Nature of DreamsLonelinessLonelinessFriendshipFriendshipThe Corrupting Powerof WomenThe Corrupting Powerof Women
The Nature of DreamsThe Nature of Dreams– In essence,In essence, Of Mice and MenOf Mice and Men isasmuch astory about thenatureof human dreamsisasmuch astory about thenatureof human dreamsand aspirationsand theforcesthat work against them asit isthestory of two men.and aspirationsand theforcesthat work against them asit isthestory of two men.– Georgeand Lenniehaveadream, even beforethey arriveat their new job on theGeorgeand Lenniehavea dream, even beforethey arriveat their new job on theranch, to make enough money to live"off thefat of theland" and betheir ownranch, to make enough money to live"off thefat of theland" and betheir ownbosses. Lenniewill bepermitted, then, to tend therabbits.bosses. Lenniewill bepermitted, then, to tend therabbits.– Humansgivemeaning to their lives—and to their futures—by creatingHumansgivemeaning to their lives—and to their futures—by creatingdreams. Without dreamsand goals, lifeisan endlessstream of daysthatdreams. Without dreamsand goals, lifeisan endlessstream of daysthathavelittleconnection or meaning.havelittleconnection or meaning.– Georgeand Lennie’sdream—to own alittlefarm of their own—issoGeorgeand Lennie’sdream—to own alittlefarm of their own—issocentral tocentral to Of Mice and MenOf Mice and Men that it appearsin someform in fiveof thesixthat it appearsin someform in fiveof thesixchapters.chapters.
Dreams& Broken DreamsDreams& Broken Dreams When Georgegoesinto afull description of theWhen Georgegoesinto afull description of thedream farm, itsEden-likequalitiesbecomeevendream farm, itsEden-likequalitiesbecomeevenmoreapparent. All thefood they want will berightmoreapparent. All thefood they want will berightthere, with minimal effort.there, with minimal effort.AsLenniesays:AsLenniesays:– " We co uld live o ffa the fatta the lan.”" We co uld live o ffa the fatta the lan.” When Georgetalksabout their farm, hetwiceWhen Georgetalksabout their farm, hetwicedescribesit in termsof thingsheloved in childhood:describesit in termsof thingsheloved in childhood:– " Ico uld build a smo ke ho use like the o ne granpa" Ico uld build a smo ke ho use like the o ne granpahad...”had...” Georgeyearnsfor hisfutureto reflect thebeauty ofGeorgeyearnsfor hisfutureto reflect thebeauty ofhischildhood.hischildhood.– " An wed keep a few pigeo ns to go flyin aro und the" An wed keep a few pigeo ns to go flyin aro und thewinmilllike they do ne when Iwas a kid.”winmilllike they do ne when Iwas a kid.”Unfortunately, “thebest laid schemesof MiceandUnfortunately, “thebest laid schemesof MiceandMen oft go awry.” -Men oft go awry.” - Ro bert BurnsRo bert Burns
TEND RABBITS? YOU CRAZYBASTARD. YOU AIN’T FITTO LICK THE BOOTS OF NORABBIT. YOU STUPID SOB!TEND RABBITS? YOU CRAZYBASTARD. YOU AIN’T FITTO LICK THE BOOTS OF NORABBIT. YOU STUPID SOB!
LonelinessLonelinessMany of the characters admit to suffering from profound loneliness.George sets the tone for these confessions early in the novella when hereminds Lennie that the life of a ranch-hand is among the loneliest oflives. Men like George who migrate from farm to farm rarely have anyoneto look to for companionship and protection. As the story develops,Candy, Crooks, and Curley’s wife all confess their deep loneliness. Thefact that they admit to complete strangers their fear of being cast offshows their desperation. In a world without friends to confide in,strangers will have to do. Each of these characters searches for a friend,someone to help them measure the world, as Crooks says. In the end,however, companionship of his kind seems unattainable. For George, thehope of such companionship dies with Lennie, and true to his originalestimation, he will go through life alone.
FriendshipFriendshipIn addition to dreams, humanscravecontact with othersto givelifemeaning.Lonelinessispresent throughout thisnovel. Despite Georges impatience andannoyance with Lennie, and his remarks about how easy his life would bewithout him, he still prefers his companionship.
The CorruptingThe CorruptingPower of WomenPower of WomenThe portrayal of women in Of Mice and Men is limited and unflattering. Welearn early on that Lennie and George are on the run from the previousranch where they worked, due to encountering trouble there with the womanin the red dress. Misunderstanding Lennie’s love of soft things, a womanaccused him of rape for touching her dress. George berates Lennie for hisbehavior, but is convinced that women are always the cause of such trouble.Their enticing sexuality, he believes, tempts men to behave in ways theywould otherwise not.A visit to the “flophouse” (a cheap hotel, or brothel) is enough of women forGeorge, and he has no desire for a female companion or wife. Curley’s wife,the only woman to appear in Of Mice and Men, seems initially to supportGeorge’s view of marriage. Dissatisfied with her marriage to Curley andbored with life on the ranch, she is constantly looking for excitement ortrouble. Although Steinbeck does, finally, offer a sympathetic view ofCurley’s wife by allowing her to voice her unhappiness and her own dreamfor a better life, women have no place in the author’s idealized vision of aworld structured around the brotherly bonds of men.
More Themes inMore Themes in Of MiceandMenOf MiceandMen PowerlessnessPowerlessness– Steinbeck’scharactersareoften theunderdogs, and heshowsSteinbeck’scharactersareoften theunderdogs, and heshowscompassion toward them throughout thebody of hiswritings.compassion toward them throughout thebody of hiswritings.Powerlessnesstakesmany forms—intellectual, financial,Powerlessnesstakesmany forms—intellectual, financial,societal—and Steinbeck toucheson them all.societal—and Steinbeck toucheson them all. FateFate– Life’sunpredictablenatureisanother subject that definestheLife’sunpredictablenatureisanother subject that definesthehuman condition. Just when it appearsthat Georgeand Lenniehuman condition. Just when it appearsthat Georgeand Lenniewill get their farm, fatestepsin.will get their farm, fatestepsin. My Brother’s KeeperMy Brother’s Keeper– Steinbeck makesthereader wonder whether mankind shouldSteinbeck makesthereader wonder whether mankind shouldgo alonein theworld or beresponsibleand helpful to othersgo alonein theworld or beresponsibleand helpful to otherswho arelessfortunate.who arelessfortunate. NatureNature– Steinbeck usesnatureimagesto reinforcehisthemesand to setSteinbeck usesnatureimagesto reinforcehisthemesand to setthemood.themood.
SYMBOLSSYMBOLSAnimal ImageryAnimal ImagerySteinbeck also uses animal images in his story. Most often applied toLennie, imagery is particularly apparent in his physical description. Hishands are called "paws" and indicate trouble when he uses them. Helumbers along like a bear in Steinbecks earliest descriptions of him.Lennie is also associated with rabbits, which are part of his dream (hewill get to tend them on the farm) and because they are soft things helikes to pet. Rabbits also symbolize his realization that he is in trouble; ifLennie does "a bad thing," George will not let him tend the rabbits. Inthe last scene, when Lennie is at the pool, waiting for George, a rabbitappears to him, berating him and telling him that George will not let himcare for the rabbits. In addition, Lennies loyalty to George is frequentlydescribed like that of a dog, especially a terrier. Steinbeck chose theseimages because they connote particular traits: unleashed power,conscience, and loyalty. In this way, it helps the reader understandLennie and why he often acts instinctively.
SYMBOLSSYMBOLSCandy’s Old DogCandy’s dog is a symbolic representation of how anyone perceived as nolonger useful or without purpose is subject to a fate dictated by thosethat are “superior.” The dog was once useful as a sheepdog on the ranch,but now is old and decrepit, and its only purpose now is as a companionfor Candy. The value of this companionship is not recognized or honoredon the ranch, and Carlson insists that the old, useless dog must be killed.This represents the notion that the strong must always, without fail,dominate over and destroy the weak. This message is internalized byCandy, who sees that his purpose and use at the ranch are dwindling,and he is concerned about his own fate among workers that are strongerand have an advantage over him.
SYMBOLSSYMBOLSGeorges Card GameSteinbeck is often described by critics as a believer in a "non-teleologicalworld." This is a world where chance plays a major role. It is chance, forinstance, that Slim happens to be in the barn when Curley comes into thebunkhouse looking for his wife. It is also chance that George is absent fromthe barn when Lennie is burying his pup and Curleys wife comes in.Steinbeck tries to show that man cannot understand everything thathappens, nor can he control the world around him. For this reason, eventsoften appear to be random.Georges Solitaire game in the bunkhouse is exactly that. It symbolizes therandom appearance of events just as cards are drawn out at random fromthe deck. All is a matter of chance in Solitaire, and the same is true of theevents in the book that Steinbeck thought about titling "Something ThatHappened." The isolation of the ranch and the interplay of personalities inthe bunkhouse also contribute to the idea of chance. The world isunpredictable, and in this setting, plans often "go awry."
SYMBOLSSYMBOLSHandsHands are also used symbolically throughout the novel. The men on theranch are called "hands," indicating that each has a job to do to make theranch work as a whole. This takes away their humanity and individualpersonalities. They are workers, not men. Lennies hands, or paws, aresymbols of trouble. Whenever he uses them — as he does on Curley —trouble ensues. Candys missing hand is a symbol of his helplessness in theface of advancing old age and his fear that he will be deemed useless andfired when only one hand is not enough. Georges hands are small andstrong, the hands of a doer and planner. Curleys hands are mean and crueland one, of course, is crushed in the machine that is Lennie; Curleys handthat he keeps soft for his wife is a symbol of his impotence and inability tosatisfy his wife sexually. Crooks hands are pink, and Curleys wifes handshave red nails. Slim has large, skillful hands like those of "a temple dancer."