Of Mice and MenOf Mice and MenBy JohnBy JohnSteinbeckSteinbeck
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 Characters: Lennie & GeorgeMain Characters: Lennie & George
LennieSmall Lennieisalarge, lumbering, childlikeLennieisalarge, lumbering, childlikemigrant worker. Dueto hismildmigrant worker. Dueto hismildmental disability, Lenniecompletelymental disability, Lenniecompletelydependsupon George, hisfriend anddependsupon George, hisfriend andtraveling companion, for guidancetraveling companion, for guidanceand protection. Thetwo men shareaand protection. Thetwo men shareavision of afarm that they will ownvision of afarm that they will owntogether, avision that Lenniebelievestogether, avision that Lenniebelievesin wholeheartedly. Gentleand kind,in wholeheartedly. Gentleand kind,LennieneverthelessdoesnotLennieneverthelessdoesnotunderstand hisown strength. Hisloveunderstand hisown strength. Hisloveof petting soft things, such assmallof petting soft things, such assmallanimals, dresses, and people’shair,animals, dresses, and people’shair,leadsto disaster.leadsto disaster.
GeorgeMiltonGeorgeMilton Georgeisasmall, wiry, quick-Georgeisasmall, wiry, quick-witted man who travelswith, andwitted man who travelswith, andcaresfor, Lennie. Although hecaresfor, Lennie. Although hefrequently speaksof how muchfrequently speaksof how muchbetter hislifewould bewithoutbetter hislifewould bewithouthiscaretaking responsibilities,hiscaretaking responsibilities,Georgeisobviously devoted toGeorgeisobviously devoted toLennie. George’sbehavior isLennie. George’sbehavior ismotivated by thedesireto protectmotivated by thedesireto protectLennieand, eventually, deliverLennieand, eventually, deliverthem both to thefarm of theirthem both to thefarm of theirdreams. Though Georgeisthedreams. Though Georgeisthesourcefor theoften-told story ofsourcefor theoften-told story oflifeon their futurefarm, it islifeon their futurefarm, it isLennie’schildlikefaith thatLennie’schildlikefaith thatenablesGeorgeto actually believeenablesGeorgeto actually believehisaccount of their future.hisaccount of their future.
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 theThe novel is set in thefarmland of the Salinasfarmland of the Salinasvalley, where Johnvalley, where JohnSteinbeck was born.Steinbeck was born. The ranch in the novel isThe ranch in the novel isnear Soledad, which isnear Soledad, which issouth-east of Salinas onsouth-east of Salinas onthe Salinas river.the Salinas river. The countrysideThe countrysidedescribed at thedescribed at thebeginning of the novel,beginning of the novel,and the ranch itself isand the ranch itself isbased on Steinbeck’s ownbased on Steinbeck’s ownexperiences.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,Give me yourtired, yourpoor,yourhuddled masses yearningyourhuddled masses yearningto breathe free, the wretchedto breathe free, the wretchedrefuse of yourteeming shore.refuse of yourteeming shore.Send these, the homeless,Send these, the homeless,tempest tost to me,tempest tost to me,Ilift my lamp beside theIlift my lamp beside thegolden door.”golden door.”(( EmmaLazarus)EmmaLazarus)Written on the base of the StatueWritten on the base of the Statueof Libertyof 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?
DreamsDreams Georgeand Lenniehaveadream,Georgeand Lenniehaveadream,even beforethey arriveat their neweven beforethey arriveat their newjob on theranch, to makeenoughjob on theranch, to makeenoughmoney to live"off thefat of theland"money to live"off thefat of theland"and be their own bosses. Lenniewilland be their own bosses. Lenniewillbepermitted, then, to tend therabbits.bepermitted, then, to tend therabbits.
DreamsDreams When Georgegoesinto afull description of theWhen Georgegoesinto afull description of thedream farm, itsEden-likequalitiesbecomedream farm, itsEden-likequalitiesbecomeeven moreapparent. All thefood they want willeven moreapparent. All thefood they want willberight there, with minimal effort. AsLennieberight there, with minimal effort. AsLenniesays:says:– " 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 indescribesit in termsof thingsheloved inchildhood:childhood:– " Ico uld build a smo ke ho use like the o ne" Ico uld build a smo ke ho use like the o negranpa had..."granpa had..." Georgeyearnsfor hisfutureto reflect theGeorgeyearnsfor hisfutureto reflect thebeauty of hischildhood.beauty of hischildhood.– " An wed keep a few pigeo ns to go flyin aro und" An wed keep a few pigeo ns to go flyin aro undthe winmill like they do ne when Iwas a kid."the winmill like they do ne when Iwas a kid."
Meet the Other CharactersMeet the Other Characters CandyCandy CurleyCurley Curley’s WifeCurley’s Wife CrooksCrooks SlimSlim CarlsonCarlson
CandyCandy Candy isan aging ranch handyman,Candy isan aging ranch handyman,Candy lost hishand in an accidentCandy lost hishand in an accidentand worriesabout hisfutureon theand worriesabout hisfutureon theranch. Fearing that hisageismakingranch. Fearing that hisageismakinghim useless, heseizeson George’shim useless, heseizeson George’sdescription of thefarm heand Lenniedescription of thefarm heand Lenniewill have, offering hislife’ssavingsifwill have, offering hislife’ssavingsifhecan join Georgeand Lennieinhecan join Georgeand Lennieinowning theland. Thefateof Candy’sowning theland. Thefateof Candy’sancient dog, which Carlson shootsinancient dog, which Carlson shootsintheback of thehead in an alleged acttheback of thehead in an alleged actof mercy, foreshadowsthemanner ofof mercy, foreshadowsthemanner ofLennie’sdeath.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,confrontational, mean-spirited,and aggressiveyoung man whoand aggressiveyoung man whoseeksto compensatefor hissmallseeksto compensatefor hissmallstatureby picking fightswithstatureby picking fightswithlarger men. Recently married,larger men. Recently married,Curley isplagued with jealousCurley isplagued with jealoussuspicionsand isextremelysuspicionsand isextremelypossessiveof hisflirtatiousyoungpossessiveof hisflirtatiousyoungwife.wife.
Curley’sWifeCurley’sWife Curley’swifeistheonly femaleCurley’swifeistheonly femalecharacter in thenovel, Curley’swifecharacter in thenovel, Curley’swifeisnever given anameand isonlyisnever given anameand isonlyreferred to in referenceto herreferred to in referenceto herhusband. Themen on thefarm referhusband. Themen on thefarm referto her asa“tramp,” a“tart,” and ato her asa“tramp,” a“tart,” and a“looloo.” Dressed in fancy, feathered“looloo.” Dressed in fancy, featheredred shoes, sherepresentsthered shoes, sherepresentsthetemptation of femalesexuality in atemptation of femalesexuality in amale-dominated world. Steinbeckmale-dominated world. SteinbeckdepictsCurley’swifenot asavillain,depictsCurley’swifenot asavillain,but rather asavictim. Liketheranch-but rather asavictim. Liketheranch-hands, sheisdesperately lonely andhands, sheisdesperately lonely andhasbroken dreamsof abetter life.hasbroken dreamsof abetter 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’sold, - A ranch-hand, Carlson complainsbitterly about Candy’sold,smelly dog. HeconvincesCandy to put thedog out of itsmisery. Whensmelly dog. HeconvincesCandy to put thedog out of itsmisery. WhenCandy finally agrees, Carlson promisesto executethetask without causingCandy finally agrees, Carlson promisesto executethetask without causingtheanimal any suffering. Later, GeorgeusesCarlson’sgun to shoottheanimal any suffering. Later, GeorgeusesCarlson’sgun to shootLennie.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 seemsto beCurley’sfather. Heisnever named and appearsonly once, but seemsto beafair-minded man. Candy happily reportsthat heoncedelivered agallonafair-minded man. Candy happily reportsthat heoncedelivered agallonof whiskey to theranch-handson ChristmasDay.of whiskey to theranch-handson ChristmasDay. Aunt ClaraAunt Clara - Lennie’saunt, who cared for him until her death, doesnot - Lennie’saunt, who cared for him until her death, doesnotactually appear in thenovel except in theend, asavision chastising Lennieactually appear in thenovel except in theend, asavision chastising Lenniefor causing troublefor George. By all accounts, shewasakind, patientfor causing troublefor George. By all accounts, shewasakind, patientwoman who took good careof Lennieand gavehim plenty of miceto pet.woman who took good careof Lennieand gavehim plenty of miceto pet.
Themes inThemes in Of MiceandMenOf MiceandMen The Nature of DreamsThe Nature of Dreams– In essence,In essence, Of Mice and MenOf Mice and Men isasmuch astory about thenatureisasmuch astory about thenatureof human dreamsand aspirationsand theforcesthat work againstof human dreamsand aspirationsand theforcesthat work againstthem asit isthestory of two men.them asit isthestory of two men.– Humansgivemeaning to their lives—and to their futures—byHumansgivemeaning to their lives—and to their futures—bycreating dreams. Without dreamsand goals, lifeisan endlesscreating dreams. Without dreamsand goals, lifeisan endlessstream of daysthat havelittleconnection or meaning.stream of daysthat havelittleconnection or meaning.– Georgeand Lennie’sdream—to own alittlefarm of their own—Georgeand Lennie’sdream—to own alittlefarm of their own—isso central toisso central to Of Mice and MenOf Mice and Men that it appearsin someform inthat it appearsin someform infiveof thesix chapters.fiveof thesix chapters. LonelinessLoneliness– In addition to dreams, humanscravecontact with othersto giveIn addition to dreams, humanscravecontact with othersto givelifemeaning. Lonelinessispresent throughout thisnovel.lifemeaning. Lonelinessispresent throughout thisnovel.
Themes inThemes in Of MiceandMenOf MiceandMen PowerlessnessPowerlessness– Steinbeck’scharactersareoften theunderdogs, and heshowscompassionSteinbeck’scharactersareoften theunderdogs, and heshowscompassiontoward them throughout thebody of hiswritings. Powerlessnesstakesmanytoward them throughout thebody of hiswritings. Powerlessnesstakesmanyforms—intellectual, financial, societal—and Steinbeck toucheson them all.forms—intellectual, financial, societal—and Steinbeck toucheson them all. FateFate– Life’sunpredictablenatureisanother subject that definesthehuman condition.Life’sunpredictablenatureisanother subject that definesthehuman condition.Just when it appearsthat Georgeand Lenniewill get their farm, fatestepsin.Just when it appearsthat Georgeand Lenniewill get their farm, fatestepsin. My Brother’s KeeperMy Brother’s Keeper– Steinbeck makesthereader wonder whetherSteinbeck makesthereader wonder whether mankindmankind should go alonein theshould go alonein theworld or beresponsibleand helpful to otherswho arelessfortunate.world or beresponsibleand helpful to otherswho arelessfortunate. NatureNature– Steinbeck usesnatureimagesto reinforcehisthemesand to set themood.Steinbeck usesnatureimagesto reinforcehisthemesand to set themood.
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 mice andThe best laid schemes of mice andmen often go wrong- referring to amen often go wrong- referring to alittle mouse who had so carefullylittle mouse who had so carefullybuilt her burrow in a field tobuilt her burrow in a field toprotect herself and her little miceprotect herself and her little micebabies – and the burrow is turnedbabies – and the burrow is turnedover and destroyed by the manover and destroyed by the manplowing.plowing.
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