Of Mice and Men analysis

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Background information
The novel `Of Mice and Men' can be argued to be an allegory, with the final message conveying that
friendship triumphs everything, no matter what conditions they must go through, also that the best
decisions may be the hardest. The title "Of Mice and Men" was taken from a Robby Burns poem from the
18th century. The poem is an allegory about a mouse that builds a nest in a wheat field only to be
destroyed by a ploughman, this is parallel to George and Lennie's American Dream to own a farm, which
is destroyed at the climax of the novel. The idea of the snake eating the heron in the last chapter
foreshadows what is to come of Lennie. The passage at the beginning describing the surroundings links
in with the Garden of Eden (biblical imagery) and that evil can be overcome. It is set in a harsh and violent
era, where people were treated poorly due to the deprivation of money. The country had become a
survival of the fittest, consisting of various itinerary workers circling the country to find work. The
dreams the people had became very simplistic, `livin' off the fatta the land.' Various discriminations seem
to occur (sexism, racism and ageism.) It was a big struggle to survive. The context of the novel is set in
California in the 1930s during times of The Great depression. George is small, quick and intelligent,
whereas Lennie is large, slow and simple-minded this may suggest that they are bound to each other like
a magnet, where their opposite qualities allows them to attract together. A lot of the novel is based
upon Steinbeck's life and experiences, as he had failed university and was an itinerant worker himself,
varying from newspaper work to ranch work. Steinbeck highlights the many inconsistencies he
experiences throughout the novel. Steinbeck's knowledge of working on the ranch allowed him to
become emotive and feel sympathy for the migrate worker. Soledad meant loneliness in Spanish,
reflecting the idea that they were walking into loneliness.
Main Themes
Steinbeck often refers to light and dark, or sunshine and shadow as symbols and to create an
The poor light inside the bunkhouse and Crooks' room reflect the miserable lives of the ranch workers.
"At about ten o'clock in the morning the sun threw a bright dust-laden bar through one of the side
windows, and in and out of the beam flies shot like rushing stars." Later the light in the barn resembles
the bars in a prison cell, suggesting that they are stuck in the same type of work for the rest of their
lives, trapped in a prison. "The afternoon sun sliced in through the cracks of the barn walls and lay in
bright lines on the hay.
The natural god-like authority of Slim poses a major affect on the itinerant ranch workers, his ineffectual
bullying of Curley reminds the ranch workers that it didn't matter if he was the boss's son. Slim also

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Page 2

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Some characters, (Curley) use violence as
financial power over someone, other characters gain authority as they avoid exploitation
There is hope and ambition integrated into every character, they are often kept as secret to begin with
as they find it slightly embarrassing, which is shown by George's annoyance when Lennie tells Candy and
Crooks about their dream; whereas Curley's Wife is desperate to tell Lennie about her dreams this is
possibly because Lennie had no interest or understanding.…read more

Page 3

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George confides in Slim, Lennie is delighted to be given a pup. Carlson then persuades Candy to shoot his
dog, George Lennie and Candy discuss their American Dream. Curley picks up a fight with Lennie and
ends up getting his hand crushed.
Crooks is properly introduced, with his bunk being described in depth, Lennie visits Crooks, Crooks
teases Lennie about George, Candy joins them both and talks about their American Dream, Crooks reacts
cynically.…read more

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George was father like to Lennie. "Lennie didn't do nothing." Indicating that George is protective of
Lennie, he has authority over Lennie. George was aggressive "Say what the hell is this?" He is observant
as he asked "say what the hell he got on his shoulder" in reference to Curley. He is a small man, but
compensates with intelligence and `quick wit'. He is dependent on Lennie, not just because of his
strength but because of a sense of companionship.…read more

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George was not lonely
during the novel as he has Lennie, however he will be lonely afterwards without his best friend.
American Dream:-
George and Lennie shared the shame dream of owning their ranch. However, he abandoned his hope of
the dream after Lennie's death as Lennie was necessary for the dream to come true. He is so set on the
idea of buying a ranch that he even knows of some land he thinks he could buy.
Key Quotes:-"O.K.…read more

Page 6

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Lennis is the only character who is innocent enough not to fear loneliness, but he is angry when Crooks
suggests George won't come back to him.
American Dream:-
The rabbits in the story which Lennie constantly babbles about represent his dreams despite the
impossibility of their fulfilment. Lennie has very simplistic thinking skills as his inability to see patterns in
his life to recognise that failure is imminent.…read more

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Lennie also doesn't understand the seriousness of the scenario. "Blubberin' like a
baby!" This shows that George is frustrated at Lennie with his childlike manners and tries to make Lennie
more mature by dishonouring his childlike habits. Lennie thinks in a naive, child-like way, he is fixed on
their American Dream being a reality. Lennie uses a lot of double negatives, further proving the fact that
he has child-like mannerisms and is very naive on the way he should speak, "wasn't no good".…read more

Page 8

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Curley's wife seeks out even greater weaknesses in others, preying upon
Lennie's mental handicap, Candy's debilitating age, and the colour of Crook's skin in order to steel
herself against harm. Sympathetic treatment of Curley's wife prior to her death ­ once she lies lifeless on
the hay, Steinbeck writes that all the marks of an unhappy life have disappeared from her face, leaving
her looking "pretty and simple... sweet and young.…read more

Page 9

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Curley (a man she didn't love) in order to escape her mother's grasp. She wanted to exotic and
sexual, but also realised the reality.
Key Quotes:- "I get lonely... How'd you like not to talk to anybody?" "red rouged lips... Her fingernails
were red... red mules... red ostrich feathers" "tart" "red ostrich feathers" "house dress"
Crooks is black, "Ye see the stable buck's a niggar" He lives in a bunk of his own, not in the bunk house,
showing racial discrimination.…read more

Page 10

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It is a room for one man alone. But
scattered about on the floor are his personal possessions, accumulated because, unlike the other
workers, he stays in this job. He has gold-rimmed spectacles to read (reading, after all, is a solitary
experience) "Sure you could play horseshoes till it got dark, but then you got to read books. Books ain't
any good. A guy needs somebody ­ to be near him... A guy goes nuts if he ain't got nobody.…read more


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