"Of Mice and Men" Themes

This is a comprehensive description of nearly all the themes in "Of Mice and Men" by John Steinbeck. I have tried to make each theme on its own page(s) and the list are as follows:

  • Structure of the novel
  • Loneliness
  • Friendship
  • Dreams and Broken Dreams
  • Prejudice and Injustice
  • Fate and Destiny

I hope this helps anyone doing English Lit! :) 

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Structure of the Novel
"Of Mice and Men" is a short novel or novella which is split into six clear sections and is written in a simple
narrative way, so much that it can easily be adapted into a play as it has been in the past.. The story is in
third person however there is no single viewpoint. It is based around all the characters on the ranch but in
general the story is either following George or Lennie. We are never told what the characters are thinking and
must read between the lines to get an insight into their personality. The only exception to this, however, is at
the end of the novel when Lennie is talking to his "Aunt Clara" or the giant rabbit. He is really only speaking
to himself, however his does speak his emotions out loud. The language is very easy to understand and is
mostly simple, everyday language. The speech in general is slang, for example "would of" and "brang", and
so gives authenticity to the ranch hands as they speak colloquially.
Each section is in an identifiable scene which begins with a very clear, lyrical description. This gives the
reader an immediate picture of the setting and what is going on, which enabled it to be made into a play
easily. The setting is then interrupted by the arrival of the characters who speak in contrast to the descriptive
style of the introductory idyllic description. Each section or chapter is set in a particular location and the
characters do enter and exit as if it were a play. Previous events are retold by the characters when they
converse; some examples of this are the way in which we find out about Weed from the conversation
between George and Slim. We hear the tale of Weed in snippets which enables us to guess what happens
and makes the reader wish to read on. Another example is how we hear about Curley's wife's past when she
tells her story to Lennie.
The narration occurs over one weekend and the majority of the story is taken up by dialogue. From the
beginning of the novel there is always a hinted inevitability of what the end of the book will be, with plenty of
hints towards the ending of the novel. An example of this would be when Carlson shoots Candy's dog as
they decide it's better for the dog's own good. In a way the dog is a representation of Lennie because the
dog, like Lennie, cannot look after himself and Candy relates to George. "He ain't no good to you Candy. An'
he ain't no good to himself." This could easily be spoken to George about Lennie. This is a very useful
writing device as it means the reader has an idea of what will happen but they come up with0 their own
ideas of how it will occur, which makes the story more gripping.
The story works in a full circle; the first setting is in the brush and is a place of harmony which is then
interrupted by the two men arriving. In the final chapter, however, the story returns to the brush and the
setting is very different. Where originally there were water snakes and herons, now the heron kills the water
snake. This means that the story comes in a full circle and we can see how much has changed within the
space of one weekend.

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Page 2

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Loneliness
Loneliness is a constant theme throughout the novel and crops up everywhere. Most of the characters
are lonely in some way or another and the only thing that keeps them going is their dreams for the future,
which will be explained in the next section. Some are pushed away by other characters, some are generally
lonely and some create their own loneliness.…read more

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He causes his wife to be lonely as he will not allow her to leave their
house and talk to the other ranch men apart from Slim which upsets Curley.
Whit: The typical ranch hand, Whit feels loneliness in remembering wished-for friends such as Bill Tenner
with affection to combat his loneliness. He also makes sure no one touches his magazine that Bill Tenner
had sent a message to.…read more

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Friendship
George and Lennie's friendship is a key theme in the novel. Most of the major moments are
centralised around their companionship. It is also important to understand that their friendship
stems from years of camaraderie.
Their friendship represents how it is possible for the ranch hands to overcome their isolated
existence, however, as was often the case, things cannot always turn out the way you would
have hoped.…read more

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Dreams and Broken Dreams
The American Dream
The standard American dream for people living in the 1930s was to live independently with job quality
dependent on own hard work and free choice, as opposed to being forced to do it for wealth or political reasons.
They also dream of a piece of land to call their own so they are self-sufficient. America was thought to be a land of
`life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness' and this was all the working class man wanted.…read more

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She was very pretty and simple, and her
face was sweet and young."
Prejudice and Injustice
The novel is a socially conscious one and it tells the story of characters and their futile efforts to try and make a better life for
themselves which are thwarted by the social injustices of 1930s America.
Prejudice ­ unreasonable feelings, opinions or attitudes, especially of a hostile nature, regarding a racial group, religious or
national group.…read more

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Lennie didn't mean to kill Curley's wife, but no jury or lynch party would believe that.
Fairness
Despite the large amount of injustices, there are a few cases of fairness:
Crooks and Candy are both allowed to stay on the ranch despite one having a crooked back and the other only one
hand.
One Christmas, after copious amounts of whisky, Crooks and "...skinner name of Smitty" have a fight but because of
Crooks' back, Smitty is not allowed to use his feet.…read more

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