of mice and men

HideShow resource information
  • Created by: Rachel
  • Created on: 19-05-13 14:17

george

  • Like Lennie, George can be defined by a few distinct characteristics. He is short-tempered but a loving and devoted friend, whose frequent protests against life with Lennie never weaken his commitment to protecting his friend. George’s first words, a stern warning to Lennie not to drink so much lest he get sick, set the tone of their relationship. George may be terse and impatient at times, but he never strays from his primary purpose of protecting Lennie.

 

  • Unlike Lennie, however, George does change as the story progresses. The reader learns that he is capable of change and growth during his conversation with Slim, during which he admits that he once abused Lennie for his own amusement. From this incident George learned the moral lesson that it is wrong to take advantage of the weak. Of Mice and Men follows him toward a difficult realization that the world is designed to prey on the weak. At the start of the novella, George is something of an idealist. Despite his hardened, sometimes gruff exterior, he believes in the story of their future farm that he tells and retells to Lennie. He longs for the day when he can enjoy the freedom to leave work and see a baseball game. More important than a ball game, however, is the thought of living in safety and comfort with Lennie, free from people like Curley and Curley’s wife, who seem to exist only to cause trouble for them. Lennie is largely responsible for George’s belief in this safe haven, but eventually the predatory nature of the world asserts itself and George can no longer maintain that belief. By shooting Lennie, George spares his friend the merciless death that would be delivered by Curley’s lynch mob, but he also puts to rest his own dream of a perfect, fraternal world.
1 of 7

candy

  • One of the book’s major themes and several of its dominant symbols revolve around Candy. The old handyman, aging and left with only one hand as the result of an accident, worries that the boss will soon declare him useless and demand that he leave the ranch. Of course, life on the ranch—especially Candy’s dog, once an impressive sheep herder but now toothless, foul-smelling, and brittle with age—supports Candy’s fears. Past accomplishments and current emotional ties matter little, as Carson makes clear when he insists that Candy let him put the dog out of its misery. In such a world, Candy’s dog serves as a harsh reminder of the fate that awaits anyone who outlives his usefulness.
  • For a brief time, however, the dream of living out his days with George and Lennie on their dream farm distracts Candy from this harsh reality. He deems the few acres of land they describe worthy of his hard-earned life’s savings, which testifies to his desperate need to believe in a world kinder than the one in which he lives. Like George, Candy clings to the idea of having the freedom to take up or set aside work as he chooses. So strong is his devotion to this idea that, even after he discovers that Lennie has killed Curley’s wife, he pleads for himself and George to go ahead and buy the farm as planned.
2 of 7

crooks

  • Crooks is a lively, sharp-witted, black stable-hand, who takes his name from his crooked back. Like most of the characters in the story, he admits that he is extremely lonely. When Lennie visits him in his room, his reaction reveals this fact. At first, he turns Lennie away, hoping to prove a point that if he, as a black man, is not allowed in white men’s houses, then whites are not allowed in his, but his desire for company ultimately wins out and he invites Lennie to sit with him. Like Curley’s wife, Crooks is a disempowered character who turns his vulnerability into a weapon to attack those who are even weaker. He plays a cruel game with Lennie, suggesting to him that George is gone for good. Only when Lennie threatens him with physical violence does he relent. Crooks exhibits the corrosive effects that loneliness can have on a person; his character evokes sympathy as the origins of his cruel behavior are made evident. Perhaps what Crooks wants more than anything else is a sense of belonging—to enjoy simple pleasures such as the right to enter the bunkhouse or to play cards with the other men. This desire would explain why, even though he has reason to doubt George and Lennie’s talk about the farm that they want to own, Crooks cannot help but ask if there might be room for him to come along and *** in the garden.
3 of 7

women and curleys wife

  • Of Mice and Men is not kind in its portrayal of women. In fact, women are treated with contempt throughout the course of the book. Steinbeck generally depicts women as troublemakers who bring ruin on men and drive them mad. Curley’s wife, who walks the ranch as a temptress, seems to be a prime example of this destructive tendency—Curley’s already bad temper has only worsened since their wedding. Aside from wearisome wives, Of Mice and Men offers limited, rather misogynistic, descriptions of women who are either dead maternal figures or prostitutes.
  • Despite Steinbeck’s rendering, Curley’s wife emerges as a relatively complex and interesting character. Although her purpose is rather simple in the book’s opening pages—she is the “tramp,” “tart,”and “*****” that threatens to destroy male happiness and longevity—her appearances later in the novella become more complex. When she confronts Lennie, Candy, and Crooks in the stable, she admits to feeling a kind of shameless dissatisfaction with her life. Her vulnerability at this moment and later—when she admits to Lennie her dream of becoming a movie star—makes her utterly human and much more interesting than the stereotypical vixen in fancy red shoes. However, it also reinforces the novella’s grim worldview. In her moment of greatest vulnerability, Curley’s wife seeks out even greater weaknesses in others, preying upon Lennie’s mental handicap, Candy’s debilitating age, and the color of Crooks’s skin in order to steel herself against harm.
4 of 7

The Predatory Nature of Human Existence

  • Of Mice and Men teaches a grim lesson about the nature of human existence. Nearly all of the characters, including George, Lennie, Candy, Crooks, and Curley’s wife, admit, at one time or another, to having a profound sense of loneliness and isolation. Each desires the comfort of a friend, but will settle for the attentive ear of a stranger. Curley’s wife admits to Candy, Crooks, and Lennie that she is unhappily married, and Crooks tells Lennie that life is no good without a companion to turn to in times of confusion and need. The characters are rendered helpless by their isolation, and yet, even at their weakest, they seek to destroy those who are even weaker than they. Perhaps the most powerful example of this cruel tendency is when Crooks criticizes Lennie’s dream of the farm and his dependence on George. Having just admitted his own vulnerabilities—he is a black man with a crooked back who longs for companionship—Crooks zeroes in on Lennie’s own weaknesses.
5 of 7

The Predatory Nature of Human Existence

  • Of Mice and Men teaches a grim lesson about the nature of human existence. Nearly all of the characters, including George, Lennie, Candy, Crooks, and Curley’s wife, admit, at one time or another, to having a profound sense of loneliness and isolation. Each desires the comfort of a friend, but will settle for the attentive ear of a stranger. Curley’s wife admits to Candy, Crooks, and Lennie that she is unhappily married, and Crooks tells Lennie that life is no good without a companion to turn to in times of confusion and need. The characters are rendered helpless by their isolation, and yet, even at their weakest, they seek to destroy those who are even weaker than they. Perhaps the most powerful example of this cruel tendency is when Crooks criticizes Lennie’s dream of the farm and his dependence on George. Having just admitted his own vulnerabilities—he is a black man with a crooked back who longs for companionship—Crooks zeroes in on Lennie’s own weaknesses.
6 of 7

key facts

  • full title · Of Mice and Men
  • author · John Steinbeck
  • type of work · Novella
  • genre · Fiction; tragedy
  • language · English
  • time and place written · Mid-1930s; Pacific Grove and Los Gatos ranch, California
  • date of first publication · 1937
  • publisher · Covici, Friede, Inc.
  • narrator · Third-person omniscient
  • climax · Lennie accidentally kills Curley’s wife in the barn
  • protagonists · George and Lennie
  • antagonists · Curley; society; the cruel, predatory nature of human life
  • setting (time) · 1930s
  • setting (place) · South of Soledad, California
  • point of view · The story is told from the point of view of a third-person omniscient narrator, who can access the point of view of any character as required by the narrative.
  • falling action · Lennie runs away from the barn; the men return and find Curley’s wife dead; Curley leads a mob of men to search for and kill Lennie; George finds Lennie in the clearing and, while retelling the story of life on their farm, shoots him in the back of the head.
  • tense · Past
  • foreshadowing · Lennie petting the dead mouse, Lennie being run out of Weed for the incident involving the girl in the red dress, and Lennie killing his puppy—all of which anticipate Lennie accidentally killing Curley’s wife; the death of Candy’s dog, which anticipates the death of Lennie; Candy’s regret that he didn’t kill his old dog himself, which anticipates George’s decision to shoot Lennie
  • tone · Sentimental, tragic, doomed, fatalistic, rustic, moralistic, comic
  • themes · The predatory nature of human existence; the importance of fraternity and idealized relationships between men; the impossibility of the American Dream; the destructive imbalance of social power structures in American society
  • motifs · The corrupting power of female sexuality; strength and weakness; loneliness and companionship
  • symbols · The clearing in the woods; Lennie and George’s farm; mice; Candy’s dog; the heron that plucks water snakes from the stream; Curley’s boots; Lennie’s puppy
7 of 7

Comments

No comments have yet been made

Similar English Literature resources:

See all English Literature resources »See all Of Mice and Men resources »