Of Mice and Men - The Writer's Techniques

Of Mice and Men techniques

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  • Created on: 21-05-12 18:43

Symbolism in 'Of Mice and Men'

Animals are symbolic of the Cruelty of life in the 1930s.

  • George throws away Lennie's dead mouse, and Lennie 'hurled' the dead puppy away from him in the bar. Slim drowns most of his puppies and no one seems surprised. Animals aren't treated with respect on the ranch (relating to Lennie).
  • Candy has had his dog since it was a puppy - it's his best friend. But when Carlson wants to shoot it because it's no use anymore and it smells, no one defends Candy or helps him save his dog.
  • The way animals get treated in the novel reflects how American society at the time treated the weak and vulnerable. There's no sense of life being especially valuable.
  • There are similarities bween the death of Candy's dog, and Lennie's death:
  • Carlson shoots the dog in the head, which is exactly how George kills Lennie - he even uses the same gun.
  • When George shoots him, Lennie lies "without quivering" - Carlson promised Candy his dog "wouldn't even quiver"
  • When animals and people don't serve a purpose on the ranch they're got rid of. The men are just like animals labouring on the farm.
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Symbolism in 'Of Mice and Men'

Hands are important tools on the ranch

To survive in the tough world of the 1930s you needed a good pair of hands to work, and maybe to fight. This is why Steinbeck spend a lot of time describing the hands of the characters in Of Mice and Men.

  • Curley is described as "handy". He;s a small man but an excellent boxer and is always trying to prove it. But he also keeps one of his hands soft for his wife - one hand for loving, the other for firghting. Lennie crushes his fighting hand, so he's can't fight anymore. This makes him even less of a man and even angrier.
  • Candy's missing a hand. That's a huge drawback in such a physicial job. The only reason he has a job at all is because he lost his hand "right here on this ranch" - if he ever got fired, he'd be homeless and useless.
  • Lennie's big hands help to make him excellent at farm work. George tells the boss he's "A God damn good worker." Lennie also loves to use his hands for "petting" soft things. He doesn't know the strenght he has in hsii hands and he usually kills the things he pets.
  • Curley's wide's hands are part of her attractiveness. She polishes her nails in front of Crooks and puts "her hands on her hips" - a sexual pose.
  • George's hand shakes "violently" before he shoots Lennie, and afterwards he looks at the "hand that had thrown the gun away". This shows how hard it is for him and that he can't believe what he's done.
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Symbolism in 'Of Mice and Men'

Light and Dark symbolise Hope and Despair

  • As the novel progresses, things seem to get darker and darker, and even early on there's a warning that "it'll be dark before long".
  • At the end of the book, the light fades and disappears completely - "the light climbed on out of the valley". It's the end of the day and the end of Lennie's life.
  • Light is a symbol for hope and as it fades, George and Lennie's dream of getting a ranch fades too. Paradise is out of reach - George says, "I think i knowed we'd never do her".
  • When Curley's wide first enters the bunk house, Steinbeck says she cuts off the "rectangle of sunshine" in the doorway with her body. This hints that her life will be cut short later in the novel.
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Symbolism in 'Of Mice and Men'

Steinbeck uses Religious Symbolism in 'Of Mice and Men'

There's a lot of religious symbolism in Of Mice and Men. Steinbeck uses references to religion to comment on the nature of humanity and relationships between people.

  • George and Lennie's dream farm can be seen as a symbol of heaven. It's a reward for their hard work, but when Lennie Kills Curley's wife, he has finally done something unforgivable - he destroys their dream and can't go to heaven. 
  • Slim is portrayed as being abit like God - he has "authority", is "ageless" and has "calm, Godlike eyes" and he encourages George to confide in him about what happened in Weed. George's voice has the "tone of confession" - just like a sinner confessing to a priest.
  • George describes Curley's wife as a trap for men - "she's a rattrap if i ever seen one". She's a bit like the snake in the Garden of Eden. She tempts the men and wears red like the devil.
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Symbolism in 'Of Mice and Men'

Red is the magic colour:

There are a lot of red things on the ranch. Red is...

  • The colour of danger, warning and bloodshed. It's also associated with sex, so sex = danger.
  • The only colour used to describe Curley's wife - lips, nails, and red "deathers" on her "red mules".
  • The colour of the girl's dress Lennie clung to in Weed. This emphasises the fact that the story is a cycle that they can't escape from.
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Language in 'Of Mice and Men'

Steinbeck's writing style is quite simple

  • At the beginning of each chapter, Steinbeck describes the setinng, but most of the novel is taken up with dialogue between the characters, and only short sentences of paragraphs of description.
  • Steinbeck wants to give the impression that the characters are speaking for themselves and telling their own story in the own way. He's giving a voice to men who would be completely powerless in real life. Steinbeck's message is that a story about the lives of normal, average people is just as important as any other story.
  • Steinbeck often describes important or serious events in the  book in a really simple way. When Lennie kills Curley's wife, he writes, "And then she was still, for Lennie had broken her neck." When George shoots him, Lennie "jarred, and the settled slowly forward to the sand". These events are more shocking because Steinbeck describes them in such a blunt way.
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Language in 'Of Mice and Men'

The characters use realistic language

  • Steinbeck uses words and phrases that ranch hands would have used in the 1930s. For example, the ranch hands swear a lot - Steinbeck does this to make them seem more realistic.
  • There are a lot of racist references to Crooks as a "******" and Curley's wife is called a "tart" and a "*****". Carlson says she should stay at home "where she belongs".
  • This isn't because Steinbeck's trying to be offensive - he's just captured a moment in time, when lots of people still used racist and sexist language like this.
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Language in 'Of Mice and Men'

Steinbeck uses different Language to describe Nature and the Ranch

Steinbeck uses language to create a contrast between nature and life on the ranch.

Steinbeck describes nature using:

  • descriptive language - "golden", "twinkling"
  • alliteration - "slipped", "sands", "sunlight"
  • long, flowing sentences

Steinbeck describes the ranch using:

  • matter-of-fact language - "rectangular", "unpainted".
  • simple descriptions
  • shorter, broken-up sentences.

This makes nature sound much more appealing than the ranch. But nature isn't always nice...

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Language in 'Of Mice and Men'

Steinbeck uses some Character's Names to tell us more about them:

  • Lennie's surname is "Small", which is ironic, because he's "a huge man". But Lennie's fairly "small" in the brains department, so "small" is right in a way.
  • George's surname is "Milton". It's a real surname which makes George seem like a more realistic character. It doesn't tell us anything about his personality - he's just a normal guy.
  • Curley - he's just like his curly hair - tense and wound up tight, like a string.
  • Slim - he's tall and elegant, like his name. Steinbeck describes him almost like a god, which challenges the idea that ranch hands were pretty stupid and had no authority.
  • Crooks - This is probably a nickname because of his "crooked back". It's already quite insulting, but most of the men don't even call him "Crooks" - they call him "******" instead.
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Language in 'Of Mice and Men'

Curley's wife has no name:

  • Curley's wife wants recognition, attention, her own identity and her own life. To emphasise that she has none of these things, Steinbeck doesn't even give her a name.
  • Candy's dog also doesn't have a name. Both of these characters have titles that suggest that they belong to someone else. This emphasises the fact that their destinies are controlled by other people. (The fact that Lennie has a name shows that the fact he is killed is a shock and unexpected from George, although the audience see it as inevitable)

The Place names are meaningful:

  • Soledad is the local town - in Spanish it means 'solitude' or 'loneliness'. All the characters in the novel are lonely. They work in teams but are all on their own, and pairs get split up (Candy and his dog, Curley and his wife, George and Lennie).
  • Weed is where George and Lennie have come from, where Lennie did a "bad thing". A weed is a plant you don't want - it deprives nice plants of space and food. The memory of the "bad thing" spoils their new life.
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The Structure of 'Of Mice and Men'

Nature starts and ends the novel

  • The novel is balances - it starts and ends outdoors at the pool. it starts with life and dreams, and ends with death.
  • At the beginning of the novel, George and Lennie are running away from what happened in Weed. At the end they're on the run again - this time from Curley's wife's death.
  • This structure suggests that the life of a migrant worker in 1930s America was a cycle of working, and then moving on to the next job. None of the characters can escape from it.

It's a novel written like a play. The year after he wrote Of Mice and Men, Steinbeck adapted it to make it a play:

  • This works well because the entrances and exits are some of the key moment in the novel.
  • It's easy to stage - each chapter has just one location.
  • The locations descriptions at the beginning of each chapter are like instructions to a stage designer - they're very specific and give the reader a clear image of where the action takes place.
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The Structure of 'Of Mice and Men'

Steinbeck uses Foreshadowing to suggest what will happen

Foreshadowing is when a writer gives the reader clues about what will happen later on in the story.

There are lots of example of foreshadowing in Of Mice and Men. Steinbeck uses this technique to suggest that the characters couldn't have avoided their fates - their destinies are inevitable.

  • The girl in Weed was wearing a red dress when Lennie grabbed her - just like Curley's wife's red dress.
  • George and Lennie have an escape plan even before arriving at the ranch - Lennie will hide by the pool if he does something wrong.
  • During the novel, Steinbeck shows Lennie's violence increasing in a deadly pattern: Dead mice -> dead dog -> crushed hand -> dead girl.
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Setting in 'Of Mice and Men'

Most of the story is set on the ranch

  • Chapters Two and Three are both set in the bunk house where the men live. It's very plain, with "whitewashed" walls and an "unpainted " floor. The setting mirrors how basic the men's lives are.
  • The men's things are describes as "little articles" and "little vials". Steinbeck is showing that these men only own small things that they can carry on their backs. Nothing is permanent for them - they're always moving.
  • Lots of men have "medicines" on their shelves, and George brings "liniment" (lotion for sore muscles). The men have to look after their bodies because they have to keep themselves healthy enough to work. It's a symbol of the never-ending pain that the workers endured on the ranch.
  • Steinbeck describes the horses' halter chains rattling several times in the novel. This suggests that the characters are trapped on the farm, and that they can't escape what's going to happen to them.
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Setting in 'Of Mice and Men'

The pool represents safety:

  • In the first chapter, George tells Lennie to come back and "hide ein the brush" by the pool if anything bad happens on the ranch. It represents a safe place where he won't be found. It's ironic that this is where George shoots Lennie at the end of the novel - he's killed in his sanctuary.
  • Steinbeck uses similar words to make his description of the pool in Chapter Six mirror his description of it in the first chapter. The tops of the mountains "flame" and "blaze" in the evening sun. A lizard makes "a great skittering" as he runs over dry leaves and a bird "skittered" over the same leaves.
  • But there are some differences in the way the pool is described in Chapter One and Chapter Six. These differences suggest that by Chapter Six the pool is not safe for Lennie anymore:
  • in Chapter One, a heron flew off, leaving a water snake safe in the pool. In Chapter Six, a heron kills a water snake and then flies off.
  • in Chapter One, men shouted to each other in the distance, unaware that Lennie and George were there. In the final chapter, men's voices come closer and closer to the pool - it's Curley and his men chasing Lennie.
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Catelin O'Sullivan

This has really helped, thanks **

Catelin O'Sullivan

This has really helped, thanks **

Catelin O'Sullivan

This has really helped, thanks **

Just me :)

Thanks this was so useful!


i had never thought of all these ideas, thank you, you helped alot


Thanks! this was great!


So useful and really original ideas. thank you!

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