OMAM -Themes

  • Created by: Isabella
  • Created on: 29-11-17 18:17

Theme- Loneliness

  • The ranch workers view companionship as a strange concept (many of them comment on the obscurity of George and Lennie's relationship) yet all of them spend the majority of their free time and money drinking and spending time with prostitutes, therefore, they are still searching for some kind of companionship whether it be long term or not. 
  • Throughout OMAM, Steinbeck offers no solution to loneliness- George still plays 'solitare' despite having Lennie as his friend, and even though Curley is married, both him and his wife are rarely together and they both suffer from loneliness. Loneliness is presented as a part of human nature.
  • Some ranch workers were used to the loneliness and accepted it. They found it difficult to enjoy one another's company. (Crooks)
  • Animals are seen as the best solution to curing the workers' loneliness as they are loyal. Most ranch workers have dogs. Candy has a special friendship with his dog; when he is killed, it is a significant point as Candy is now totally isolated from everyone as he no longer has it only friend, his dog. The death of the dog also represents that during the 1930's, society had a Darwinism approach, meaning that they did not care for the weak. Although animals are seen as companions, Lennie kills every animal he is given which foreshadows his future tragic ending.
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Key Quotes- Loneliness

  • 'Solitare hand' (motif throughout play to show that none of the characters are exempt from loneliness) 
  • 'I ain't got no people' -George
  • 'Guys like us... are the loneliest guys in the world...' -George
  • 'A guy goes nuts if he ain't got nobody' -Crooks
  • 'I tell ya a guy gets too lonely an' he gets sick' -Crooks
  • 'What's the matter with me? Ain't I got a right to talk to nobody?' -Curley's Wife
  • 'You go on get outta my room. I ain't wanted in the bunk house, and you ain't wanted in my room' -Crooks (shows how he is marganalised and as a result, lonely, as nobody every wants to be with him or talk to him)
  • 'S'pose George don't come back no more. S'pose he took a powder and he just ain't coming back. What'll you do then?' -Crooks (wants someone to feel his loneliness and empathise with him) 
  • 'I wish somebody'd shoot me when I become useless' -Candy (would rather die than live alone as it is an easy escape from loneliness)
  • 'Curley's like a lot of little guys. He hates big guys. He's alla time picking scraps with big guys. Kind of like he's mad at 'em because he ain't a big guy' -Candy (Shows Curley is lonely as he can't keep any positive relationship because of his violent nature and low self-esteem)
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Theme- Dreams

  • Many of the ranch workers don't have big dreams of success as they know that they are unattainable, however, they still cling on to some smaller hopes and dreams as it is the only thing they have to keep them going. They also just enjoy simple regular pleasures instead e.g. visiting 'cat houses'. Carlson and Whit are average workers. They are able to make enough money for sex and drink but otherwise, they have no ambition in life. 
  • Steinbeck portrays the 'dream' as very unrealsitic because many of the characters get their dreams crushed in searching for them. Steinbeck also conveys that following your dream always results in death or grief. Firstly, Curley's hand is broken beyond repair which destroys his dreams of becoming a boxer or keeping his hand for his wife as he belives is gives him sexual power. When Curley's wife marries Curley, she gives up her dream of becoming a Hollywood actress and settles for a life of what she thought would be companionship. When Lennie is killed, both George and Candy's dreams of owning their own farm are crushed, as they are unable to support themselves so they can't buy the farm. 
  • George uses the 'dream' of the farm to pick-up the mood and atmosphere. However, at the beginning of chapter 1 he speak 'rhythmically' about the dream suggesting he belives it may happen but in chapter 6 he speaks 'monotonously', showing that he finally accepts that dreams will never come true.
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Key Quotes- Dreams

  • 'An' live off the fatta the lan' -George & Lennie (George wants roots and stability so he can fend for himself and provide for himself.)
  • '''I wrote a letter. Wonder if they put it in the book''... An' that's just what they done. There it is.' - Slim (In the transient life of the workers, for them it is rare to leave any permanent mark on the world. In this letter, Bill Tenner, has achieved an immortality the other men cannot imagine for themselves.)
  • 'We wouldn't ask nobody if we could' -George (Shows he wants independence)
  • 'Every damn one of ’em’s got a little piece of land in his head. An’ never a God damn one of ’em ever gets it. Just like heaven. Ever’body wants a little piece of lan’. I read plenty of books out here. Nobody never gets to heaven, and nobody gets no land.' -Crooks (He realise that dreams are unrealistic and people can't ever find success)
  • 'I think I knowed from the very first. I think I knowed we'd never do her. He usta like to hear about it so much I got to thinking maybe we would.' -George (Originally George belived in his dream, however, after multiple tragedies and failures of people trying to reach their dreams, he comes to the conclusion that dreams are unrealistic) 
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Theme- Discrimination & Prejudice

  • The main types of discrimination throughout the novella are: racism, sexism, ageism, disability discrimination and eliteism. 
  • Crooks is the worst treated character in OMAM as he has very few rights and because he is black, he is an easy target to let out frustration. He is extremely isolated from society as he is physically segragated from the other workers and him and his belongings are mixed amongst the horse equipment showing that people have little care and respect for him and treat him like an animal. He dreams of companionship or any kind of human interaction as he is so lonely but he knows that this will never happen as he is black and he realises that dreams never come true, therefore, he never tries to follow this dream. 
  • Candy is also mistreated because of his age and disability. The most significant part for Candy is when is dog gets shot. The dog is a symbol for Candy as when the dog is described as being ' no teeth...stiff with rheumatism' it is actually a reflection of Candy which shows that the ranch workers are dissmissive of older people. The "mercy" killing of Candy's dog shows how the strong destroy the weak on the ranch. The killing also foreshadows Lennies death as he is killed in the same way and the link between the dogs blind eyes and Lennie's pale eyes adds to the certainty of this foreshadowing of death.
  • Curley's wife represents sexism as she is treated like an object because she is a woman and it is mentioned multiple times that women don't belong on a ranch.
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Key Quotes- Discrimination & Prejudice

  • 'If he finds out what a crazy ******* you are, we won't get no job..' -George (The boss will discriminate people with disabilities)
  • ****** - Characters refer to Crooks (Uses offensive, racial slurs to show they have authority over Crooks)
  • 'He paused in relish of the memory'-Candy (Candy is sadistic in a way as he enjoys remebering Crooks in a fight and being threatned to be killed)
  • '"Why ain’t you wanted?"  ''Cause I'm black..''' -Crooks (Shows Lennie's innocence but also the racial prejudice at the time)
  • 'Guys don't come into a colored man's room very much.' -Crooks (Shows that he's not only lonely because he's socially segregated because of his skin colour but there is also a physical segregation futhering his isolation and discrimination.) 
  • 'This is just a ****** talkin', an' a busted-back ******. So it don't mean nothing, see?' (Shows that if you are in the segregated minority, people don't believe what you say or listen to you. However, Crooks uses this to his adavantage so ge can't be held accoutable for his actions)
  • 'If I were a relative of yours, I'd shoot myself...' -George (Shows that people of the time wanted to eradicate the weak and weren't accepting of people with disabilities)
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Theme- Power

  • All characters crave power as after the Great Depression, it was the most achievable form of success and something all characters tried to cling on to for as long as possible.
  • The power on the ranch, except from Slim's, was not earned, it was recieved through heritage. Curley has socio-economic power as he is the boss' son. He only marries his wife to prove to himself and others that with his power, he is capable of getting what he wants. Curley's Wife  has socio-economic power too as she is married to Curley and she uses this as a threat against characters such as Crooks. However, she also has sexual power which she is fully aware of and uses it to gain attention from the other workers, however, this portrays her in a negative way as the ranch workers misunderstand her and belive she only craves sexual attention from them instead of true companionship. 
  • Throughout OMAM, Steinbeck converys that missuse of power leads to tragic consequences. Lennie abuses his physical power and kills Curley's wife. Curley's wife abuses her sexual power and as a result gets killed. George abuses his power over Lennie and he ends up losing his only friend. Slim is the only character that uses his power appropriately and as a result he is well respected by other ranch workers and has authority. Steineck also implies that the belief of ownership and entitlement comes from poor understanding and use of power which causes people to become arrogant and spiteful.
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Key Quotes- Power

  • 'Prince of the ranch'
  • 'Slim's opinions were law'
  • 'Listen, ******. You know what I can do to you if you open your trap?'
  • 'They left all the weak ones here'
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Theme- Friendship/Companionship

  • Although all of the characters search for some type of companionship to suppress their loneliness throughout OMAM, very few of them understand the true meaning of companionship. 
  • George & Lennie- Geroge and Lenie's relationship is most like a father and son relationship as George cares for Lennie and always makes sure everything he does is in Lennie's best interest. George doesn't get a real sense of fulfillment from their relationship as they areen't of the same emotional or social intelligence which makes it difficult for Geroge to have meaningful converstaions with him. Furthermore, George uses Lennie for his own benefit (fight with Curley) and his disability to make himself feel better and 'smart'. 
  • Candy & his dog- Candy finds companionship in his dog who he has had for many years. He uses the dog to escape from his loneliness as the dog is devoted and loyal to him. Candy loves his dog and tries everythung to persuade the other ranch workers not to shoot his dog but they don't understand the significance of their relationship.
  • Geroge & Slim- Slim is someone everyone trusts. George offloads his trouble and worries about Lennie to Slim as he knows that Slim will understand him and listen. There is a rare bond of trust between George and Slim and the other ranch men don't have this. 
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Key Quotes- Friendship/Companionship

  • 'I'd leave it all for you'
  • 'I got you and you got me'
  • 'Ain't many guys travel around together'
  • 'Never seem to give a damn about nobody'
  • 'Kept his distance and demanded that other people kept theirs'
  • 'Think I don't like to talk somebody evry' once in a while?'
  • 'I seen the guys that go around alone on ranches... They get mean after a while'
  • 'It's a lot nicer to go around with a guy you know'
  • 'I shouldn't let no stranger shoot my dog'
  • 'I ain't gonna let them hurt Lennie'
  • 'You wouldn't tell?...No, course not'
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Theme- Nature/Animals

  • OMAM uses the natural world as a contrast to prejudiced justice of the civilised world. The disturbance of nature of the river by Lennie and environment by the animals forewarns of the consequences of man's actions and the inextricable relationship between man and nature. 
  • From the beginning of c.1, Lennie is refered to as a horse which connotes his hardworking personality and tall,solid build. However, Lennie is also presneted as a bear which hints at his dangerous nature and the potential threat he is to others. Moreover, it symbolises his strength and courage. 
  • The repeting theme of mice throughout OMAM symbolises Lennie's vulnerability as they are fragile and powerless like Lennie. The recurring death of mice suggests Lennie's death as he always kills them from petting them too hard or squeezing them if they bite him. This foreshadows Lennie's death because for him, killing Curley's wife is like the mouse biting him so in return, he must be killed like the mice were. 
  • The rabbit imagery could symbolise that similar to Lennie, in a tense or dangerous situation, rabbits run away to escape which is shown in Lennie when he tries to escape from Curley in the fight and when he runs away after killing Curley's wife. At the end of OMAM, Lennie talks to an imaginary rabbit, which comes out of his forehead. This makes the reader aware that Lennie's dream to tend to the rabbit was only imaginary and something that he could never really achieve.
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Key Quotes- Nature/Animals

  • 'at his heels there walked a dragfooted sheep dog, gray of muzzle, and with pale, blind old eyes' 
  • 'walked heavily, dragging his feet a little, way a bear drags his paws'
  • 'Lennie dabbled his big paw in the water and wiggled his fingers so the water arose in little splashes; rings widened across the pool' (Shows impending doom to follow as he is creating a disturbance to nature)
  • and out of Lennies head there came a gigantic rabbit. It sat on its haunches in front of him. and walked its ears and crinkled his nose at him . And spoke in Lennie's voice. (Shows manifestation of Lennies guilts and fears. Presents all of his anxieties through internal dialogue. This fanstasy takes form as a rabbit as it one of Lennies only means of understanding his thoughts through. The rabbite is a conduite. The rabbit gives him hell in Georgre's words which Lennie had memorised showing a development in his character and understanding of the troubles he has caused.)
  • Slowly, like a terrier who doesn't want to bring a ball to its master
  • Want me to tell ya what'll happen? They'll take ya to the booby hatch. They'll tie ya up with a collar, like a dog
  • He pawed up the hay until it partly covered her
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Theme- Women

  • The portrayal of women in OMAM is disparaging. It is clear that during the time, women were seen merely as objects for man's pleasure, and if they weren't obedient, they would be punished. 
  • The ranch workers often go to 'cathouses'. This reflects the belief that they think that women are beneath them and by 'buying' them it is further evidence to suggest that men used women for immeadiate sexual gratification and to fulfill their needs whenever they want.
  • Curley's wife is described as a genitive of her husband, she is given no name throughout the novella. She looks for attention and love from other ranch workers as she has none from Curley. Curley dehumanises her as she is not able to make decisions about who she interacts with, where she goes or what she does. She has little power however she uses her sexuality to try and achieve her dream and escape from loneliness. At the end of the novella, she is punished with death (missuse of power?) as a result of her looking for attention from Lennie, however, when she is dead she loses the title of Curley's wife and is referred to as the 'dead girl' showing that her death has the most significant power as it shows her escpae from Curley's possession and reflects her new found liberty. Here, Steinbeck is trying to convey that women were living in a man's world and it was difficult for them to escape from the control of man and were punished for not doing what a man wanted them to.
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Key Quotes- Women

  • 'glove fulla Vaseline' (Curley's wife is Curley's possession and he can use and abuse her whenever he wants because he has sexual power over her. It shows he has no love or respect for her and only married her to fulfill his sexual needs)
  • 'she wore red...'
  • 'I never get to talk to nobody'
  • 'Don't you even take a look at that *****'
  • 'I don't like Curley, he ain't a nice fella'
  • 'She's gonna make a mess'
  • 'They left all the weak one's here
  • 'She got the eye'
  • 'Sure I got a husban'. You all seen him. Swell guy, ain't he?'
  • 'Curley's wife'
  • 'Cathouse' (After only being married for 2 weeks Curley went out with the ranch workers. This shows he doesn't love his wife and uses her for sexual gratifictation)
  • 'you just was no good'
  • 'the meanness and the plannings and the discontent and the ache for attention were all gone from her face'
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