Of Mice and Men, published by John Steinbeck in 1937, is set in the Salinas Valley of California during the Great Depression. The novels two main characters, George and Lennie, embody the American struggle to survive the Depression, but the novel is timeless because it captures the personal isolation and suffering present in the land of opportunity. During the last scene George tells Lennie to take off his hat and look across the river while he describes their farm. He tells Lennie about the rabbits, and promises that nobody will ever be mean to him again. Le’s do it now,” Lennie says. “Le’s get that place now. ”
George agrees. He raises Carlson’s gun, which he has removed from his jacket, and shoots Lennie in the back of the head. As Lennie falls to the ground and becomes still, George tosses the gun away and sits down on the riverbank, this is one of the times when it proves the main point Steinbeck is trying to percieve: loneliness and isolation. The Title ‘Of Mice and Men’ originated from the poem by the Scottish Robert Burns in 1765 , called ‘To a Mouse’.
A major point to note is that Burns is saying that the mouse does not think and lives in the present rather than being able to look over life and its past, which is comparable to Lennie (in ways) because he has the mentality of a child he does not mull over past thoughts. However he is also saying that man’s dominion has broken Nature’s social union, because as mankind we do worse. The best laid plans of mice and men oft go astray- ‘The best laid schemes o’ mice and men Gang aft agley And leave us nought but grief and pain For promised joy! ‘
This ties in to the mice in the story, but more broadly refers to the tragedy of causing pain with good intentions. There are many ways to look at this verse and how it adds to the inevitability: the mice refer to weak people, such as Lennie, Crooks, and Candy, and men refer to strong people, like George and Slim, the book is a story of weak and strong people. Steinbeck wrote Of Mice and Men at a time when he was becoming involved in California’s social and economic problems. John Steinbeck lived during the Great Depression years, a time in which many people were at or below the poverty line.
Many of those people became non-trustful of any individual new to town, or those that threaten their community social standards. People, in many cases, imagined threats that did not exist. Also, many people became extremely possessive of what little they had. During the late 1930s, California was struggling not only with the economic problems of the Great Depression, but also with severe labor strife. By the late 1930s there were an estimaled 200,000 to 350,000 migrants: underpaid, underfed, and underemployed.
However, California’s agricultural system could not exist without the migrant workers. Quotes that reprsent the Great Depression: “Guys like us, that work on ranches, are the loneliest guys in the world. They got no family. They don’t belong no place. . . . With us it ain’t like that. We got a future. We got somebody to talk to that gives a damn about us. We don’t have to sit in no bar room blowin’ in our jack jus’ because we got no place else to go. If them other guys gets in jail they can rot for all anybody gives a damn. But not us. ” Chapter 1.
This signifies how they are migrant workers during the Great Depression, two guys continuously looking for work and trying to survive. “I seen hunderds of men come by on the road an’ on the ranches, with their bindles on their back an’ that same damn thing in their heads. Hunderds of them. They come, an’ they quit an’ go on; an’ 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. Everybody wants a little piece of lan’. I read plenty of books out here. Nobody never gets to heaven, and nobody gets no land.
It’s just in their head. They’re all the time talkin’ about it, but it’s jus’ in their head. ” Chapter 4. Again it signifies the migrant workers of the time, searching for work and never losing hope and always having the american dream in mind. The thought that keeps them going is that one day they’ll make enough money and have land of their own, but the Great Depression was really tough and that just didn’t happen to everyone who wished for it. The American Dream is a dream of a land in which life should be better, richer, fuller and with opportunity for each.
It is a dream of social order in which each man and woman should be able to achieve the fullest stature of which they are capable of, and be recognized for what they are, regardless of the circumstances of birth or position. George and Lennie’s main ambition is to “get the jack together” purchase a few acres of land they can call their own, “an’ live off the fatta the lan’. This is their dream and their dream, however, cannot exist without friendship. The constant repetition of the way things will be is what keeps the dream alive in Lennie. George needs Lennie just as much as Lennie needs him, which is apparent at the end of the novel.
When George kills Lennie, he also kills the friendship, which results in the death of the dream within him. All the characters wish to change their lives in some fashion, but none are capable of doing so; they all have dreams, and it is only the dream that varies from person to person. The farm George and Lennie hope to own is a symbol of the American Dream. Steinbeck uses animal images in his story. Most often applied to Lennie, imagery is particularly apparent in his physical description. His hands are called “paws” and indicate trouble when he uses them. He lumbers along like a bear in Steinbeck’s earliest descriptions of him.
Lennie is also associated with rabbits, which are part of his dream (he will get to tend them on the farm) and because they are soft things he likes to pet. Rabbits also symbolize his realization that he is in trouble; if Lennie does “a bad thing,” George will not let him tend the rabbits. In the last scene, when Lennie is at the pool, waiting for George, a rabbit appears to him, berating him and telling him that George will not let him care for the rabbits. In addition, Lennie’s loyalty to George is frequently described like that of a dog, especially a terrier.
Steinbeck chose these images because they connote particular traits: unleashed power, conscience, and loyalty. In this way, it helps the reader understand Lennie and why he often acts instinctively. Lennie ‘snorted into the water like a horse… ’animal imagery –implies carelessness –ominous – he is simple -it will be the reason they get into trouble later in novel “Lennie dabbled his big paw” – animal imagery – referred to as a bear, suggests his size, his movements, unrefined, simplicity of thoughts, clumsy, adorable yet aggressive, foreshadowing later danger – also like the bear hunting for fish. ’ Like a terrier who doesn’ t want to bring a ball to his master’ ’ simile to compare Lennie to a terrier and George to a master. At the end of the novel, George kills Lennie in much the same way as Carlson kills Candy’s dog. The dog is seen as useless and smelly, therefore it was seen as more of a nuisance to Carlson and the others in the bunk house. The men argue that the dog is miserable and in pain, which convinces Candy to let Carlson shoot the dog. After the dog is killed, however, Candy tells George of his regret for letting someone else shoot his dog.
The dog was Candy’s responsibility, and Candy feels he let the dog down by not taking its life himself. “You seen what they done to my dog tonight? They says he wasn’t no good to himself nor nobody else. When they can me here I wisht somebody’d shoot me. But they won’t do nothing like that. I won’t have no place to go, an’ I can’t get no more jobs. ” (Page 60) This is basically Candy realizing that he’s weak and not really important to anyone on the farm; he has no more power than his dog, who was shot, had. “I ought to of shot that dog myself, George. I shouldn’t ought to of let no stranger shoot my dog. (Page 61) This was one of the most important quotes that Candy made. It foreshadowed the end of the story, which was that George would shoot Lennie instead of letting a “stranger” (the other ranch hands, namely Curley) do it. This quote foreshadows this due to the parallelism that is drawn between the relationship of Candy with his dog and the relationship of George with Lennie. George is determined not to let this happen to him. George knows that Lennie will be killed by Curley and the other men if and when they find him, and George wants to protect Lennie from the others.
George sees Lennie as his responsibility, and George feels that he must take action to look after Lennie, even if this action leads to Lennie’s death. Lennie’s death also reflects the killing of Candy’s dog in the actual manner of the shooting. George shoots Lennie in the back of the head, just where Carlson told Candy he would shoot the dog, promising that the dog would die instantly and would feel no pain. George wants this “pain-free” death for his friend. In conclusion, Steinbeck is able to highlight the loneliness of the unsettled migrant/workers, and the sharing of their dream.
In Of Mice and Men, Steinbeck has made the ending of the novel (in which Lennie’s death occurs) inevitable by emphasising the loneliness of most of the characters such as- Curley’s wife, Curley, Candy (after his Dog’s Death, Crooks and George (after Lennies Death) at one point they all make a speech about their dreams and loneliness. Steinbeck also manages to emphasize Lennie’s stength and that because he has the mentality of a child, this is not the best combination as he most always ends up doing wrong. Steinbeck explores all of the forementioned points through references to animals because