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Role of Women and Symbolism in of Mice and Men Essay

Crooks is symbolic of dignity in the novel Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck. Dignity describes the sense of self-respect and self-worth, along with physical and psychological integrity and empowerment. Steinbeck shows Crooks as a symbol for dignity and pride in midst adversity when he draws himself up and will not “accept charity” from anyone. For example, when Crooks, Lennie, and Candy are in the bunkhouse they speak of their dream and initially Crooks is on board. After a couple minutes, Crooks deserts the dream as follows: ‘“Well, jus’ forget it,” said Crooks. “I didn’t mean it. Jus’ foolin’. I wouldn’ want to go no place like that.”’ (Steinbeck 83). This statement illuminates that for Candy, a man must have a home to grow old in. In juxtapositions, Crooks idealism is that pride and dignity is the most important thing a man can have.

When he lost hope in the dream, Crooks was hit with the reality that the best thing that he could have is dignity. Another example of dignity seen through Crooks is when he describes his lineage to Lennie. Crooks states: ‘“I ain’t a southern Negro,” he said. “I was born right here in California. My old man had a chicken ranch, ‘bout ten acres.”’ (Steinbeck 70). Crooks shows pride and dignity in this quote. He is not the descendent of slaves, he tells Lennie, but of landowner’s. Crooks is proud of his lineage and this shows that he has self-respect. By decreasing these prejudices, Crooks stands empowered. In Of Mice and Men, Crooks is a symbol for dignity in the midst of adversity.

Theme: Role of Women

In the novel Of Mice and Men, John Steinbeck presents women as a danger to toy with or as a person who engages in sex for payment. There are two types of women portrayed in this novel; prostitutes and mother figures- for example, the girls from the whore house and Aunt Clara. The major female character in the novel, Curley’s wife, does not fit into either of these categories. Her status between domesticity and prostitution makes her extremely problematic in the novel. On one hand, George respects prostitutes. He says, “’Give me a good whore house every time.’” (Steinbeck 56). This statement reflects how the straight-forward, no strings attached relationship is the ideal proposal with women. Women should be seen as objects to pay for rather than people to get committed to.

While Curley’s wife is a sexual object, she can’t actually provide any relationship – all she can really offer is trouble. George describes Curley’s wife to Lennie as follows: “‘She’s gonna make a mess. They’s gonna be a bad mess about her. She’s a jail bait all set on the trigger. That Curley got his work cut out for him. Ranch with a bunch of guys on it ain’t no place for a girl, specially like her.’” (Steinbeck 51). The word “jail bait” is used to describe his wife as a very attractive young girl that is desired, but she is also a danger to toy with. Despite the fact that she is constantly flaunting herself, if she is approached in any way it will cause conflict with Curley that could result in an altercation that could cause a prison sentence.

Hence her being bait, to end up in jail. This section of the novel shows how Steinbeck believes that women lure men in and trap them. The role of women in the novel is to be used for sex and to not be involved in a world structured around the brotherly bonds of men. Steinbeck also presents women as being inferior to men and how, at the time, men were sexist and wanted women out of the way. An example of a girl who got in the way was the girl in weed. Overall, Steinbeck represents women as a danger to toy with or as a person who engages in sex for payment.


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