Of Mice and Men By John Steinbeck Setting: This story takes place during the Depression of the 1930's. This is known because of the presence of migratory workers. The events of this book take place on a ranch in the Salinas Valley, California near the town of Soledad. The general mood of the story is loneliness and isolation. The men keep to themselves and do not normally confide in one another.
Characters: The protagonist's in this novel are George Milton and Lennie Small. George is described as: "...small and quick, dark of face, with restless eyes and sharp, strong features"(p. 2). He shows himself to be a responsible, caring man. George takes up responsibility of looking after Lennie one day after he almost gets Lennie killed: "One day a bunch of guys was standin' around up on the Sacramento River. I was feelin' pretty smart. I turns to Lennie and says "ÃÂJump in.'
An' he jumps. Couldn't swim a stroke. He damn near drowned before we could get him. An' he was so damn nice to me for pullin' him out. Clean forgot I told him to jump in. Well, I ain't done nothing like that no more'"(p. 40). George cares about Lennie, and acts like a father-figure to him.
Lennie is George's companion, he is not very smart, he is more like a child than the adult that he appears to be. Lennie is the opposite of George. He is "... a huge man, shapeless of face, with large, pale eyes, with wide, sloping shoulders; and he walked heavily dragging his feet a little, the way a bear drags his paws. His arms did not swing at his sides, but hung loosely"(p. 2).
Lennie is a simple man, he cares about George and the dream that the two of them have about owning their own land. He likes to touch things that appear pretty or soft, such as, a mouse, a piece of velvet or a red dress. These actions get him into a lot of trouble sometimes, because he is not able to think about the consequences.
At the ranch, the boss' son Curley is an antagonist in this book. Curley is a mean tempered, edgy, violent, young man. Curley is "... a thin young man with a brown face, with brown eyes and a head of tightly curled hair"(p. 25). He does not like men that are larger than him and feels the need to attack them to prove himself. This is best proven by Candy's statement: ""ÃÂCurley'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 "ÃÂem because he ain't a big guy'"(p. 26). Curley is domineering by the way he controls his wife. Curley's wife reveals this when she says ""ÃÂYou can talk to people, but I can't talk to nobody but Curley. Else he gets mad'"(p. 87). Curley is not well liked by the men on the ranch because of his actions.
Plot: George and Lennie are two friends who are on the run from trouble in a town named Weed. They find work at a ranch near a town named Soledad. Life as a ranch hand is very restricting. The bunkhouse is plain and rigid. Each man has a cot to sleep on and a milk crate on the wall for storage. The men have few possessions. As George and Lennie start to make friends, they come closer to realizing their dream of owning land with the help of their new friend Candy. They settle down to stay and work for the month. Lennie is given a new-born puppy by Slim the jerkline skinner. The boss' son Curley antagonizes Lennie, due to the fact that Lennie is large and slow witted, while Curley is small and mean tempered. George warns Lennie stay away from Curley because he will cause trouble. Later Curley does cause trouble with Lennie and Curley gets hurt. Curley's wife is a young flirtatious woman. She tries to make friends with the men on the ranch, but is thwarted. George tells Lennie that she will cause problems and to stay away. That Sunday afternoon the rest of the men are out in the yard playing horseshoes. Lennie is in the barn with his puppy. Lennie is unable to understand that he needs to be gentle with living things and has killed his puppy by playing too rough with it. Lennie is upset and mad that the puppy died, when Curley's wife finds him trying to hide it. She starts to talk to Lennie. Lennie tries to leave, remembering that George told him to stay away from her.
She crys out that she is lonely and would he stay? Lennie is confused, he expects to get into trouble for killing the puppy and she does not care about it. Lennie sits to talk. Curley's wife tells Lennie her life's dream. Lennie mentions that he likes soft things and she invites him to touch her hair. She tells him to stop when she thinks he is messing it up. She says it a little to loud and a little to angry, Lennie does not know what to do, so he holds on. Curley's wife screams at him to let go of her, this makes Lennie hold on even harder. He covers her mouth and tells her to be quiet, she screams again and Lennie shakes her, hard. He inadvertently breaks her neck, killing her. Lennie drops her and runs back to the campsite that George and Lennie had camped at the night before starting work at this ranch. Candy comes into the barn looking for Lennie and finds Curley's wife. He runs to George. They talk. George goes to the bunkhouse and gets his jacket and steals a pistol from one of the men. Candy tells the other men about his "ÃÂfind'. Curley is outraged, he wants to find Lennie and kill him. George tells the men Lennie would have gone south. The rest of the men take off. George runs to the north to the campsite.
Lennie is waiting for him, George talks to Lennie for a few minutes. Lennie askes George to tell him about their dream, and as George is telling Lennie, he shoots him in the back of the head.
There by preventing Curley from getting the satisfaction of killing Lennie and putting Lennie out reach of anymore harm.
Theme: The central idea that the author is trying to convey would be loneliness. The men on the ranch are mostly lonely men. Crooks the coloured stable buck says ""ÃÂA guy goes nuts if he ain't got nobody. Don't make no difference who the guy is, long's he's with you. I tell ya,' he cried.
"ÃÂI tell ya a guy get too lonely an' he gets sick'"(p. 73). Crooks is not the only man who experiences loneliness in this novel. Candy the swamper is convinced by Carlson to let Carlson shoot his old dog to put it out of its misery. Candy did not want to do this because the dog was his oldest and only friend. Curley's wife is kept apart from everyone by Curley. She had her dream to be in the movies crushed, so she married Curley. Curley does not like her talking to anyone other than him and gets mad at her if she does (p. 87). The men of the ranch keep to themselves and do not like it if anyone inquires into their past. They are lonely and afraid to share anything of themselves so that they do not get hurt, this adds to their loneliness.
Viewpoint: John Steinbeck creates a realism in the novel Of Mice and Men by using the dialect of the Depression era. It shows that most of the people during this period were uneducated. The vocabulary is down to earth and very much localized. The level of intrest in this novel is high.
John Steinbeck does a very good job of involving the reader in the story. He shows the reality of life during the Depression, and tells of the hopes and dreams of the people for a better life. The characters are straight forward, to the point. The character development is minimal, John Steinbeck reveals little about the characters. He starts the story in the middle of events, and carries it over three days and nights. It is a quick look into the lives of George and Lennie. The novel Of Mice and Men is appropriate for this grade level. It is simple and uncomplicated, which makes it a fine novel for learning how to interpret the author's intentions and themes.
John Steinbeck bring the era of the Depression in to perspective for the present day reader. He reveals what it was like to live in that time and how hard it was on the people to carry out their everyday lives. John Steinbeck creates strong scenes in this novel, such as when Carlson wants to take Candys dog out and when he does take Candy's dog out to kill it: ""ÃÂHe's all stiff with rheumatism. He ain't no good to you, Candy. An' he ain't no good to himself. Why'n't you shoot him, Candy?' The old man squirmed uncomfortably. "ÃÂWell""hell! I had him so long. Had him since he was a pup. I herded sheep with him.' He said proudly, "ÃÂYou wouldn't think it to look at him now, but he was the best damn sheep dog I ever seen.' Carlson was not to be put off. "ÃÂLook, Candy. This ol' dog jus' suffers hisself all the time. If you was to take him out and shoot him right in the back of the head...why he'd never know what hit him.' Candy looked about unhappily. "ÃÂNo, I couldn't do that. I had "ÃÂim too long.' "ÃÂWell, you ain't being kind to him keepin' him alive... I'll put the old devil out of his misery right now and get it over with. Ain't nothing left for him. Can't eat, can't see, can't even walk without hurtin'.' Candy said, "ÃÂMaybe tomorra. Le's wait till tomorra.' "ÃÂI don't see no reason for it,' said Carlson. He went to his bunk, pulled his bag from underneath it and took out a Luger pistol. "ÃÂLet's get it over with,' he said. "ÃÂWe can't sleep with him stinkin' around in here.' He put the pistol in his hip pocket.
At last Candy said softly and hopelessly, "ÃÂAwright ""take "ÃÂim.' He did not look down at the dog at all. He lay back on his bunk and crossed his arms behind his head and stared at the ceiling.
The old dog got slowly to his feet and followed the gently pulling leash. Carlson's footsteps died away. The silence came to the room. And the silence lasted. A shot sounded in the distance.
The men looked quickly at the old man. Every head turned toward him. For a moment he continued to stare at the ceiling. Then he rolled slowly over and faced the wall and lay silent."(pp.44-49). This scene also depicts some suspense by the waiting for the shot. The book has been well written and there is no need for it to be improved. This novel is a compelling story of friendship and loneliness. The author inspires the reader to sympathize with the characters and to truly understand them.
Bibliography: Of Mice and Men, John Steinbeck, Penquin Books USA Inc, New York.