"Of Mice and Men"
John Steinbeck was born in 1902, in the town of Salinas, California where he spent most of his life (Coles notes). He received critical attention for writing about social consciousness (Coles notes). Of Mice and Men is a novel that reveals social problems. At the time the story is set, there was mass unemployment throughout the country (History Twelve. Falk), and Steinbeck focuses on two crucial characters: George and Lennie. Of Mice and Men is the story of the friendship between George and Lennie; Lennie is physically strong, but mentally handicapped, and George is his guardian. When Lennie accidentally kills his employer's daughter-in-law, George kills his friend to spare him being hanged for his 'crime'. This tragic story powerfully develops the theme of idealism vs reality. Steinbeck's fiction belongs more in a fantasy or dream world than it does in the real everyday world(Coles notes).
The contrasts in Lennie, his brute strength and weak mind, help develop the sense of tragedy in the story and contribute significantly to the development and understanding of other main characters.
Lennie's simplicity is central to Steinbeck's development of the novel, but the inevitable destruction of his innocence makes the reader feel sympathetic and develops the sense of tragedy. Lennie's simplicity is a foil for the other character's complexity. Lennie is "a huge man", "shapeless of face" "with wide, sloping shoulders"(2), but he has the mind of a young child. In the beginning of the novel, "Lennie made an elaborate pantomime of innocence"(8) and he maintains his innocent, simple nature throughout the novel. He does not know that the world can be selfish and competitive. His mind is very simple, believing he is going to own a farm with George, wanting to pet little and soft animals, and...