Of Mice And Men-animal Imagery

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorHigh School, 11th grade January 2002

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The Title, Of Mice and Men, prepares us, as readers, for countless connections between people and animals. Animal Imagery was a very effective tool that John Steinbeck used to develop more realistic characters in the book.

Steinbeck is very deceiving in the opening paragraphs when he creates such a tranquil setting. The rabbits were described to be playful and cute"" "Rabbits came out of the brush and sit on the sand. . . On the sand-bank the rabbits sat as quietly as little grey, sculpted stones. . ." (pp. 1-2). But, the end of the novel offers a different outlook on the rabbits. In the scene where Lennie runs to "hide in the brush an' wait for George" (p. 100), Lennie hallucinates a rabbit. This image of a rabbit is a horrible experience for Lennie because the rabbit scolds him. The view of a rabbit from the beginning to the end is very different, actually, complete opposites.

Lennie truly loved animals and that was demonstrated by his constant petting of the mice and the fantasy of feeding the rabbits, and that he was always with the pup Slim gave him. But, all of Lennie animal obsessions turned sour as time went by. Every mouse and other soft thing he came in contact with died, it was only a matter of time to when it would take place. "I'd pet "˜em, and pretty soon they bit my fingers and I pinched their heads a little and then they was dead "" because they was so little" Lenny said (p. 10). He was so big and strong he didn't know his own strength and that physical feature, sometimes described as a "bear" would come back to haunt him. He accidentally killed mice, and that foreshadowed the pup eventually dying. When the pup died and Curly's wife came into the barn, it foreshadowed her own death that ultimately foreshadowed Lennie's death. Steinbeck mixed foreshadowing with animal imagery quite nicely by using animal incidents to foreshadow the events that would take place in a characters life.

In additions, just about every character in Of Mice and Men was linked with an animal characteristic. The descriptions of the characters' appearance and actions was usually described with an animal action or physical traits. "You're yella as a frog belly" was a line said from Carlson to Curley (p. 68). Now, even people who aren't frog experts know that the belly of a frog is mushy and soft, much different from the scaly backs they have. The imagery here is perfectly placed. All of the meaning behind this one sentence would be much changed if Carlson had of just said to Curley""you're a coward. Lennie "pawed up the hay until it partly covered her [Curley's wife]" (p. 100). Steinbeck uses the bear-characteristic "˜paws' with Lennie once more to remind us of his clumsiness.

There is a significant amount to animal imagery in John Steinbeck's novel Of Mice and Men. Every person and significant event was described at one point in an animal related fashion. Steinbeck's use of animal imagery was very effective in portraying the novel as a realistic and "live" piece of literature. The tool of imagery starts with the title and continues to the end of the book.