How Does Steinbeck's Use of Animal Imagery Enhance the Plot or Characters in of Mice and Men?

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John Steinbeck, the author of the novel Of Mice and Men, wrote this Nobel Prize winning novel to ‘challenge his readers sense of values and morals and also to increase their awareness of the horrible things that people are capable of doing’ (John Pinder, Wiki Answers [online, accessed 14th March 2010], http://wiki.answers.com/Q/Why_did_steinbeck_write_'Of_mice_and_men'). Steinbeck has enhanced the plot and characters in the novel through clever use of animal imagery foreshadowing certain events and giving further insight into many of the characters.

Steinbeck has cleverly used animal imagery to give further insight into many characters in the novel. He has done this through Candy’s relationship with his dog; Lennie’s infatuation with rabbits and frequently describing Lennie as a bear. Candy’s relationship with his dog almost exactly replicates George and Lennie’s relationship. Candy and his dog have been together “since he was a pup” (1937, p.45) and although the dog was old and useless he doesn’t “mind takin’ care of him” (1937, p. 46). This is very similar to George and Lennie’s relationship as George had been looking after Lennie for a long time and even though he thinks about “the swell time” (1937, p.14) he could have without Lennie he wants Lennie “to stay with [him]” (1937, p.15). Rabbits are frequently brought up in the novel and are one of the few things Lennie actually remembers. Steinbeck has used rabbits to give an insight into Lennie’s character as rabbit’s are very similar to Lennie. Rabbits are innocent and simple minded, much like Lenny. The repetition of Lennie worrying about not getting to “tend no rabbits” (1937, p.85) assists the reader in understanding Lennie’s innocence and simple mindedness. Throughout the novel Steinbeck has described many of Lennie’s physical and mental attributes as those of a bear. He has described the way Lennie drags his feet similar to “the way a bear drags his paws” (1937, p.4) and when Lennie suggests he “can go...
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