How significant is the theme of violence in "Of Mice and Men"?

Topics: Great Depression, Of Mice and Men, John Steinbeck Pages: 7 (2521 words) Published: November 20, 2007
The novel 'Of Mice and Men', written by John Steinbeck, is a tale of an extraordinary friendship between two ranch workers who fight for survival in the harsh times of the 1930s, the great depression of America. The essay concerns the role of violence throughout the novel and explores the theme of violence in different parts of the tale, as well as looking how specific characters use violence for different reasons. Specific areas of which the novel will explore are parts such as the death of Curlys wife, the fight between Curly and Lennie and the death of Lennie.

The content of the book as a strong historic and social element, as well as a literary one. The social element refers to the way they lived. This would have been poorly, as they were in a great time of depression, where most of America lived in poverty. This also links to the historic element. America was very poor at the time. The literary element refers to the structure of the novel. The novel is written in play form, which makes it particularly easy to turn into a play.

The theme of violence is a major theme in the novel, and the violence in speech between characters is a regular occurrence. This is noticeable in the speech between George and Lennie. From the very start of the novel we can see examples of George becoming irritated and enraged with Lennie. 'Lennie! Lennie, for god sake don't drink so much'. This shows George becoming impatient with Lennie, and also gives us a taste of the power and mother like figure George is towards Lennie.

'I gotta tell you again, do I? Jesus Christ, you're a crazy bastard!' This shows us an insight into George's personality and the way he communicates with Lennie. There are many expressions he uses like 'Jesus Christ' and 'bastard'. This use of language is shocking and unheard of to find in a novel, as they are offensive and blasphemus. Because the novel is about the ranch hands in the 1930s, this language is acceptable as it would simply be normal to the ranch hands. This manner of language is used to add realism to the book. This violent tone of speech so early on in the novel sets a somewhat aggressive and violent tone for the rest of the tale.

George is not the only character who uses violence in his speech, as many of the other ranch hands do, but another major character who uses violence in speech is Curly. On page 90, leading up to the fight between Curly and Lennie, Curly uses a lot of violent and offensive language.

'Come on, ya big bastard'. This is a prime example of Curlys aggressive language and shows his violent nature. The violence in language is also shown when Curly's wife is speaking to Crooks. She expresses the violence in racism. 'Listen, nigger'. This shows the racism that Crooks is abused with by Curlys wife. 'You now what I can do if you open your trap?' This suggests that Curlys wife is threatening Crooks with death, as in the 1930s a black man could be hung for touching a white woman.

This leads onto the next point which is the way violence is used to earn respect. Many characters use violence to earn respect. 'You're as yella as a frog belly. I don't care if you're the best welter in the country. You come for me and I'll kick your god dam head off'. This speech from Carlson is used in a direct manner to earn respect from the other ranch hands. In this insult he calls Curly weak, and also threatens him. The fact that he called him weak would have lost Curly respect, as men were meant to be masculine and strong. This is also the first time where anyone stands up to Curly and uses violent language back to him.

Curly is a prime example of people using violence to earn respect. He intimidates the other ranch hands by using offensive language. When George and Lennie arrived at the ranch, Curly is quick to put them in there place by firing abuse at them. 'We jus come in' said Lennie softly. 'Well, next time you answer when you spoke to'. The fact that Lennie is speaking softly shows...
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