Of Mice and Men is a story about the failure of the American dream.The main characters' troubles can be compared to those of mice, which explains the title. Robert Burns' poem, "To a Mouse" also can help to clarify the title. It contains the quotation: "The best laid schemes o' Mice an' Men, Gang aft agley" ("often go awry"). In fact, this quote is the reason John Steinbeck chose Of Mice and Men as the title.
There is more that Burns poem has in common with Of Mice and Men aside from the relation between the title and the quote. The two works both include relationships between humans and animals. In To a Mouse, a field worker upsets a mouse's nest and then reflects on it. This is similar to Steinbeck's novel, in which Lennie unintentionally destroys the lives of small, furry animals, one of them actually being a mouse. The most important similarity between the two works though, actually lies in the quote “The best laid schemes o' Mice an' Men, (often go awry)”. In Steinbeck's story, George and Lennie's “scheme” indeed ends up going “awry”.
Ever since George and Lennie began working together they had a plan. They were going to save up their money, buy a farm, and "live of the fatta the land". After a few weeks, they were so close to achieving their goal when Lennie accidentally kills Curley's wife. At this point, George realizes that their dream would never really become a reality and he openly admits so: “I think I knowed we'd never do her. He usta like to hear about it so much I got to thinking maybe we would (94).” In other words, the dream goes awry.
In the novel, mice and men are both shown to be incredibly fragile and breakable. Lennie loves to pet soft things so his Aunt would give him mice to pet, “An' she stopped givin' 'em to ya. You always killed 'em (9)”. Lennie accidentally killed them because he didn't realize how fragile they were. George and Lennie had a dream that made them both happy but the dream was so fragile that it collapsed...
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