Of Mice and Men at a Glance
John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men is a parable about what it means to be human. Steinbeck's story of George and Lennie's ambition of owning their own ranch, and the obstacles that stand in the way of that ambition, reveal the nature of dreams, dignity, loneliness, and sacrifice. Ultimately, Lennie, the mentally handicapped giant who makes George's dream of owning his own ranch worthwhile, ironically becomes the greatest obstacle to achieving that dream. Characters: George Milton; Lennie Small; Candy; Curley; Curley's wife; Slim; Crooks Major Thematic Topics: nature of dreams; barriers; powerlessness; fate; Christian influences; classical influences; natural influences; loss of paradise; my brother's keeper; ephemeral nature of life Motifs: nature; loneliness; animalism versus humanity
Major Symbols: characters; locations; animal imagery; George's card game; hands
The three most important aspects of Of Mice and Men:
* Of Mice and Men takes place during America's Great Depression, which lasted from the Stock Market Crash of October 1929 until 12 years later when World War II began. One result of the Depression was a lack of steady jobs, which resulted in an increase in the number of itinerant workers. For the most part, these itinerant workers were men who traveled from town to town seeking short-term employment. * Of Mice and Men is one of the only published novels written from an obscure point of view called the objective third-person. In contrast to the omniscient third-person perspective, from which the author, and thus the reader, can read the minds of all the characters, the objective point of view doesn't allow readers direct access to any of the characters' thoughts and feelings. We can deduce those thoughts and feelings only by means of what the characters do and say. Though unusual for a novel, this approach is typical of plays and film, which helps explain why Of Mice and Men was easily adapted for the Broadway stage and as a Hollywood movie. * The novel's title comes from a poem by the Scottish poet Robert Burns called "To a Mouse." Originally written in a Scottish dialect, the poem contains lines that translates as "The best-laid schemes Of Mice and Men often go awry." This is appropriate, in that Of Mice and Men contains Lenny and George's scheme that goes tragically awry — that is, off track.
The novel opens with two men, George Milton and Lennie Small, walking to a nearby ranch where harvesting jobs are available. George, the smaller man, leads the way and makes the decisions for Lennie, a mentally handicapped giant. They stop at a stream for the evening, deciding to go to the ranch in the morning. Lennie, who loves to pet anything soft, has a dead mouse in his pocket. George takes the mouse away from Lennie and reminds him of the trouble Lennie got into in the last town they were in — he touched a girl's soft dress. George then reminds Lennie not to speak to anyone in the morning when they get to the ranch and cautions Lennie to return to this place by the river if anything bad happens at the ranch.
Lennie Small A migrant worker who is mentally handicapped, large, and very strong. He depends on his friend George to give him advice and protect him in situations he does not understand. His enormous strength and his pleasure in petting soft animals are a dangerous combination. He shares the dream of owning a farm with George, but he does not understand the implications of that dream. George Milton A migrant worker who protects and cares for Lennie. George dreams of some day owning his own land, but he realizes the difficulty of making this dream come true. Lennie's friend, George gives the big man advice and tries to watch out for him, ultimately taking responsibility for not only his life but also his death. Slim The the leader of the mule team whom everyone respects. Slim becomes an ally to George and...