Themes - of Mice and Men

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Of Mice and Men, a novella written by John Steinbeck, is a tragedy incorporating a hero with a tragic flaw, a climax, and a tragic resolution. The title of the novella, “Of Mice and Men”, is the first clue to Steinbeck’s specific cultural issues. The title is a line taken from a poem called, “To a Mouse”, by Robert Burns. This poem talks about man’s enslavement to forces of both elemental and human nature which cannot be controlled, destroying hopes and dreams. This stems into the theme of the loss of the American Dream. Along with alienation, the American Dream is a major theme explored throughout the course of the novel. Of Mice and Men is a story about the nature of human dreams and aspirations and the forces that work against them. Humans give meaning to their lives by creating dreams. George and Lennie's dream — to own a little farm of their own — is so central to Of Mice and Men that it appears in some form in five of the six chapters. The telling of the story, which George has done so often, becomes a ritual between the two men: George provides the narrative, and Lennie, who has difficulty remembering even simple instructions, finishes George's sentences. To George, this dream of having their own place means independence, security, being their own boss, and, most importantly, being "somebody." To Lennie, the dream is like the soft animals he pets: It means security, the responsibility of tending to the rabbits, and a sanctuary where he won't have to be afraid. This theme not only applies to George and Lennie, but also to Candy and Crooks. To Candy, who sees the farm as a place where he can assert a responsibility he didn't take when he let Carlson kill his dog, it offers security for old age and a home where he will fit in. For Crooks, the little farm will be a place where he can have self-respect, acceptance, and security. Having and sharing the dream, however, are not enough to bring it to life. Each man must make a sacrifice or battle some other force...
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