Tonal Analysis for of Mice and Men

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Tonal Analysis for Of Mice and Men

An author writes to be heard. Their communication is purposeful, and an author who is truly in touch with the art of fiction evokes emotions in the reader throughout their work. These moods, or tones, are not used simply for the sake of being used, but rather in the hopes of moving the reader to think and realize essential messages about life. In the case of John Steinbeck, the tones of his short novel Of Mice and Men can be said to be a triumphant hope accompanying dreams, along with a terrifying hesitancy and fear of obstacles and defeat. The reluctance to fail becomes evident from the start of the story, and endures as the piece develops. On occasion, the elation of conquest and success interrupts the more uneasy and dark tones of the piece, but as quickly as it appeared, the joy is replaced with setbacks and disappointment. Steinbeck’s use of drastic changes in mood is meant to reflect the unpredictable and unmanageable nature of life, revealing there to be different dimensions to it. That is his purpose.

The beginning of the novel displays an intimate sincerity in the way the main characters interact with each other, which later turns into a slight apprehension of the potential danger people in authority could be. Steinbeck’s description of the main characters, George and Lennie, reveals their differences; George is “small” and “quick”, with “restless eyes” and “defined” features. Lennie, his companion, is the complete “opposite” of George; he is a “huge man”, with a “shapeless face” and “loosely hanging” arms (2). The fact that these two men are even together in the first place adds a bit of mystery, as well as meaning, to the relationship. The reader here is inclined to find out what exactly the motivation is for each of these characters. The tone becomes one of curious expectancy, for the author has managed to hook the reader into his world. Later, while sitting down by the river and their fire, Steinbeck exposes Lennie’s mental state and condition, and George’s battle with his desire to be free and independent and his hesitancy to be alone (13). This conversation between the two men is deeply emotional, exposing their profound attachment to each other; George and Lennie are best friends and both would be lost without the other, and they honestly confess this to each other. This scene produces a more peaceful tone, a serene confidence to communicate with another human being, a genuine and innocent intimacy. The next day, they reach the ranch where they will work to save money for their dream. The boss’s son, Curley, decides to intimidate the main characters; his welcome is not a warm one, and George knows this, “…this Curley better not make no mistakes about Lennie…this Curley punk is gonna get hurt if he messes around with Lennie” (26). This scene turns the tone to a tense one, full of hostility; the simple life George and Lennie attempt to lead is interrupted by the pride and inconsideration of individuals in power. The scene has an air of stressed anxiety, as Steinbeck reveals that Lennie and George’s existence will be one of conflict. This tone shift from heartfelt simplicity to apprehension foreshadows the ups and downs of George and Lennie’s experience in an unforgiving world.

A key component in this story is George and Lennie’s wish for the future, a sort of representation of the American dream, and the hope it can bring. George and Lennie’s plan is one they both know by heart, to “live off the fatta the lan’” in a “place” they can call their “own”, where Lennie’s only aspiration and desire is to “feed the rabbits” (14). This image helps create a new tone, one of dreamy hope. These are the visions which George and Lennie use to aid them through the sorrow, or times when abandoning their work, their lives, or each other seems the easiest thing to do. Nevertheless, they are both honest men, and therefore willing to labor to eventually reach their goal; the...
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