Advanced English 11
March 18, 2013
Themes in John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men
The wide variety of themes in Of Mice and Men set the tone of what life was like during this time along with problems characters faced. The themes in John Steinbeck’s work give the reader an inside look at why the book was written, the author’s motives, and points he is trying to bring across to the reader. In some cases, a lesson can be learned. In all, Steinbeck presents the reader with about eight different themes in Of Mice and Men. The themes range from the American dream to friendship, and how it affects the characters and situations throughout the story.
Individuality in Of Mice and Men plays a big role in how the plot comes about in the novel. In the novel, no one character is alike any other. Because of this, this sets up the novel to be more interesting considering every character comes from a different background and they all have different views on topics. “Lennie Small, an itinerant ranch hand like his friend, George Milton, is a tall powerful man, who is mentally handicapped (Telgen “Characters”).” Being that Lennie is one of the main characters in the novel, he is usually somehow tied into any wrongdoings that Steinbeck creates due to his physicality traits and handicap. “Lennie does not have the intellectual capacity to erect emotional barriers, or to acquire the niceties of polite intercourse (Schultz).” With Lennie not being able to control himself in most situations, this sets himself up for destruction from the beginning. His habits eventually lead him to his death when George has no other option but to kill Lennie. Another very individual character is Curley. “Curley, the owner’s son, marries a woman of questionable moral character to bolster his own image of himself and to mitigate the male-dominated atmosphere on the ranch (Schultz).” Curley is a very narcissistic character in the novel that believes he is the only authority on the ranch with all the power. He believes he sits high on the throne due to the fact he can tell people what to do or else he will fire them with the snap of a finger. His wife, who is very controlled by Curley, often flirts with the other men on the ranch due to the isolation that Curley presents her with. The other very individual character in the novel would be Crooks. “Crooks the “nigger” stable buck, doubly isolated by his race and consequent segregation from the white ranch hands in his own little shack with books his only comfort, confesses to Lennie, “A guy goes nuts if he ain’t got nobody (Schultz).” During the time period in which the novel is set, segregation was huge throughout the United States. Crooks, being a stable hand and then being African- American on top of it, is a very individual character in the novel. No one wants to be his friend or let alone speak to him. Because of this, Crooks learns to rely on books to comfort him which none of the other ranch hands do, considering they all have one decent companion on the ranch.
Probably one of the most sought after themes in Of Mice and Men would be the chase for the American Dream. The American Dream in general is just finding the ideal life in the greatest country in the world. For Lennie, George and the other ranch hands on the farm, the American Dream can be summarized into simply owning land where you are your own boss. “We see many characters in search of what America promises but caught in the clutches of circumstances which often seem to frustrate their search (Swan).” The ranch hands on the farm are in a way imprisoned in a way of life which only has one escape, death. The ultimate goal for our two main characters, Lennie and George, is to save up a set amount of money which would be enough to be able to buy their own farm and live life how they wish. “More than a dream of land or property or riches or even a house of one’s own, George’s vision encompasses a broader range of...
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