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Of Mice and Men is a short novel written by a renowned Nobel price winner Steinbeck John. The novella was published back in 1937 and talks of Milton George and Small Lennie. These are the two workers in the migrant ranch during the time of the Great California in USA. Based on the author’s personal experiences as a bindle stiff in the 20’s, the title is retrieved from a poem by Robert Burn. This was a period before the Okies’ arrival, when Steinbeck would smartly describe The Grapes of Wrath. The poem reads “the well laid scheme o’ mouse an’ man,” which could be interpreted as the best laid plan for men and mice.
The author illustrates the theme of loneliness. Various people are lonely regardless of their surroundings and people in their lives. The author symbolically uses the town Soledad, which also means solitude in Spanish. Curley’s wife is depressed for having married a man who was not her type and never keeps her company. To fill up the gap, she flirts with many men in the farm - an act that annoys Curley. On the contrary, Candy feels lonely because the dog he treasured dies. Crook also agrees that various people are lonely because they have no friends that would keep them company. He says that "a person becomes mad if he has no one around him. It doesn’t matter who the person is as long as he is available." Therefore, their partners end up attaching themselves to other people.
Steinbeck presents most of his characters to be powerful in one area, but due to some kind of existing inadequacy, they become completely powerless. Lennie is the most physically powerful in the farm, but he becomes powerless since he is challenged intellectually. He is unable to provide for himself in the future as his mental problem comes to play. Due to the great depression, George, Candy and Crooks are unable to get the best homesteads they ever desired.
Additionally, many of the characters are seen to have future anticipations; thus, the theme of dreams. George anticipates having a good house, while Lennie is determined to live with George in his newly acquired homestead. On the other hand, Mr. Crooks is determined to acquire a small dwelling place where he can exercise self admiration, safety and personal recognition. To sum it up, Curley’s wife desires to be an actress in order to gain fame once again, which she lost by getting married to Curley.
This is a well and swift witted man, acting as Lennie’s immediate guardian alongside friend. Throughout the novella, his close friendship becomes a major sustaining factor to most of his future dreams. Towards the end, he remains disorganized as a result of his friend’s death.
Lennie is a mentally incapacitated character with greatness in physical strength. He accompanies George throughout his journey, which symbolizes everlasting companionship. Lennie dreams of “letting go off fatta” in his quest of tending rabbits. In the novella, he appears to love a lot of soft things, which later on conspire against him. He is not well able to clearly analyze and stand by his strengths throughout the novella. This finally becomes his main area of social undoing.
Candy is portrayed as an aging man who works on a ranch and has basic manual skills. In the story, Candy accidentally lost one of his hands and remains wondering about his fate on the ranch. In addition to the lost hand, Candy is equally worried that he will soon become useless because of his old age. He, therefore, snatches an opportunity to save his life by teaming up with George and Lennie in acquiring land. Candy had a very old dog, which is eventually shot by Carlson in an attempt to show mercy.
Throughout the novella, Slim is expounded on as a “jerk skinner”, ranch prince, and mule team driver. He wins respect from all the other characters in the novella. His basic skill of insight, natural authority, and kindness makes him attract all the other heads of the ranch to him. Slim is the only character who comprehensively understands Lennie and George.
Curley is a young character whose father is the boss of the ranch. He is generally a pugnacious fellow at the stage of practicing to be a boxer. Other characters in the novel refer to him as “handy” due to his notorious nature of filling his gloves with Vaseline. Curley portrays a great show of jealousy, as a protection mechanism, to his wife. In the novella, he develops hatred towards Lennie, which eventually makes them great enemies. The two finally engage in a fight, which leaves him with a crushed hand.
This is a young and pretty woman who is evidently mistrusted by her husband. Her role in the story is highly underscored due to her lack of definite reference in the story. She is referred to only as Curley’s wife throughout the novella. The author assumes that she is not a person but just a symbol. The main sources of her downfall include obsession and selfishness, which greatly affect her reputation.
The author derives his name from his renowned crookedness. He is evidently proud, funny, bitter, and isolated from the rest of the men in skin color.