Of Mice And Men
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Of Mice And Men
The title of the book comes from a poem by the 18th centuryScottish poet Robert Burns. It is about a mouse which carefullybuilds a winter nest in a wheat field, only for it to be destroyed bya ploughman. It is written in Scots dialect.
&quot;The best laid schemes o' mice an' men
Gang aft a-gley,
An' lea'e us nought but grief an' pain,
For promised joy!&quot;
&quot;(The best laid schemes of mice and men
Often go wrong
And leave us nothing but grief and pain,
Instead of promised joy!)&quot;
Loneliness and Dreams
The two main themes in 'Of Mice and Men' foreshadowed by thereference to Burns' mouse are loneliness and dreams. Theyinterlock: people who are lonely have most need of dreams tohelp them through.
Study the table below, showing both the loneliness and thedreams of each of the main characters. You could use a tablelike this as the basis for an exam answer about themes in OfMice and Men.
Not many people had real friends in the American West in the1930s it was a case of every man for himself. That is one of thereasons why the story of George and Lennie's unusual friendship isso poignant. They have each other. No one else in the novel is solucky.
He is a small man, but hasbrains and a quick wit.
He has been a good friend to Lennie, ever since he promisedLennie's Aunt Clara that he would care for him. He looks after allLennie's affairs, such as carrying his work card, and tries to steerhim out of potential trouble.
He needs Lennie as a friend, not only because Lennie's strengthhelps to get them both jobs, but so as not to be lonely. His threatsto leave Lennie are not really serious. He is genuinely proud ofLennie.
He shares a dream with Lennie to own a pieceof land and is prepared to work hard to build upthe money needed to buy it.
&quot;...with us it ain't like that. We got a future. We got somebody to talkto that gives a damn about us. We don't have to sit in no bar roomblowin' in our jack 'jus because we got no place else to go. If themother guys gets in jail they can rot for all anybody gives a damn. Butnot us.&quot;
He is honest with people he trusts. For example, he tellsSlim that he used to play tricks on Lennie when they wereyoung, but now feels guilty about it as Lennie nearlydrowned.
He is a big man, in contrast to his name.
He has limited intelligence, so he relies onGeorge to look after him. He copies George ineverything George does and trusts Georgecompletely.
&quot;Behind him (George) walked his opposite, a huge man,shapeless of face, with large, pale eyes, with wide, slopingshoulders; and he walked heavily, dragging his feet a little, theway a bear drags his paws. His arms did not swing at his sides,but hung loosely.&quot;
He shares a dream with George to own a pieceof land. Lennie's special job would be to tend therabbits.
He likes to pet soft things, like puppies and dead mice.We know this got him into trouble in Weed when he tried tofeel a girl's soft red dress: she thought he was going toattack her.
He can be forgetful Georgecontinually has to remind him aboutimportant things.
He is very gentle and kind, and wouldnever harm anyone or anythingdeliberately.
He is extremely strong: he canwork as well as two men at buckingbarley.
He is often described as a child or an animal -he drinks from the pool like a horse and his hugehands are described as paws.
Slim is the jerkline skinner (lead mule-teamdriver) at the ranch. He is excellent athis job.
He is the natural leader at the ranch.Everyone respects his views and looks up tohim.
He has a quiet dignity: he doesn'tneed to assert himself to haveauthority.
&quot;there was a gravity in his manner and a quiet so profoundthat all talked stopped when he spoke. His authority was sogreat that his word was taken on any subject, be it politics orlove.&quot;
He understands the relationship betweenGeorge and Lennie. He helps George at the endand reassures George that he did the right thing.
We know little else about him,which gives him a slightly mysteriousquality.
Curley is the boss's son, so he doesn't need towork like the ordinary ranch hands, and he hastime to kill.
He's little so he hates big guys.
He is a prize-fighter and looksfor opportunities for a fight.
&quot;He glanced coldly at George and then at Lennie. His armsgradually bent at the elbows and his hands closed into fists. Hestiffened and went into a slight crouch. His glance was at oncecalculating and pugnacious.&quot;
He is newly-married and is verypossessive of his wife but he still visitsbrothels.
There is a rumour that he wears a glove filledwith Vaseline to keep his hand soft for hiswife.
She is newly married to Curley.
We never know her name she is merelyCurley's 'property' with no individualidentity.
She is young, pretty, wearsattractive clothes and curls herhair.
She seems flirtatious and isalways hanging around the bunk-house.
She is lonely there are no other women totalk to and Curley is not really interested inher.
&quot;What kinda harm am I doin' to you? Seems like theyain't none of them cares how I gotta live. I tell you I ain'tused to livin' like this. I coulda made somethin' ofmyself.&quot;
She doesn't like Curley she tells Lennie thatshe only married him when she didn't receive aletter she'd been promised to get into Hollywood.
She is naive.
Crooks is the black stable hand or buck.
He is the only permanent employee at theranch, since he injured his back in an accident.His back gives him constant pain.
He is the only black man around and is made tobe isolated by his colour he can't go into thebunk-house or socialise with the men.
He is always called the 'nigger' by the men, which shows howracism is taken for granted. The men don't mean to insult Crooksevery time they call him this, but they never think to use hisname
All this has made him proud and aloof.
He is lonely.
&quot;S'pose you didn't have nobody. S'pose you couldn't go into thebunk house and play rummy 'cause you were black... A guyneeds somebody to be near him... I tell ya a guy gets too lonelyan' he gets sick.&quot;
The only time he mixes with the ranch handssocially is when they pitch horseshoes andthen he beats everyone!
He has his own room near the stables and has a fewpossessions. He has books, which show he is intelligent and anold copy of the California Civil Code, which suggests he isconcerned about his rights.
He has seen many men come and go, alldreaming of buying a piece of land, but is nowcynical, as no one has ever achieved it.
Candy is the oldest ranch hand. Helost his right hand in an accident atwork.
He is the 'swamper' the man who cleans thebunkhouse. He knows he will be thrown out andput 'on the county' when he is too old to work.
Because of this, he accepts what goes on anddoesn't challenge anything: he can't afford tolose his job.
He has a very old dog, which he has hadfrom a pup. It is his only friend andcompanion.
&quot;The old man came slowly into the room. He had hisbroom in his hand. And at his heels there walked a drag-footedsheep dog, gray of muzzle, and with pale, blind oldeyes.&quot;
Carlson insists on shooting the dog because heclaims it is too old and ill to be of any use. Candyis devastated.
He is lonely and isolated, but makes friends withGeorge and Lennie and offers his compensation moneyto help them all to buy a ranch together and achievetheir dream.
When he finds Curley's wife dead, he is furious,as he knows instantly that Lennie was involved andthat they have lost their chance of achieving theirdream.
The story begins when George and Lennie prepare to arrive at aranch to work and ends in tragedy just four days later. The storyis told in the third person, so we are provided with a clear,unbiased view of all the characters.
George and Lennie camp in the brush by apool, the night before starting new jobs as ranchhands.
George finds Lennie stroking a dead mouse in his pocket. Hecomplains that caring for Lennie prevents him from living a freerlife. We find out that Lennie's innocent petting of a girl's dress ledto them losing their last jobs in Weed.
However, when they talk about their dream ofgetting a piece of land together, we know theyreally depend on each other.
When they arrive at the ranch in the morning,George and Lennie are shown around by oldCandy.
They meet their boss and, later, his son,Curley George is suspicious of Curley'smanner and warns Lennie to stay away fromhim.
They see Curley's pretty and apparentlyflirtatious wife and meet some of their fellowworkers, Slim and Carlson.
Later that evening, George tells Slim about whyhe and Lennie travel together and more aboutwhat happened in Weed.
The men talk about Candy's ancient dog, whichis tired and ill. Carlson shoots it, as an act ofkindness.
George tells Candy about their dream of getting a pieceof land and Candy eagerly offers to join them he hascapital, so they could make it happen almostimmediately.
Curley provokes Lennie into a fight, whichends up with Lennie severely injuring Curley'shand.
The following night, most men on the ranch gointo town. Crooks is alone in his room whenLennie joins him.
They talk about land Crooks is sceptical, not believing thatGeorge and Lennie are going to do what so many other men he'sknown have failed to do, and get land of their own. Yet when Candyhappens to come in as well, Crooks is convinced and asks to be inon it too.
Curley's wife arrives. She threatens Crooks andan argument develops. Crooks realises he cannever really be part of George, Lennie and Candy'splan.
Next afternoon, Lennie accidentally kills thepuppy that Slim had given him by petting it toomuch. He's sad.
Curley's wife finds him and starts talking very openly about herfeelings. She invites Lennie to stroke her soft hair, but he does itso strongly she panics and he ends up killing her too. He runsaway to hide, as George had told him.
Candy finds the body and tells George.They tell the other men Curley wantsrevenge.
Lennie hides in the brush by the pool. Hedreams of his Aunt Clara and the rabbits he willtend when he and George get their land.
George finds Lennie and talks reassuringly tohim about the little place they will have together -then shoots him with Carlson's gun.
When the other men find George, they assumehe shot Lennie in self-defence. Only Slimunderstands what George did and why.
John Steinbeck was born inSalinas, California in 1902.
The Great Depression
On October 29 1929, millions of dollars werewiped out in an event that became known as theWall Street Crash.
It led to the Depression in Americawhich crippled the country from 1930 -1936
People lost their life savings when firms and bankswent bust, and 12 15 million men and women -one third of America's population wereunemployed.
A series of droughts in southern mid-westernstates like Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas led tofailed harvests and dried-up land.
Farmers were forced to move off their land: theycouldn't repay the bank-loans which had helped buy thefarms and had to sell what they owned to pay theirdebts.
Many economic migrants headed west to 'Golden'California, thinking there would be land going spare, but theCalifornians turned many back, fearing they would be over-run.
Against this background, ranch handslike George and Lennie were lucky to havework.
Ranch hands were grateful for at least a bunk-houseto live in and to have food provided, eventhough the pay was low.