The novel of "Of Mice and Men" is written by John Steinbeck. It is situated in Soledad which means loneliness in Spanish. The novel is located a few miles south of Soledad. The novel was set in the early 1930’s. It was a time when racism was a big issue. Loneliness means being isolated or on your own. In this novel many of the characters are lonely. Steinbeck was born in Soledad so he decided to make this the area in which to place his novel.
In this story, the characters are lonely because although they are all together they all feel very much on their own. For example, Lennie is with George all the time but Lennie always feels on his own and is scared that George will leave him and is always seeking his approval as a child would seek the approval of a parent. George and Lennie do not see themselves as lonely as the other characters because they have each other and a dream to go away one day together.
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In the novel there are two main characters, Lennie and George who are friends. Lennie is a simple chap who has the mind of a child; George feels a need to look after Lennie and so takes on the role of a protective parent. The novel begins with Lennie who has a mouse in his pocket; George then takes it out and throws it away making Lennie get in a temper. George takes Lennie to a ranch where he tells him to say nothing as he feels if he lets him speak he would muck everything up. He then tells Lennie that everything would be easier if he wasn’t around. Lennie is terrified that George will leave him because Lennie totally relies on George. George knows he won’t leave him but likes to threaten him. George plans for the two of them to work at the ranch and to save money so they can buy a house and a couple of acres of land and a farm and live off the land.
When George and Lennie reach the ranch, the boss is angry as they are very late. They meet the bosses’ son Curley. Curley tries to start a fight with Lennie. Curley thinks he can do this as he is the bosses’ son. George knows that they will get kicked off the ranch if anything happens between Curley and Lennie. George becomes worried. George then tells Lennie to stay away from Curley.
They then meet a character called Slim who is a well respected man. Slim gives Lennie one of his puppies. Another man Candy appears and comes into the Bunk House with his dog that stinks.
Carlson offers to shoot the dog because the dog smells bad, Candy doesn’t want this to happen but he has no choice. Carlson shoots the dog and then buries him. Slim then offers Candy one of his puppies to replace the dog.
George then tells Candy about the dream he has about living on a farm, Lennie and Candy listen. Candy wants to be in on the dream so he offers them all his money and says he will do all the household chores if Lennie will let him live on the farm.
Curley then becomes upset as he is starting to miss his wife. He then sees Lennie grinning and picks a fight with him. He starts beating up Lennie who is weak and too scared to fight back until George tells him to. Then Lennie crushes Curly’s hand.
Crook who is a black stable hand has a room all to himself because he is the only black man there the white men do not want to bunk with him or let him join in with their card games, and because of this he is lonely. Crook is afraid he is going mad from loneliness as all he thinks about is being on his own. Curly’s wife turns up looking for Curly. Crook tells her to go home but she just starts flirting with Lennie which makes Crook get angry and threatens to ask the boss not to let her in anymore into the barn she turns around and threatens him. Crook gets frustrated and tells them all to go, he realises that inviting white people into his room is inviting trouble. Lennie is in the barn with the pup, he has killed the pups Slim gave to him. Curley’s wife comes into the barn as she likes Lennie and knows as the others are busy it would be a good time to be alone with him. Lennie refuses to talk to her, she asks Lennie why he likes rabbits and he explains he likes nice soft things, she tells him her hair is soft and tells him to touch it, he begins stroking it and tells her he likes it as it is soft, she pulls away as she doesn’t want it messed up. He grabs onto her hair and won’t let her go, she screams, he panics, grabs tighter, her neck breaks and she dies. Candy comes into the barn and sees Curly’s wife dead and goes to get the guys. When they come into the barn they realise Lennie did it. Curley wants to shoot Lennie.
Lennie goes to a meeting place by the river, George meets him at the hideout and Lennie asks him if he is going to leave him, George says no, Lennie then asks George to shoot him; he then shoots Lennie in the back of the head. Then Slim and George become sad about Lennie’s death and Curley and Carston do not understand why they are sad because he was in the wrong.
The title is relevant because it is asking ‘are you a man or a mouse’ which links the title ‘Mice and Men’. Most characters in the novel are timid and lonely and ‘chicken out’ of doing something and then go and do something drastic and then have to fight to prove they are men. The inspiration for this book came from a poem by Robert Burns – ‘To a Mouse’ which begins with the line “The best-laid plans of mice and men’. This poet shows how the plans of men are no more secure than those of the mouse and this is the point of the book title.
In the novel Crook is the only black man. Crook works on a farm, he is quite intelligent and he can read. He also owns lots of books, and because he has his own room becomes very lonely. The other men won’t enter his room because he is black.
Crook has a very distinctive crippled back which is where he gets his nick name Crook from referring to his crooked back and his character is seen as a lonely, crippled, black man. During the story his loneliness becomes obvious and he wants a close friend and is jealous of the relationship between George and Lennie and says to Lennie when George is out “S’pose he (George) gets hurt so he can’t come back”, maybe hoping if this is true he could be Lennie’s close friend. Crook is also referred to as a ‘nigger’.
Curley is the boss’s son. He is very spoilt and wears knee high boots. He is very quick tempered and also is very lonely. Curley is also crippled. He always looks for someone to blame, is very suspicious of the other men but is a proud man. His character is seen as a lonely, crippled but very proud man.
Slim is also a proud man and is well respected by the other men. He is a very tall man, with very long black hair and wears a Stetson hat, dirty blue jeans and a wild denim jacket. He thinks he is very important and thinks he is like royalty and expects to be treated as such. He too is very lonely and is always found on his own. His nickname is jerkline skinner. His character is seen as a tall, proud and lonely man, he finds George and Lennie’s relationship strange the way they always travel together and shows this by saying to George “Funny how you an’ him string along together’.
George and Lennie are always together. George is always in charge and Lennie is slow-minded, he is child-like and acts dangerously at times. He is violent towards other people and is very strong and animal like but is also lonely and insecure. George is totally opposite to this and is like a father figure to Lennie. He cares for Lennie, takes care of him and spends most of his time with him. Although George is kind, he is quick tempered and also lonely.
By Samantha Milton
They cope with their loneliness by being with each other. They’re friendship is important because they depend on each other. Without each other they are nothing. We can tell George is important to Lennie. He looks up to him and models behaviour on Georges’ actions. For example, when they were sitting round the pool at the beginning of chapter one Lennie had been watching him closely and imitates George exactly, when George, feeling angry and frustrated explodes at him ‘God amighty if I was alone I could love so easy. Go into town and get whatever I want. An’ whatta I got? I got you.’ Lennie’s face shows terror – he cannot bear George to be angry with him.
The way John Steinbeck has written the novel makes me think he may have been in a similar situation once as he knows a lot about loneliness. The way the book is written about all the characters being lonely creates a real feeling of their loneliness for the reader. Every character is different except they have one thing in common they are all very lonely this is clear right from the beginning of the book. The structure of the book is very well planned as at the beginning you are introduced to Lenny and George the two main characters. In the middle of the book Curley’s wife is strangled by Lenny to death then at the end Lenny is killed. In each section something happens which makes you want to read further. I find the language and story depressing. In the beginning of the book George saves Lennies life as he saves him from drowning, because he cares a lot for him. At the end of the book he kills Lennie to protect him from being hurt and eventually killed by the other ranchmen who are angry at him for killing Curley’s wife. So at the beginning of the book he protects Lennie by saving his life and at the end of the book he protects him by taking his life.
I think John Steinbeck is saying a lot of people are lonely and many of us are not aware of their loneliness. Because in today’s society people are very busy getting on with their own lives and are surrounded by their own family and friends they are often too wrapped up in their own happy situation to worry or notice people who are lonely and do not have friends.
The end of the story is dramatic and depressing and gives a feeling of despair as Lenny wants to die as he is very lonely and scared of the consequences of killing Curly’s wife. He dies a sad death and it is even sadder as he is killed by the one person who has ever cared for him and who knows that they now won’t be able to have their dream of living on a farm together.
I enjoyed this book and it has made me more aware of how lonely some people are and their sad situation in life.
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