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In what ways does “Of mice and men” show how individuals can be hampered by the society in which they live?

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Introduction

In what ways does "Of mice and men" show how individuals can be hampered by the society in which they live? "... The best laid schemes o' Mice and Men, Gang aft agley." John Steinbeck's novel, "Of Mice and Men" discusses in detail the faults with the society it presents. Characters in the novel are hampered and held back from fulfilling their dreams, due to race (Crooks), sex (Curley's wife) and disability (shown by Lennie). All of these are expressed in detail throughout the novel. The very title of the novel is an extract from a poem which literally means: "no matter how well we plan the future, things often go wrong." This is a main theme of the story, and Steinbeck blames the social order for it. His left wing writing is against many of the ways of society in 1930s America, and he criticises aspects of this. Steinbeck particular concern was for the working class, who he greatly sympathised with. He writes in a way to influence and educate the reader with his beliefs, which gives the story very meaningful undertones. Stienbeck uses the ranch to represent a microcosm of the whole of American society, effectively interesting the reader with his revolutionary views. George represents the working class. He and Lennie together are shown to have had a hard life before arriving at the ranch; their time at the ranch is hard work, and the pathos shown at the end is that for George, things will continue in this purposeless way. ...read more.

Middle

Women like Curley's wife were expected to lead very domestic lives, living essentially to serve their husband and children. She is the only woman on the ranch, who is extremely "purty" and she has "got the eye." The ranch workers misinterpret her forwardness for flirting, but she is just lonely. Curley's wife tries to use her beauty to her advantage; even so, the men exclude her, speaking little to her- thinking her an unfaithful "tart." George describes her as one of "these here jail baits." Steinbeck presents Curley's wife as a sex symbol. She dresses as if ready to go out, with rouged lips, wearing red shoes, and red fingernails, symbolising sex, seductiveness and danger. But still, only Lennie is tempted by her attractiveness. We sympathise with her commitment to Curley and as she confides in Lennie, we realise her unhappiness with the unfulfilling marriage. Curley, a childish and violent womaniser treats his wife as a possession to show off to his friends. He did not marry her out of love- but out of circumstances. Curley's wife is not even given a name by Stienbeck, which underlines her unimportance and low rank in the sexist man's world shown in this story. Curley's wife is very lonely, which echoes Crooks' life. She understands Lennie, in the way that he is not accepted into society, and this is why she opens up to him, obviously if she has to speak to someone as stupid as Lennie, this shows how little respect she has from other workers. ...read more.

Conclusion

George also was by no way prevented from buying the farmhouse after Lennie's death, but when Candy asks will we still go, he says "I think I knowed from the very first... we'd never do her." This is due to his lack of self-will. I feel that Steinbeck does not only criticise society, but human nature. Human nature is very much responsible for characters not having the will to carry out their hopes, dreams and desires. The characters do not keep pushing to achieve. George accepts that he will continue in this unimportant subsistence, "I'll work my month an' I'll take my fifty bucks." Curley's wife accepts that she "Coulda been in the movies." I feel Steinbeck tries to show how many people settle for less, because it is easier. It is always easier to use a scapegoat, and in this story, society can be seen as this. Doesn't every society have its faults anyway? The society shown is very different from today's, and has many faults, it is unfair, highly racist, and designed for the perfect person. This novel focuses on the misfits of society, and although the social order is far from perfect, it is not the only factor. This Novella is a criticism of not only society, but also human nature. Steinbeck shows characters hampered from all walks of life. The reader reads with interest this disturbing and realistic window into a deeply flawed society. Holly Budgen 10G English Coursework 1 ...read more.

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