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Of Mice And Men - Critical Essay

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Introduction

Of Mice And Men - Critical Essay John Steinbeck's novel, "Of Mice And Men", is a skilfully structured novel that uses parallels, contrasts, foreshadowing, motifs and symbols to emphasise the numerous themes the novel is based on. The story is set during the American depression and focuses on two migrant American labourers. George looks after his immensely strong but stupid friend, Lennie. The two men both dream that one-day they will own their own land and work only for themselves, but Lennie's lack of understanding of his own strength and the cruel world in which he lives brings him unwanted trouble. Steinbeck is a master of using parallels and foreshadowing. At the beginning of the book the reader is introduced to an incident in Weed, in which Lennie, not understanding that he was doing wrong, grabbed a woman's dress. As a result of this Lennie and George are chased out of Weed. This foreshadows and is in parallel with Lennie accidentally killing Curley's wife. The incident in Weed as with the killing of Curley's wife was caused by Lennie's child-like love of soft materials. In Weed Lennie's refusal to let go of a woman's dress was caused by the woman panicking, which in turn caused him to panic. ...read more.

Middle

Curley, being an ex-lightweight boxer, enforces his power through violence and has little resistance because he is the son of the ranch boss. He feels he has to prove himself to men bigger than himself such as Lennie. Crook's being at the bottom the hierarchy has little power. His desire for power is shown when he attempts to deflate Lennie's dream of one day owning some land with George and being answerable to no one. Crooks emphasises with bitterness that he has seen hundreds of men pass through the ranch all with similar dreams to Lennie's and that not one of them has ever become a reality. This also furthers Steinbeck's disturbing observation that men with power are not the only people who try to oppress those weaker than themselves. As Crooks shows even those with little power will try to seek out those weaker than themselves and oppress them. This also furthers several of the novel's themes such as loneliness and companionship, in that in Crooks' loneliness he is jealous of Lennie's companionship with George. Crooks' want to suppress Lennie also furthers the idea that human existence is a predatory one, a frequent theme throughout the book. ...read more.

Conclusion

The rich imagery as well as the sense of security and comfort given at the beginning of the book is now lost. Steinbeck is a master of symbolism. The snake being killed by the heron symbolises and foreshadows the imminent death of Lennie, as he is as unaware and unsuspecting of his death as the snake was of its death. The title of the book, "Of Mice And Men," is taken from the title of the Robert Burn's poem - "To A Mouse" which is based on a similar theme to "Of Mice And Men" in that even the best laid plans will bring nothing but grief and pain: "But Mousie, thou art no thy lane, In proving foresight may be vain: The best-laid schemes o'mice an'men Gang aft agley, An' lea'e us nought but grief and pain, For promis'd joy." The death of Lennie at the end of the novel awakens George to this as well as the impossibility of the American dream a common motif, symbol and theme throughout the story. John Steinbeck's novel, "Of Mice And Men," is an ingenious piece of work in which his simple use of dialogue and skilful use of parallels, contrasts, motifs and symbols emphasise the numerous themes that can be related to real life so the reader can relate to and understand the story. ...read more.

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