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Of Mice and Men' is a novel about people. Are there 'too many cripples, misfits and unusual characters' in the novel to consider Steinbeck's portrayal as true to life? Steinbeck's 'Of Mice and Men'

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Introduction

Benjamin Lewis 11Y2 'Of Mice and Men' is a novel about people. Are there 'too many cripples, misfits and unusual characters' in the novel to consider Steinbeck's portrayal as true to life? Steinbeck's 'Of Mice and Men' is a novel about people, their dreams, relationships and disappointments. The characters are diverse and represent a cross section of society during the American Depression of the 1930's. The novel is set in Steinbeck's birthplace of Salinas Valley, California, and it is at the ranch where he grew up that we meet the majority of characters. There are three specific locations in the novel where most of the story unfolds, these are; the banks of the Salinas River, the bunkhouse and the barn. 'Of Mice and Men' has a number of central themes evident in the novel such as loneliness; hope and the American Dream, and the strength and importance of friendships. These themes are pivotal to the characters' development and behaviour with each other in the novel. A large number of the characters in 'Of Mice and Men' have something wrong with them; this is because Steinbeck is writing about the vulnerability of being an outsider. Migrant workers are, by their nature, 'misfits' due to the fact they are displaced and are, therefore, unconnected to the people around them. George and Lenny are unusual in that they have each other. Furthermore, I feel 'Of Mice and Men' is true to life as Steinbeck is writing about the debris of the Depression and these are the very characters, the 'cripples' and 'misfits', who would have found it hardest to find work and would have had to leave their homes to find jobs. ...read more.

Middle

In the 1930's racism was widespread making Crooks a misfit and because of this a lot of the novel is devoted to him. The readers of the period would have learned a lot about black people from Crooks. For example, the fact that he has feelings, is clever and wants to be friends with the whites on the farm. The chapter devoted to Crooks shows that the society that Steinbeck lived in needed to change, and it could change if everyone had the same perspective that Lennie had on the matter. The character Crooks is more than a 'cripple' as he is a person who is proud of what he has in life. He has exceeded people's expectations of a black man in the 1930's and has done well for himself. Even though he is often being discriminated against, he stands up for himself. He also has taught himself to read. He is keen to point out that his upbringing is not that of the stereotyped southern negro, but that he is from the North and was accepted by the white kids as a child Although, once again, this character is a cripple and misfit he is totally true to life and relevant in 1930's America. Curley's wife is the only female character in the novel. She portrays the struggle of a woman in 1930's society. She would have been seen as less important than a man, but more important than a black person. This meant that on the ranch she was one of the least respected people. ...read more.

Conclusion

An' ever God damn one of 'em never gets it.' George is an unusual character due to his friendship with Lennie. This is the way that Steinbeck portrays George with a difference; most migrant workers of the period would not have experienced a friendship like George had with Lennie. George is loyal to Lennie and would never leave his side and makes the greatest sacrifice for Lennie when he kills him, as he saves him from a merciless death, but in doing so he loses his best friend. This friendship causes lots of questions from the characters they meet in the novel. Steinbeck includes these to show the reader what a migrant worker's life is like. However through this friendship the reader learns that not all of society is unwilling to include a misfit like Lennie. Three other characters in the novel are represented as neither cripples nor misfits except for being ranch workers. Curly is privileged in being the boss's son and has prestige as a prize-winning boxer, yet he is still isolated from the other men by his status and his suspicion of them regarding his wife. Carlson is a loner due to his insensitivity In conclusion, I do not consider that there are ''too many cripples, misfits and unusual characters' in the novel to consider Steinbeck's portrayal as true to life' as although each character is unique, they all possess characteristics which are totally believable and representative of a cross-section of American society. The characters portray the importance of true friendship, loneliness, a man's ability to dream and having someone to share the dream with, in addition to the vulnerability of being an outsider. ...read more.

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