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To what extent can "Of Mice and Men" be considered a religious allegory?

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Introduction

To what extent can "Of Mice and Men" be considered a religious allegory? In my opinion, Of Mice and Men can be interpreted on three main levels. On the surface, it is an entertaining tale detailing prejudice and how two men strive to obtain their dream. It could also be interpreted as a criticism of 1930's America. However, there is a deeper meaning to the novella, as parallels can be drawn between situations depicted within the novella and tales from the bible, and the novella could be viewed as a story about the fate of man in a fallen world. These three levels intertwine, and on some occasions complement each other, for example original sin and the Wall Street crash. To answer the question, it is necessary to ascertain all of the links to religion, and to decide whether this was the main reason of writing. The first parallel with a religious idea can be drawn between the two main characters, George and Lennie, and Cain and Abel, from the book of Genesis. When the book starts, the two main characters are forced to escape from their previous occupation after Lennie "raped" a girl. ...read more.

Middle

"The best laid schemes of Mice and Men...leave us nought but grief and pain". One of the key themes of the novella, the American dream, also has religious implications. Lennie wants to, "live off the fatta' the land", which is exploiting God's creation, just as Adam and Eve exploited God's Garden of Eden in the bible. Also, in the passage in Genesis chapter 4, Cain is cursed, "When thou tillest the land, it shall not henceforth yield unto her your strength". This curse is the opposite of the American dream, which is so attractive to Lennie and George. This aspiration could also be a metaphor for heaven, and then the failure of Lennie and George to attain this farm is associated with the inability of man to achieve this goal after the Curse of Cain. Steinbeck is referring to the fact that it may not be possible to get to heaven in this fallen world, after the curse of Cain, we are all tarnished. Structurally, Of Mice and Men even resembles a bible story. It is reasonably short and contains a moral, drawn from the title, that the, "best laid schemes of mice and men (often go awry)", hinting at the impossibility of attaining the dream of Lennie and George. ...read more.

Conclusion

The final religious parallel is that of George killing Lennie for Lennie's good. This selfless act could be representative of Jesus dying for Christians. There is also the fact that George and Lennie's stay at the ranch lasted three days, and that is a reference to Jesus' rising. Jesus tried to reverse the inevitability of Cain's curse by sacrificing himself- just as Lennie is sacrificed for the sake of the dream. Of Mice and men is certainly a religious allegory, as it mirrors parts of the bible, and it is possible to see where John Steinbeck got his inspiration from. He even wrote a novel called, "East of Eden", which is a quote from genesis chapter four. I believe that of mice and men was written to detail the plight of man after the curse of Cain, as is shown in the bible, and that the major religious theme is co-existence, symbolised by Lennie and George .This does not mean, however, that Of Mice and Men is not a criticism of 1930's America, he criticises the racist views and sexist nature that existed at that time. The two aims of religion and criticism combine to form a successful novella that reads like a bible story, and can be interpreted on many different levels. Craig Brown 10h ...read more.

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