Discuss how three or more important symbols add to your understanding of Of Mice and Men.

Authors Avatar

Discuss how three or more important symbols add to your understanding of Of Mice and Men.

        In Of Mice and Men, John Steinbeck portrays messages to the reader through various techniques, including the vivid animal imagery presented throughout the novella, most notably in Chapters 1 and 6. However, his most potent form of message conveying is through his use of symbolism. Interweaving light imagery and exercising characters as symbols into the text furthers the development of integral themes and plotlines throughout the turbulent story. From the “deep and green Salinas River” to the “right hand that had held the gun”, Steinbeck’s utilization of symbols contributes to the reader’s overall appreciation of the chaotic book, highlighting recurring themes such as loneliness.

        As was stated in the introduction, Steinbeck employs characters as symbols. The most familiar example of this is old Candy. Candy is a significant figure in Of Mice and Men, due to the likenesses between him and George. “I ain’t much good with on’y one hand…that’s why they give me a job swampin,’ Candy explains to George. As a swamper, this is all Candy has left. In 1930s America, a worker who could not work to his full potential, especially during the time of the Depression, would be replaced- Candy’s ultimate fear. That’s why he wants to “cook and tend the chickens and hoe the garden some” on Lennie and George’s land. Candy can lead a safe life, not having to worry about being “canned”. Candy’s stumped wrist is a result of an accident on the ranch. Candy is a prime example of being caught in the Migrant Worker’s Cycle- moving to one job, before leaving and moving somewhere else. A link can therefore be established with George, and Lennie, who appear to have been traveling around working before the time of Of Mice and Men. This is another case of the cyclic nature of the novella, and a reflection of the American way of life in the 1930s.

        Another example of Candy’s symbolic nature is with his “ancient dog”. This [Candy and his dog] is the first ‘relationship’ in the novella to be broken, with the final bond, George and Lennie, being destroyed at the climax. “‘No,’ he said softly. ‘No, I couldn’ do that. I had ’im too long,’” explains Candy in Chapter 3, referring to the idea of killing his dog. This is very similar to George who, despite knowing Lennie will only cause grief to him and those around him, does not want to hurt him, because he too has been with his companion for a long time. Candy explains that, “I been around him so much I never notice how he stinks,” while George earlier says, “but you get used to goin’ around with a guy an’ you can’t get rid of him.’”- Another likeness between the two. George has his own dog, Lennie, who follows George around, maintaining silence in conversations and growing increasingly dependent on a master.

Join now!

        During the novella, the recurrence of loneliness, and speculating at a lonesome finale, is ever present, especially in the form of playing cards. The bunkhouse is often the scene of the games, with George the dealer. This is significant, as George frequently exclaims his desire to be alone, “If I was alone I could live so easy.” However, solitude is George’s enemy, and he is fearful at the prospect of living alone. This is projected through his card playing, “Slim sat down…across from George…He studied the solitaire hand that was upside-down to him.” Inadvertently, George has dealt a game of ...

This is a preview of the whole essay