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Linda Zeta Gray   English Coursework  “Of Mice and Men”


The story “0f Mice and Men” was written by John Steinbeck and set in America in the late 1920’s early 1930’s, in California near Soledad.  The story is based around migrant workers in California usually male with no roots a very solitary existence. Migrant workers life was hard.   It was gruelling, challenging, and often unrewarding. Just as George and Lennie dream of a better life on their own farm, the other migrant farm workers dreamed of finding a better life in California. The state’s mild climate promised a longer growing season and, with soil favourable to a wider range of crops. Very few found it to be the land of opportunity and land of plenty which they dreamed about.

Steinbeck ‘s theme’s within this story are loneliness and relationships, the migrant workers usually travel alone  moving from job to job as season and circumstances dictated an almost thankless existence having no place to call their own or families to go home too.

Most of the characters admit, at one time or another, to having a deep sense of loneliness and isolation. . George sets the tone for these confessions on page 15 “Guys like us, that work on the ranches, are the loneliest guys in the world.  They got no family.  They don’t belong no place.”  When he reminds Lennie that the life of a ranch hand is the loneliest of lives. Men like George and Lennie who migrate from farm to farm rarely have anyone to look to for companionship and protection. Each wishes for the comfort of a friend or a partner or lover, but many will have settled for a stranger rather than no one.. Curley’s wife admits to Lennie that she is unhappily married on page 87 , and Crooks tells Lennie that life is no good without a companion to turn to in times of confusion and need on page 72 he say “A guy goes nuts if he ain’t got nobody.  Don’t make no difference who the guy is, long’s he’s with you.”  They are all helpless in their isolation, and yet, even at their weakest, they seek to destroy those who are even weaker than they.  Crooks shows this cruel and nasty tendency when he criticizes Lennie’s dependence on George and their dream of the homestead, their farm where they can work or not work just as they please, be their own boss. Having just admitted his own vulnerabilities—he is a black man with a crooked back who longs for companionship—Crooks  homes in on Lennie’s own weaknesses, I think this mainly was to make him feel better and less of a failure somehow.  Being alone and lonely and pushed out has made him bitter and mean in some ways.  

Everybody needs some kind of relationship, someone to call their own in some way whether it is a platonic, sexual or for instance a relationship between man and pet. This makes the difference between merely surviving and thriving and flourishing everyone needs some form of love and care in their lives.   Candy had a relationship with his dog, George with Lennie, Curley with his wife but still Curly and his wife’s relationship is pretty dysfunctional, there is no comradeship between them no love or trust no affection.  Candy is keeping his dog alive for purely selfish reasons so that he isn’t left alone even though the dog is old infirmed, in pain, unable to eat, and Lennie and George’s relationship is not an equal relationship either.  Since Lennie cannot offer an equal adult relationship he needs a father figure, a caretaker where as George needs a friend a mate as such.

The main characters in the book are George Milton and Lennie Small.  George has a much stronger character he’s portrayed as more of a smaller wiry type of man strong fit body and a quick thinker, lives by his wits almost, which comes across on pages 23-24 when he is talking to the boss he lies about distanced walked saying “We hadda walk 10 miles” to cover them not arriving until late when they only walked 4 miles and they had arrived at the pool the night before.

 He is short-tempered but a devoted friend, whose frequent protests against life with Lennie never weakens his commitment to protecting his friend. George at some point early on in their relationship used to abuse and make Lennie a laughing stock and seems to be atoning for his sins ever since. He mentions his earlier bad treatment of Lennie on pages (40-41) telling Slim “Funny” said George.  “I used to have a hell of a lot of fun with ‘im.  Used to play jokes on ‘im ‘cause he was too dumb to take care of ‘imself”

He did this because it “Made me seem so god damn smart alongside of him”P41.  So George definitely is no angel and can be petty and nasty as much as the next person, but he genuinely cares for Lennie.    George’s first words, a stern warning to Lennie not to drink so much lest he get sick on page 5, set the tone of their relationship. George may be snappy and impatient at times, but he never strays from protecting Lennie.

Lennie is a large, lumbering, childlike migrant worker.  A huge bear of a man in looks,

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“A huge man, shapeless of face, with large, pale eyes, with wide, sloping shoulders;” (p2).

Steinbeck thinks Lennie is quite animalistic in his looks and ways comparing him to a bear when he was swishing his hand in the water as if it was a paw on page 4 then a horse on page 4 also when he is drinking water and later he is likened to a terrier on page 10 who doesn’t want to bring a ball back to his Master.  Due to his learning disabilities, Lennie completely depends upon , his friend and travelling companion, for guidance ...

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There is a lot of valuable insight here into the characters in the story. Solid points are made, often backed by strong textual references and quotations. The lexical resource is very broad, both in the appropriateness of terms used and in effective phrasing. However, organisation is poor and sentences are frequently extremely long, rambling and poorly punctuated. Suitable concluding material appears several paragraphs before the end, then the essay writer launches into more examples and analysis. There is no doubt, though, that this writer shows great promise, if only she can learn to organise better and learn the basics of sentence construction and punctuation.