Of Mice and Men
by John Steinbeck
"I remember about the rabbits.”
by Hayden Robel
1. Briefly summarize the plot of the novel you read, and explain how the narrative fulfills the author's purpose (based on your well-informed interpretation of same).
2. Succinctly describe the theme of the novel. Avoid clichés.
3. Describe the author's tone. Include a minimum of three excerpts that illustrate your point(s).
4. Describe a minimum of ten literary elements/techniques you observed that strengthened your understanding of the author's purpose, the text's theme and/or your sense of the tone. For each, please include textual support to help illustrate the point for your readers. (Please include edition and page numbers for easy reference.)
1. In the midst of the Great Depression two unemployed traveler’s by the name of the George, a jaded but ultimately goodhearted man, and the mentally handicapped but purely innocent Lennie traverse the dustbowl of California in search of occupation as they pine after an idyllic dream of owning a plot of land, cultivating a tranquil farm. Eventually luck shines upon the boys as the two find work as farmhands on a ranch in Soledad. Earning pay, saving their wages so that one day they may realize their ambitions, not all, however, is bright on the ranch. A cast of characters ranging from the stalky/belligerent son of ranch holder Curley to the ambiguous but seemingly benevolent ranch supervisor Slim, conflict quickly arises. Lennie, a man suspended in a peter pan like youth, innocent, like a child, untainted by the harsh realities, turpitudes of the world, has always had a fondness for...petting. Rabbits, ducks, puppies, even people. Curley’s wife to blame, Lennie accidentally kills the women as she overacts/tempts him to pet her hair, Lennie, perpetually unaware of his strength, unintentionally breaking her neck in a bluster of confusion/panic. Enraged Curley recruits the entire farm on a brash manhunt to kill the now hiding Lennie. George, trapped between helping the crew find Lennie, kill Lennie, or condemn his best friend to a life of asylum incarceration, makes the difficult decision to end Lennie’s life himself rather than the suffering Curely would more than likely put his best friend thru. John Steinbeck, always capturing the zeitgeist of an era, painting a visage of America, not only crafted a story of chronicling adversity in the depression era United States with Of Mice and Men but so to a tale of hopes, of dreams. Of the panoply of themes present, I believe Steinbeck’s primary theme, purpose with this novella was to connote this, the pursuit of dreams. The widespread desolation of the depression played to Steinbeck’s penultimate purpose as George and Lennie, even thru the hopelessness of the Depression remain resilient, resolute in their relentless pursuit of purchasing a farm, their pursuit of ideals, dreams of a brighter future. Even though the boys never ultimately seize their aspirations, dreams never coming to fruition as the actualities of realities set in the novel ends with George moving on, sorrowful, but still motivated to achieve his and Lennie’s life goals. This is Steinbeck’s purpose/Of Mice and Men penultimate theme (IMO) that even when all is lost, even when it seems the world is against you, even when your dreams are crushed or seem impossible, you must always move on, continue in your pursuits, you must always have hope, no matter the obstacles, that even if you fall, as long as you keep focused, continue forward, believe, you can, will, rise.
2. (Essentially answered this above) Of the plethora of thematical elements from friendship to innocence, the primary theme of John Steinbeck’s novella is as follows: Steinbeck’s purpose/Of Mice and Men penultimate theme (AGAIN IMO) is that even when all is lost, even when it seems the world is against you, even when your dreams are crushed or seem impossible, you must always move on, continue in your pursuits, you must always have hope, no matter the obstacles, that even if you fall, as long as you keep focused, continue forward, believe, you can, will, rise. (Though maybe not achieve your dreams, exactly what you wanted in the end…)
· "Guys like us, that work on ranches, are the loneliest guys in the world. They got no family. They don’t belong no place. They come to a ranch an’ work up a stake and then they go inta town and blow their stake, and the first thing you know they’re poundin’ their tail on some other ranch. They ain’t got nothing to look ahead to."
· "She slang her pups last night," said Slim. "Nine of ‘em. I drowned four of ‘em right off. She couldn’t feed that many."
· "We could live offa the fatta the lan’." (Lennie) "Sure," said George. "All kin’s a vegetables in the garden, and if we want a little whisky we can sell a few eggs or something, or some milk. We’d jus’ live there. We’d belong there. There wouldn’t be no more runnin’ round the country and gettin’ fed by a Jap cook. No, sir, we’d have our own place where we belonged and not sleep in no bunk house."
John Steinbeck is a master of the English language, written craft. In his novels Steinbeck’s sheer literary talent trumps many contemporary authors of today. Of Mice and Men is one of his many masterworks, the atmosphere, the tone unrivaled. Depressive, nostalgic, if not a bit wistful, the tale of Lennie and George is a tragic one, but so to hopeful. Quote one illustrates the depressive era of the great depression as the acerbity of life causes people to search for any sort of relief, whether sober or inebriated. Quote two furthers the harsh actualities, dark tone of the 1930s as Slim is forced to “euthanize” dogs pups so that the remaining few would not completely kill the mother as there is a lack of sustenance, of resources for man as well as his best friend. Finally quote three connotes a lone light of hope in the ever maurading darkness as the boys wistfully describe their dreams. Indeed Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men has a depressive, dark but all too hopeful, dynamic tone.
4. Here we go, ad infinitum.
· Simile: “He walked heavily, dragging his feet a little, like a bear drags his paws. His arms did not swing at his sides, but hung loosely.” (pg. 4) Describes the lumbering mass of Lennie, likening to a bear, if only Lennie knew his true strength.
· Imagery: "No…you tell it. It ain’t the same if I tell it. Go on…George. How I get to tend the rabbits.” "Well," said George, "we’ll have a big vegetable patch and a rabbit hutch and chickens. And when it rains in the winter, we’ll just say the hell with goin’ to work, and we’ll build up a fire in the stove and set around it an’ listen to the rain comin’ down on the roof—Nuts!" (pg. 42) As Lennie asks about the future George paints an image of their hopes and dreams.
· Theme: “They fell into a silence. They looked at one another, amazed. This thing they had never really believed in was coming true.” (pg. 34) Reinforces what I believe is Steinbeck’s primary purpose/theme as Lennie and George get work/further there hopes and dreams, though the future may be bleak.
· Dialect: "I was only foolin’, George. I don’t want no ketchup. I wouldn’t eat no ketchup if it was right here beside me." (pg. 95) Though Lennie and George’s dialect may seem…”lacking” its endearing/denotive of Lennie’s child-like state of mind.
· Personification: Crooks scowled, but Lennie’s disarming smile defeated him.” (pg. 122) Bolded above, Lennie’s innocence, his smile literally is described as disarming to Crooks longborn hatred/mistrust in others.
· Theme: "This is just a nigger talkin’, an’ a busted-back nigger. So it don’t mean nothing, see?" (pg. 86) Prejudice is a theme connoted throughout the novel via rearks to the African- American character, Crooks.
· Personification: “You tried to throw a scare into Slim, an’ you couldn’t make it stick. Slim throwed a scare inta you.” (pg. 53) Carlson comments on how Slim scared Curley via the personification of throwing a scare.
· Hyperbole/Simile: “You’re yella as a frog belly. I don’t care if you’re the best welter in the country. You come for me, an’ I’ll kick your God damn head off." (pg. 143) Curley’s dubbed as cowardly as a frog/threatened to get his head literally kicked off in hyperbolic verbal rage.
· Innuendo/metaphor: "Well, that glove’s fulla Vaseline. Curley says he’s keepin’ that hand soft for his wife." (pg. 128) Curley’s wife is more of a tool to impress others as Carlson points out Curley’s….soft hand maintenance for his wife.
· Tone: "She slang her pups last night," said Slim. "Nine of ‘em. I drowned four of ‘em right off. She couldn’t feed that many." (pg. 117) The depressive tone of this event as Slim grimly euthanized a dogs pups due to lack of food to feed all of said pup only cements the harsh reality of the Great Depression as well as the novel’s dark tone.
Metaphor: "Yeah? Married two weeks and got the eye? Maybe that’s why Curley’s pants is full of ants." (pg. 113) The eye is referencing Curley’s wife’s blatant attempts at going after other ranch men, and Curley’s pants full of ants, well, that means he’s angry. A metaphor implying the couples… “tenuous” relationship to put it kindly.
1. Describe two examples of direct characterization and two examples of indirect characterization. Why does the author use both approaches, and to what end (i.e., what is your lasting impression of the character as a result)?
2. Does the author's syntax and/or diction change when s/he focuses on character? How? Example(s)?
3. Is the protagonist static or dynamic? Flat or round? Explain.
4. After reading the book did you come away feeling like you'd met a person or read a character? Analyze one textual example that illustrates your reaction.
· EXAMPLE 1:
· “…he moved with a majesty only achieved by royalty and master craftsman. He was a jerkline skinner, the prince of the ranch, capable of driving ten, sixteen, even twenty mules with a single line to the leaders. He was capable of killing a fly on the wheeler’s butt with a bull whip without touching the mule. There was a gravity in his manner and a quiet so profound that all talk stopped when he spoke, His authority was so great that his word was taken on any subject, be it politics or love. This was Slim, the jerkline skinner.” –Description of Slim
· “I ain’t so crippled I can’t work like a son-of-a-bitch if I want to."- Crooks
· EXAMPLE 1:
· "She slang her pups last night," said Slim. "Nine of ‘em. I drowned four of ‘em right off. She couldn’t feed that many."
· EXAMPLE 2:
· "Blubberin’ like a baby! Jesus Christ! A big guy like you!" Lennie’s lip quivered and tears started in his eyes. "Aw, Lennie!" George put his hand on Lennie’s shoulder. "I ain’t takin’ it away jus’ for meanness. That mouse ain’t fresh, Lennie; and besides, you’ve broke it pettin’ it. You get another mouse that’s fresh and I’ll let you keep it a little while." George to Lennie
“Any writers worth their royalties utilize both direct and indirect characterization.” – Hayden Robel after answering this question in six other analyses…
Steinbeck, as a “master of the English language/written craft” is one of these writers worth their royalties. In the direct characterization quote one the author describes with a near god-like image Slim’s physicality while also the ranch supervisor’s seemingly omniscient benevolence. Direct characterization quote two directly characterizes Crooks character as even a crippled, discriminated man is still impassioned to work. Steinbeck of course makes use of indirect characterization as indirect example one demonstrates the harsh actualities of depression era reality Slim characterized as one willing to do what other cant (nor want to do) but have to(“euthanizing” pups that would only die from suffering later). George is indirectly characterized as goodhearted man/ loyal friend to Lennie in this conversation between the two (Lennie after some innocent name calling mollifying the crying Lennie while looking out for him). Subsequently, as I’ve evidenced here and in my previous literature analysis of another one of his fellow famous novel Cannery Row, John Steinbeck indeed utilizes both direct and indirect characterization.
2. Actually, Of Mice and Men’s characterization is peculiar when compared to the catalogue of Steinbeck’s various works that I’ve had the fortune to read in that I didn’t notice a distinct syntax/shift when focusing on characterization. The novel smoothly, fluidly flows from conversation to exposition without any noticeable change/shift, rather said conversations are employed as a vehicle of description operated by Steinbeck to nuance his novels cast.
3. Again, unlike the majority of Steinbeck’s works, Of Mice and Men is odd in that the characters, protagonist included aren’t necessarily “dynamic”. Lennie doesn’t change (really isn’t given the chance); A case for George can be made I suppose in that he began the novel as a wise-cracking, head in the clouds dreamer-esque character but ultimately, due to the novel’s resolution, realizes his dreams with Lennie are over. But even then…I wouldn’t personally describe any character as “dynamic” per say, realism over fabrication for moral heavyhandedness I suppose.
"George?" Lennie called.
"What you want?" George answered.
"I can still tend the rabbits, George?"
"Sure.” George said, solemnly. “You ain’t done nothing wrong…"
"I di’n’t mean no harm, George."
The conversation above thru quiet connotation indeed qualifies George as a “real person”, as real as a fictional character can be. Most if not all of the characters (save for Slim) seem to be clichéd archetypes (this really isn’t peculiar compared to the widely un-realistic side characters of say Cannery Row) Steinbeck employing the side characters as means to a thematical end for the novel (I.e. Crooks as a symbol for anti-discrimination). George on the other hand, even if he can come off as obnoxious in his bravado/bloated words, genuinely regrets what he does by the novel’s end, authentically is remorseful for both Lennie and the lost of the two’s idyllic dreams. What human, real person wouldn’t be? The sheer terse, tense solemnity of the conversation serves to portray the humanity of George, a man making the decision to peacefully end his best-friend’s life so that his friend may avoid a life of incarceration or short-lived but agonizing torment from the hands of Curly. Indeed, George like a real (at least a good person) person sacrifices his dreams so that he may save his friend. (I would also qualify Lennie even if he is the origin, most likely the mold from which all the kind/innocent but ultimately unaware of their strength, mentally challenged characters of media derive).