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Of Mice and Men is a novel by John Steinbeck, detailing the lives of two farm workers with a common dream: to one day run their own farm. Achieving this may have seemed an easy feat for our protagonists, but it proves far more difficult than they anticipated.
The novel is set in the Salinas Valley in the south part of California during the Great Depression. This is all the information we get to know about the time period, but due to them mentioning the Great Depression it would have to have taken place during the 1930s. When looking for something indicating what type of weather or season the novel plays out, I found two clues on the first page of reading. On the first page of the novel, the writer says, “evening of a hot day started a little wind to moving among the leaves” and also “the water is warm too, for it has slipped twinkling over the yellow sands in the sunlight before reaching the narrow pool” which would give me the impression that the novel plays out during some part of the summer. At the start of the novel we get to know that two farm workers are migrating from one ranch to another ranch due to them being kicked off the old ranch. And I think this is an important part of the novel due to the Salinas Valley being the home to a lot of farm lands during the Great Depression. The writer starts with describing the scenery the two main characters are in. The novel starts beside a stream close to the Salinas River in the Salinas Valley. But further into the novel, they move from the stream to their new ranch. This new ranch seems to be very isolated from the outside world. It is described to be including a ranch house, a bunk house and a barn. All the workers on the ranch live in the bunk house, except for one. While all the workers are trying to make the bunk house feel like home, Crooks is the only worker that does not live in the bunk house – he lives in the barn together with the animals. He lives a lonely life inside the barn and does not get to bond with the other workers as well. Due to Crooks being African-American, and due to him being the only worker living in the barn together with the animals just shows what views people had at the point of the Great Depression. The barn is also the scene of where Lennie by accident murders Curley’s wife at the novel’s conclusion.
I would say there are two main characters which are very important to mention. One of those being George. George is described as a short man, that is very smart that is Lennie’s travel friend. Even though George sometimes mentions how much better his life would be without Lennie, he is still very happy to have Lennie for company during his migration and he feels obligated to protect Lennie and help him reach their goal they have in common. The second main character is Lennie. Lennie is described as not being very smart, but he is described as being big, strong, aggressive, short tempered and childish. The writer compares him to a horse due to him being so strong, but Lennie also gets compared to a bear because he walks like a bear, dragging his legs like a bear drags its paws. He is said to be childish due to the way he acts, and due to his behavior and I would have to assume that it has something to do with a possible mental illness of his. I found a couple other characters that I thought were worth mentioning and one of those are Candy. Candy is one of the oldest ranch workers, and one of his biggest worries is being kicked off the farm when they no longer have a use for him, and therefore not having a place to live. But further into the novel, when George tells Candy about their dream, Candy offers all his savings to George only if George would let him live on their farm. The last character I would say is worth mentioning is Curely. In my opinion, Curely is the main antagonist in the novel. He is the son of the ranch’s boss and from what I understood, he handles the ranch in a very arrogant and nonchalant way. Curely is described to be very short, and he gets very easily angered by everyone that is a possible threat to him.
The plot of the novel revolves around the Great Depression in the Salinas Valley in the south part of California. At the start of the novel you get to know about the two main characters migrating from their old ranch to a new ranch where they are expecting to get a job. While on their way to the new ranch, George warns Lennie not to do anything stupid that could cause them to get kicked off the new ranch. When they arrive to the new ranch the next morning, they meet the oldest ranch worker called Candy. Candy leads George and Lennie into the bunk house where they will live together with the other workers. After being in the bunk house for a while, Curely enters the bunk house and he immediately gets annoyed with the way Lennie is acting due to him not saying or doing anything. And right after Curely leaves the bunk house, George warns Lennie not to have anything to do with Curely because he knew Curely just wanted to cause trouble. A little further into the novel, George meets the unofficial boss of the farm workers and proceeds to explain how they got kicked from the old ranch due to Lennie wanting to touch the dress a girl was wearing without asking her if he could first. After further reading the novel, a farm worker called Carlson convinces Candy that his dog has to be shot and killed due to it being stinky and because it had no use on the farm. After it gets shot, Candy is devastated. Once Candy and George get to talk to each other for the first time George tells Candy about the dream him and Lennie have in common, to one day buy the farm of their dreams. To George’s surprise, Candy offers George all his savings if he could get to live on the farm together with George and Lennie. A couple of days later, Lennie is sitting all by himself in the barn looking at the dead dog when Curely’s wife enters the barn and wants to talk to Lennie. Lennie is very hesitant to speak to her, but when Curely’s wife puts Lennie’s hand on her hair and tells him to stroke it he proceeds to do so. But after stroking it for a while, he accidentally strokes it too hard and Curely’s wife tries to get up to get out of there – Lennie panics. He grabs onto her hair even harder, and because of this he accidentally breaks her neck, killing her. Lennie realizes he has done something very bad and tries to hide her body behind the pool, but regardless of his attempt to hide her body Candy ends up finding it and brings the body to George, which immediately realizes what Lennie had done. Curely ends up finding out about this, and when he does he gets very upset and starts a lynch mob to try and find and lynch Lennie. George asks if they could not just put Lennie in jail instead, but they tell him it would be even more cruel to but him in jail compared to lynching him. George and Lennie decide they will meet at the pool. Lennie arrives at the pool at patiently waits for George that finally arrives. George tells Lennie that they are very different compared to the other workers on the farm because they have each other and the other workers are all on their own. Lennie gets very happy when George tells him this. After speaking for a bit George tells Lennie to turn around and to look out over the beautiful river, and Lennie proceeds to due so because of the trust they have built up. George starts explaining to Lennie how beautiful the life on their dream farm would be, and while explaining this he pulls out the pistol he got from Carlson. Whilst he is pulling the pistol out, George can hear the lynch mob approaching and decides to shoot Lennie in the head, killing him instantly. The lynch mob arrives to the scene, to see Lennie slumped over and one of the farm workers try to protect George by saying he had to shoot Lennie. In my opinion, the climax of the story is when Lennie accidentally kills Curely’s wife. Even though George told Lennie multiple times not to get them into any trouble.
While reading the novel, I had a hard time finding one theme throughout the whole novel. But I found two themes that stood out a lot while reading and one of those being the unlikeliness of achieving the American dream during the Great Depression. At one point or another during the novel, almost every character will admit to having a dream about a new, better life. George and Lennie have a dream in common to one day own the farm of their life, and Candy also has a dream to one day own some land. But before any of the characters get close to achieving their dream, something will hinder or stop them from doing so. They are all just wishing to have freedom, and the ability to follow their own dreams. The second theme that stood out to me was the theme loneliness. This one was a quite interesting one. During the Great Depression, being lonely was a very common occurrence and it is very odd seeing a pair of friends such as George and Lennie. Most characters on the ranch are lonely, they have no friends and not really anyone to talk to – basically everyone is very isolated. But George and Lennie were not, which was a very uncommon occurrence during the Great Depression. Candy is arguably one of the loneliest people on the ranch just because of his age, and instead of showing sympathy for Candy they just chose to isolate him even more – and therefore making the problem worse.
My conclusion is that in the tragic novel Of Mice and Men, the writer uses descriptions and characterization to prepare us for the turning point in the novel and its very pessimistic ending. The writer used George and Lennie to perfection to make the reader think about the hopes and dreams of ordinary people at the bottom of the society and showing that you should never stop hunting your dreams.
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