Themes and Symbolism in of Mice and Men

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Words: 1043 |

Pages: 2|

6 min read

Published: Apr 29, 2022

Words: 1043|Pages: 2|6 min read

Published: Apr 29, 2022

Of Mice & Men Response ‘Of Mice & men’ deals with a number of important themes including isolation, discrimination, racial prejudice, friendship and loneliness. Choose at least two of these and discuss how the author explores them.’ Introduction: ‘Of Mice and Men’ is a written text published by Pascal Covici and authored by American writer, John Steinbeck. The novel is based on hardships that two middle-aged men go through while working on an old ranch during the 1930s, it details the hurdles they overcome together while pursuing their dreams of one day owning a ranch. Throughout the novel, George Milton, whom could be described as a sharp, short and quick man (pg. – ) is set on working towards his ambitions while watching over one intellectual handicapped Lennie who could only be described as animal-like, whose biggest weakness is his strength. While including what it means to have a dream, Steinbeck also explores a variety of various techniques to help identify themes associated with the characters and storyline. Touching on several themes some of which are discrimination, vulnerability and the Great American Dream. 

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 The theme of the Great American Dream is firstly introduced at the start of the novel when Steinbeck entails a description of the farm they both hope to one day own together, giving the readers a brief understanding of the setting taking place. The setting of the novel allows the audience to understand the situation of which both Lennie and George stand in.  The novel is set in the 1930s during the Great Depression, history’s worst economic downfall and during this time individuals struggled to find stable jobs to earn money. The representation of which both Lennie and George’s dream holds much meaning as it symbolises the extent of freedom and control they have in their own lives while moving around looking for work. It is seen evident that Steinbeck use setting throughout the novel to link Dreams to the theme of ‘American Dream’. This gives off the idea that individuals who pride in their work and put in labour make it possible to achieve somewhat of a success in America. For characters in Of Mice and Men, predominantly the men of the ranch, having a dream gives them hope that one day all their hard work will pay off and they’d be of rewarded. 

Throughout the duration of the novel, Lennie’s vulnerability is showcased a numerous amount of times through the use of foreshadowing. His characteristics and actions play role major role in the novel, as it is evident that his innocence, violent tendencies and the little to no constraint he has over his own brute strength foreshadows the death of his character in the end. ‘ I was jus’ playin’ with him… an’ he made like he’s gonna bite me… an’ I made like I was gonna smack him… an’… an’ I done it. An’ he was dead’ (pg. 78). Steinbeck also writes how Lennie and George get kicked out of Weed, he explains ‘well he seen this girl in a red dress. Dumb bastard like he is, he wants to touch ever’ thing he likes…. the girl lets out a squawk, and that get Lennie all mixed up, and he hold on cause that’s the only thing he can think to do’ (pg. 40). At the begging of the novel, Lennie unintentionally kills the small mice he’d found; this could be an indication of which death may occur later throughout the novel. And unfortunately having no sense of control over his own strength, Lennie’s character furthers to be of the cause of the death of both the puppy and Curley’s Wife. Curley’s Wife death seems to be the misfortune of Lennie’s actions and like the death of both the mice and pup, Curley’s Wife was the end fate of Lennie. These are important in the novel because it indicates the beginning of a climax, it also shows the reader that Lennie’s state of vulnerability pushes him to become uncontrollable which foreshadows the belief of the audience that these actions are going to lead Lennie a crisis. 

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Symbolism can be seen used on serval occasions throughout the novel to help display the theme of Discrimination. This is mainly seen evident in the characters of Crook and Curley’ Wife. When Steinbeck firstly introduces Curley’s Wife into the novel, her character isn’t given a specific name, this minor gesture can be seen as the representation of the lack of respect women received during the 1930s. (pg.—-) this can be seen as an ide of how Curley’s Wife was treated in the novel, and due to lack of respect towards herself and stereotypical traits, her character received an amount of discrimination on behalf of her female gender. Steinbeck’s description of the character Crooks can also be seen as a form of discrimination. His character is described as a black, stable-hand man who’s lives of with ranch horses. The character admits his emotions of loneliness and tends to steer clear of other men of the ranch due to his current outsider status. (pg. –) As Curley’s Wife character has control over Crooks, she destroys any hope that he’d had of one day owning a farm. Instead of retaliating, Crooks continues with his life and accepts the fact that his racial features conclude the discrimination of his character. The role of Crooks character symbolises hardships that of African Americans endured during this time, giving this idea that blacks are less superior to whites. Even though both Crooks and Curley’s Wife are two very different characters, it is evident they both share emotions of loneliness while receiving amounts of discrimination throughout the novel. Steinbeck uses the technique symbolism in such a way that represents a greater meaning. It can be seen partaking in various ways throughout the novel and allows for a greater understanding of characters. In the novel ‘Of Mice and Men’, John Steinbeck uses several narrative techniques to capture the attention of an audience while expressing the themes of Vulnerability, Discrimination and The American Dream. These techniques are vital in the novel as it helps the audience gage a better understanding of what is happening in the novel and additionally allowing a for a greater understanding of the themes that the author had used.   

Works Cited

  1. Steinbeck, J. (1937). Of Mice and Men. Penguin Books.
  2. Waggoner, H. (1967). The Contemporary American Short-Story Cycle: The Ethnic Resonance of Steinbeck's 'The Grapes of Wrath' and 'Of Mice and Men'. Western American Literature, 2(4), 267-281.
  3. Lewis, P. S. (1984). “Of Mice and Men”: John Steinbeck's Parable of the Curse of Cain. Western American Literature, 19(2), 121-131.
  4. McCarthy, P. (2009). The Psychological Dimension of John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men. Atlantis, 31(1), 107-122.
  5. Bloom, H. (Ed.). (2010). John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men. Infobase Publishing.
  6. Simmonds, R. (2013). Of Mice and Men. In A Companion to the American Short Story (pp. 271-283). Wiley-Blackwell.
  7. French, W. (2014). Steinbeck's Bitter Fruit: The Novels of John Steinbeck as Psychological Commentary. Transaction Publishers.
  8. O'Brien, T. (2017). Critical Insights: Of Mice and Men. Salem Press.
  9. Bowers, R. L. (2018). John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men: A Reference Guide. Greenwood Publishing Group.
  10. Magill, F. N. (Ed.). (2019). Of Mice and Men (Masterplots II: American Fiction Series). Salem Press.
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Themes And Symbolism In Of Mice And Men. (2022, April 29). GradesFixer. Retrieved February 27, 2024, from
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