Animal and Human Nature in Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men

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Animal and Human Nature in Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men The relationship between animal nature and human nature in John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men is a major theme throughout the work. Lennie and Candy are connected with animals via their various individual characteristics, such as physical appearance, mental capacity, or emotional maturity. Other characters, such as Curley and Carlson, demonstrate their animal-like natures in their interactions with others. Despite the obvious connection between the human natures and animal natures of the characters in the work, some of the characters attempt to rise above their bestial nature by dreaming and seeking companionship. Lennie is perhaps the most obvious example of an animal-like character. The very first description of Lennie is as "a huge man, shapeless of face, with large, pale eyes, with wide, sloping shoulders; and he walked heavily, dragging his feet a little, the way a bear drags his paws" (Steinbeck 2). This opening description of Lennie immediately connects him with a large animal, and for the rest of the novel, whenever his name is mentioned, the reader instinctively pictures a big, bear-like man. Lennie is also likened to a dog, just a few pages later, when he is compared to a "terrier who doesn't want to bring a ball to its master" (Steinbeck 9). This connection is further emphasized when, at the novelís end, Lennie is shot with the same gun and in the same way as Candy's dog was shot earlier in the novel. Lennie is also connected with animals in his mental capacity and preferences. His "simplemindedness as well as his attraction to animals, especially the rabbits and the puppy, would seem to fix him as animal-like" (Johnson 16). Candy is identified... ... middle of paper ... live together as a family. Candy and Crooks eagerly volunteer to join George and Lennie in their dream in hopes that they can contribute to the welfare of the group and act as one unit, one family. George already shows this kind of selflessness throughout the book in his looking out for Lennie, and, likewise, Lennie's looking out for George. These characters escape their primal, animalistic tendencies to fend for themselves and chose to help each other. Of Mice and Men presents many interesting connections between the animal natures and human natures of its characters. Though most characters display characteristics that could qualify them as bestial, only a few exhibit the drive to rise above this base level of existence and distinguish themselves from their animal nature. Works Cited: Steinbeck, John. Of Mice and Men. New York: Penguin Books, 1937.
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