Loyalty and Sacrifice in John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men

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John Steinbeck was born in 1902, in California's Salinas Valley, a region that would eventually serve as the setting for Of Mice and Men, as well as many of his other works. He studied literature and writing at Stanford University. He then moved to New York City and worked as a laborer and journalist for five years, until he completed his first novel in 1929, Cup of Gold. With the publication of Tortilla Flat in 1935, Steinbeck achieved fame and became a popular author. He wrote many novels about the California laboring class. Two of his more famous novels included Of Mice and Men and The Grapes of Wrath. Steinbeck got the title for Of Mice and Men from a line of Robert Burns, a Scottish poet, “The best laid schemes of mice and men often go awry." In Of Mice and Men, Steinbeck includes the theme of loyalty and sacrifice between friends. Steinbeck illustrates the loyalty and sacrifice between friends through the friendship of Lennie and George. The issue of loyalty is embodied in the character of George. He is an intelligent man who could make a successful living for himself on his own. He chooses to stay beside his friend Lennie. George can never get a steady job to fulfill his long-term goal of having his own farm. The first job that Lennie and George have together goes well for a while. Eventually Lennie ruins everything that is going good for them. Lennie sees a pretty dress that a girl is wearing. Without thinking about what he is doing, he goes up and grabs the dress to feel the nice fabric. This scares the girl and she tells the boss. Soon the whole town is after Lennie. This is the perfect time for George to start a new life, without Lennie. However, because of his loyalty to Lennie, he chooses to help Lennie escape from the town. Lennie needs George to survive. It is this that propels George to make the sacrifice that he does. After Lennie kills Curley’s wife, George knows that this is the end for Lennie. No matter what, someone will eventually kill Lennie. And if Lennie gets away this time, there will be another time, and eventually the inevitable will happen. He truly loves Lennie, so he shoots Lennie painlessly in the back of the head. Lennie dies with the happy thought of the dream of the farm they want to own some day.

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