Critical Summary of Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men

Critical Summary of Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men

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Critical Summary of Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men The book Of Mice and Men was set in the depression of the 1930's in
California in a place called Soledad. Men travelled around looking for
any work they could find, they had to leave families and homes just to
make money. Even firms and companies went bankrupt, these were
depressing and desperate times, no hope and no future.

Without dreams no one would have a reason to keep going.

The character George is a small, quick man with well defined features.
He is a migrant ranch worker, he dreams of one day saving enough money
to buy his own place and being his own boss, many men in the

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depression dreamed of this.

His only set-back is his mentally handicapped friend Lennie whom he
travels with and has been since he promised Lennie's aunt Clara he
would look after him after she died. Looking after Lennie stops George
from working towards his dream and even prevents him from having a
normal life of a rancher, because of this George and Lennie regularly
fight. George yearns for companionship as you can tell by the metaphor
of him playing solitaire.

The tension of having to look after Lennie and himself shows in George
and he shows a wide variety of emotions during the novel, from anger
to patience and sadness.

Lennie is mentally slow, he enormous. He is George's companion and he
is the source of all of the novel's conflict. He is George's opposite
both mentally and physically. Lennie's innocence and helplessness, his
childish actions, such as his desire to pet soft things makes Lennie
likeable to the readers of the novel.

Lennie's stupidity and carelessness cause him to accidentally harm and
even kill animals and people, this creates trouble for George and

Lennie is faithful George he likes hearing about the dream that they
share of owning a farm, although not liking in the same way as George.
He understands the dream in a different way than George it is more
childish and he gets excited when he thinks of tending the rabbits on
the farm. Although a dream is a dream, it is different for everyone.
Lennie is helpless to get the dream and relies on George to get it and
him out of trouble.

At the beginning of the novel, in chapter 1, George and Lennie are in
the brush. They are sitting by the river's edge. They have been
dropped off buy a bus and have had to walk 4 miles and are very tired.
The next morning the two of them have to be at work on a ranch in
Soledad and George tells Lennie that he will be doing all the talking.

In this chapter you also find out about the last job they had at Weed
and why they had to leave, Lennie got the m in trouble and they had to

Also in this chapter we find out about their dream and Lennie gets
very excited at the idea that he can tend rabbits on the farm and
George says

" an' live off the fatta the lan' ".

Lennie acts like he is a child when he told about the dream, and
recites bits of it that he knows because he has been told it so many

They have no money at this point because they had to leave their last
job before being paid because Lennie was accused of assaulting a lady
on the ranch and they were chased out of the town, but George manages
to produce two cans of beans. This shows that he always provides for
them both.

At this point in the story George gets angry with Lennie because
Lennie moans that he only likes beans with ketchup

George, on life without Lennie:

" Whatever we ain't got, that's what you want. God a'mighty, if I was
alone I could live so easy. I could go get a job an' work, an no
trouble. No mess at all, and when the end of the month come I could
take my fifty bucks and go into town an' get whatever I want."

When Steinbeck refers to the ranch workers dreams he is referring to
the American dream, this was a common belief of Americans in the
depression. It was a dream that they could own their own land and work
for themselves.

This is a novel of beaten hope and the reality of the American dream.

George and Lennie are poor, homeless ranch workers, they are doomed to
a life of travelling from job to job. Their dream may not seem
different to the other Americans but George and Lennie cling to the
thought that they are different to the other workers that drift from
job to job, because unlike others they have a future, and each other.
Although characters like Crooks and Curleys Wife remind us that George
and Lennie are no different from anyone else who wants something of
their own.

George and Lennie dream is seen as ' wishful thinking ' because they
could never own their own farm. The dream was wanting to re-create
happier times, when they were young and they lived with their
families. George and Lennie want to re-create how they lived when aunt
Clara was alive, George was also close to aunt Clara and there was a
strong friendship between them. That is why he promised to protect
Lennie when she died. They also dream of this because they want to
remind or want to live in a kind of paradise where they have lots of
food and a cosy life.

The dream that Lennie and George have is not a reality till the
characters are introduced to Candy. He is a old, one handed man, he
befriends George and Lennie when they first get on the ranch. Candy
becomes a very lonely man after Carlson kills his only companion, his
dog and hopes for the same fate.

" When they can me here I wisht somebody'd shoot me"

What happens to the dogs is a insight in to what is going to happen to

When he hears Lennie and George talking about the dream he becomes
excited and offers money towards it so they can buy a farm, he also
offers to work on the farm.

His substantial amount of money and the fact that he knows a place
makes it hard for George and Lennie to refuse his offer. Candy clings
to this hope of a nice future.

All three men gain hope but hear people coming and promise to keep it
a secret.

In his excitement Candy lets the secret slip to both Crooks and
Curley's Wife.

After Lennie kills Curley's Wife and shatters the reality of the dream
Candy becomes a hopeless again, the broken shell of a man.

Lennie's simple mind cause him trouble as he get scared and panicked
very easily and this causes him to hurt and even kill people. He kills
mice accidentally, killing the puppy and crushing Curleys hand all
point to what happens to Curley's wife as Lennie does not know what's
right and wrong he sees no difference in killing animals and people.
He didn't know that killing Curleys Wife was different than an animal
and only ran because George told him to if he got in trouble. He has
no idea that when he does these things it affects George and other
people around him greatly.

He does not learn from his mistakes, he knows that petting things to
hard kills them but his strength and stupidity causes him to kill
animals over and over again.

When he is away from George for the littlest time he gets himself in
the trouble as he killed the puppy and Curley's wife when George was
only a short distance away from him. He has omence strength but
doesn't know this and if a normal man did what he did to Curley it
would not of broken his hand but his strength crushed his had within
minutes without even knowing he had hurt him that bad, he was only
trying to stop Curley from punching him because George told him to
fight back he grabbed Curleys hand and couldn't let go because he
panicked, this also happened in Weed when Lennie could not let go of
the lady dress because he panicked when she screamed. Lennies
child-like personality and his behaviour always get him into trouble
which he can not get out of and this causes him to kill another human

When looking at the theme of Steinbeck's novel, we should first look
at the title, which is an referral of a line of Robert Burns, a
Scottish poet:

" The best laid schemes o' mice an' men gang aft aglay."

Which translated in to modern English is:

" The best laid schemes of mice and men often go awry. "

This statement is at the heart of the novel and serves a insight of
what is to come, as the novels two main characters do have a scheme, a
specific dream of changing their lives. The tragedy, of course, lies
in the fact that no matter how much George and Lennie plan, regardless
of how much they hope and dream, their plans never come true.

This is a story of defeated hope and of the harsh reality of the
American dream. George and Lennie are poor homeless migrant workers,
doomed to a life of wandering and labour. George and Lennie
desperately cling to the thought that they are different from other
workers who drift from ranch to ranch because, unlike others, they
have each other and a future.

But characters like Crooks and Curley's Wife serve as reminders that
George and Lennie are no different from anyone else.

By killing Lennie, George eliminates a immense burden and a threat to
his own life

( Lennie, of course, never threatened George directly but his actions
had put George's life in danger. ). The tragedy is that George, in
effect, is forced to shoot his only companion, who made him different
than many other workers, as well his own dream and admit that it has
gone hopelessly awry.

His new burden is now hopelessness and loneliness, the life of a
homeless ranch worker. Slim's comfort at the end " you hadda George "
indicates the sad truth that you have to surrender your dreams in
order to survive, not the easiest of things to do in America, the Land
of Promise.
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