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Of mice and men essay guide

15 Nov 2016Guides


If you are a fan of Jon Steinback, then you have reasons to find this article of interest and significance. Amongst the many books published by him, Mice and men is something that is unique and different in more ways than one. It was published way back in 1937 and even today it continues to be quite popular. The two main characters around which the novella is built are George Milton and Lennie Small. Both are migrant ranch workers who have been displaced. They have no other option but to move from one place to another in California. They do so basically in search of new job opportunities. The book is set against the backdrop of the Great Depression in the United States where jobs were extremely difficult to come by. There are a number of other characters too which make the entire plot interesting and worth reading perhaps even more than once.

Of mice and men book summary

The novel, Of mice and men, is more of a parable written by John Steinbeck unveiling a short story line of two men, Lennie small and George Milton during the America’s Great depression. The two are fresh migrants who escaped from a farm in California where they had been both employed. They have just been let off a bus and were here to prove their luck once again. As the conversation goes down, it’s clear that Lennie, a mentally deficient giant of a man has been accused of rape in their previous working station after touching a woman to feel the soft dress.

This story goes around being human, the day to day ambitions, obstacles one faces in life and the ultimate choices and sacrifices made towards achieving those dreams. The two men have widely varying characters and mental capabilities but are connected by the dream of owning a big ranch someday.

The plot

The two walk along to their destination hoping to secure another great job where George warns Lennie to be silent when they reach the new place of work. Lennie’s weird character in clearly depicted by his constant complaints about their last dinner, it’s here that George also notices and scolds him for playing with a dead mouse. George details their dream as they discussed the way forward: raising enough money to buy a piece of land where they’ll set aside a rabbit hutch and vegetable patch. It’s unfortunate that Lennie constantly remembers the rabbit hatch only and not the whole details of their huge ambitions.

Lennie and George are soon in the bunkhouse at their new place of work. An old man by the name Candy takes them around the place while showing his disappointments for not showing up the previous night. The two were then subjected to some questioning by the Boss where he notices Lennie’s mental challenge. He couldn’t understand why George had to come with Lennie but George had to cover him up saying he was his cousin. Boss leaves the bunkhouse and his son Curley enters. The latter is a short man who constantly hates tall men out of his inner insecurities and jealousy.

Curley’s wife is believed to be unfaithful. She visits the bunkhouse that very night looking for Curly where she flirts with the other men. Curley returns searching for his wife, he notices some conversations have been going on between George and his wife and he attempts to start a fight.

Slim is a skilled driver with a great authority on the ranch. He notices the close friendship between Lennie and George that night where he termed it to be very rare. The following day, George reveals the truth to Slim that Lennie wasn’t his cousin but long time friends. Slim promised to offer Lennie a puppy after hearing his weird stories. At the moment, Candy had an old dog and one of the workers, Carlson insisted on killing the old useless dog for a replacement with one Slim’s young puppies. Candy gives in when Slim supported the idea. Carlson leads the killing of the old dog.

Candy overhears Lennie and George’s intentions of buying a ranch when the two were discussing their issues. Candy delightfully offers to pull the money together if they could allow him to live and work on the ranch. Curley headed in where he wrongly accused Lenny of laughing at him, he punches the innocent Lennie who remained calm before George gave him the permission. Lennie crushes Curley’s hand during the fight.


The following day while in the barn, Lennie kills his puppy accidentally. Curley’s wife enters the barn to console him where she admits that living with Curley is such a great disappointment. She further explains her teenager dreams of being a film star. Lennie was set in a conversation where he claims to love petting soft things. Curley’s wife offers to let him feel her hair. He grabs the hair so tight that she cries out loud and in his attempt to bring her back to silence, Lennie unwillingly breaks her neck.


Lennie was quick to remember the meeting place in case one of them was in trouble: the pool of Salinas River. The men back at the ranch discovered what had happened and gathered for a lynch party. George used this time to join Lennie where the two started discussing their future ranch and the rabbit hatch. The approaching complex sounds from the party grows nearer and louder. George out of mercy decided to shoot his friend. When the crowd arrives, George made them believe that Lennie had the gun and they wrestled out to get it from him where he accidentally shot him. Slim is the only one aware of what is going on, he consolingly leads George away as the other men watch them leave.

Of mice and men characters

There are a number of characters as far as the novella is concerned. Apart from Lennie and George as mentioned above, there are a few more characters which have important roles to play. They include Candy, Curley, Curley’s Wife, Crooks, Slim, Carlson, Aunt Clara and Whit. We will have a look at a few of them over the next few lines.

Lennie: He is a childlike but well-built migrant worker. He has a small mental disability and therefore is totally dependent on George as his traveling companion and friend. They have a common dream of owning a farm of their own. Lennie is gentle but does not believe in his own capability. He has a love for petting dresses, animals, and other such soft things and this leads him to a lot of problems.

George: He is lightly built, quick witted and intelligent guy and he loves Lennie. At times he might harbor the feeling of life being better without Lennie as a companion, but his love for Lennie overshadows this feeling. Though George might be more capable when compared to Lennie, he at times has to believe in Lennie and his innocent belief as they move ahead in their lives together.

Candy: He is an aging ranch handyman. He gets to befriend both Lennie and George. He is concerned with his age and therefore would like to be a part of Lennie-George team. This perhaps would help him to also own a part of the land which Lennie and George are working on. However, Lennie’s death could turn things topsy-turvy.

Curley: Curley being the boss’s son believes in dressing himself different so that he can be seen in the crowd. He is mean-minded and always willing to pick up a fight. He is recently married to Curley's wife and is jealous and suspicious of her and is extremely possessive about his wife who has flirtatious tendencies.

Curley’s Wife: She is the only female character in the book. She does not have a name and is always referred as Curley’s wife. She is very sexy, hot and attractive and is the cynosure of all eyes in a male dominated world. Curley’s wife is lonely even though she is rich and wants more fulfillment from her life.

Of mice and men essay topics

Of Mice and Men is a renowned novel authored by John Steinbeck. The book discusses the life and experiences of a man called George together with his childlike friend named Lennie. Renowned for its great use of description and brilliant use literal skills to showcase character feelings in various situations, the brief novel is seen as a great tribute to literature. For literature students and scholars learning how to write Of Mice and Men Essay Topics can go a long way in improving one’s performance. We take a look at a few possible topic essays for this book.

1. The Role of Relationships in Human Life

Relationships tend to fill a particular void in human life – from economic, physical, social to psychological. Likewise, in this novel, there is a relationship between George and his mentally challenged mate, Lennie. With that in mind, you can write an essay focusing on the needs portrayed by each character. Once you do that, you can render a judgment on whether George is actually taking advantage of Lennie and whether you think Lennie is conscious of this exploitation.

2. The Impact of Communication

The characters used in Of Mice and Men rarely make use of straightforward communication. Instead, they mainly rely on gestures. For instance, instead of George telling Lennie he loves him, he is seen to prefer to give improbable stories of rabbit farms just to keep his friend entertained. There is also another character, Curley, whose wife finds hard to express boredom in marriage choosing to flirt with other men instead. Because George never tells Lennie of his love, Carlson fails to understand why George looked distraught when he pulled the trigger. Using communication angle, you can discuss the effects of this widespread reticence.

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3. Meaningfulness of Allusion in the Book

The main title “Of Mice and Men” is derived from an illusion to a poem by Robert Burns entitled “To a Mouse”. This novel, on the other hand, features two people with a plan to break from their frustrating employment – which goes awry. These two literal works seem to prioritize the relationship between man and animals. As a person looking to write an essay, you can pick a topic discussing some of the similarities between the novel (by Steinbeck) and poem (by Burns).

4. The Meaning and Symbolism of Loneliness

Profound loneliness is an emotion that’s experienced by almost all characters in this novel. One sentence goes “People like us who work in ranches tend to be the loneliest in the world”. From loneliness in marriages to loneliness at the workplace, we can say that this loneliness if existential and symbolic. Using this angle, you can write an essay whereby you will evaluate different levels of loneliness. You can also conclude with an analysis of your beliefs about what the author wishes to communicate about human relationships.

5. The Theme of Anxiety in Of Mice and Men

Almost all characters in Of Mice and Men seem to suffer from consistent anxiety disorder. This could be because they are marginalized or because of the grinding poverty they face day by day. Using this background knowledge, you can write an analytical essay based on various aspects of psychoanalysis and psychology to explain various ways in which anxiety affects people. Conclusion Much as it is a well-known classic, the novel is rich with potential ideas and topics for scholars and authors. Hopefully, the five Of Mice and Men essay topics discussed will help you arrive at a strong and profound thesis for your paper.

Of mice and men essay outline

The Great Depression of the late 20’s offers up the perfect environment of gloom and despair to fuel many discussions. One such product of the era is the oft critically considered novella, 'Of Mice and Men’ by John Steinbeck. It provides a glimpse of the hardships faced by men and women during a period of struggle and suffering.

Introduction and tone of the storyline:

The story outlines the lives of two men, George Milton and Lennie Small as they try to follow a cherished dream. The men wish to live the all American dream of freedom and own a small piece of farmland that they could call their own. George is sharp and alert and is the most dominant of the two men, while Lennie is brawny yet simple.

Along with their journey, they are hired as ranch hands by a man working for a big corporation. The ranch proves to be a hub of colorful characters who interact with Lennie and George on a daily basis. Many bonds of friendship are formed between key characters who shared similar dreams as the main protagonists. However, there are some characters who are thrown in a negative light. They propel the story towards a somber end, highlighting humanity’s intolerance towards different types of people.

Character Development and Analysis:

In this tale, the author has introduced characters by emphasizing their physical appearances. This approach is instrumental in laying the foundation to the common theme that runs through the book, i.e. chasing dreams. All the players in this story have sacrificed many dreams in their lives and are embittered in different ways.

Only George and Lennie continue to nurture a ray of hope and hold on to their dream of freedom.

Key Characters:

  • George Milton: The strong and gallant George is portrayed as a quick-witted man. Smaller in stature than Lennie, he is seen as the primary decision maker of the duo. It is his dream to have a farm of his own, while Lennie experiences a life without being persecuted. George is steadfast and holds loyalty and friendship close to heart. The act committed by him towards the end of the story cements their bond of friendship even beyond life and death.
  • Lennie Small: A stocky and hulking man, Lennie is depicted as open-faced and infantile. His needs have always been simple. He wishes to live off the fruit of the earth along with his faithful companion, George. Lennie’s character is widely considered as being mentally disabled. This is mainly due to his desire to touch and pet soft objects and material, like rabbits. He is easily manipulated and is ultimately undone when he accidentally hurts a person while stroking her soft hair. Lennie is ever trusting of George and his decisions.
  • Candy: Candy is the embodiment of hope in the entire story. Although friendless, handicapped and old, he still dreams of joining George and Lennie and owning their very own piece of land. Candy can be looked at as the 'wise old man’ who empathizes with the main characters.

Supporting Characters:

The ranch that George and Lennie work on play host to many shattered men. they are either segregated by race (such as the black man Crooks) or by spent energies (such as Curly, the owner’s son) or by broken dreams. Steering the story towards its melancholy end is a character with no name. She is simply known as 'Curly’s wife’. She is attention-seeking and uses Lennie’s mental condition to lure him into insecurity.

Concluding notes:

Echoed throughout the novel is the pursuit of dreams and how they are realized. The book also paints a picture of the value of human life during dark times. It shows us stark injustices and ill treatment that was rampant in the mindset of men of yesteryear.

Of mice and men quotes

Think how extraordinary an extent of mankind, comprises of powerless and oblivious men and women and of the unpracticed youth of both genders, who have the need for the thought processes of religion as to restrain them from the bad habit, to support their prudence, and hold them in practice. Here are the best Mice and Men quotes.

― John Steinbeck, Of Mice and Men

Government and Parliament and the House of Lords will agree to a substantial increment of electors; men who do not be considered the subject completely will think they have increased much by concession.

― John Steinbeck, Of Mice and Men

Dread not, we are of nature as the lion, and can't slip to the devastation of mice and of such small beasts.

― John Steinbeck, Of Mice and Men

We'll have a major vegetable patch and the rabbit hutch and the chickens. What's more, when it do rains in the winter, we'll simply say the hellfire with going to work, as we will build up the fire to the stove and set it a' listen as the rain descending on the roof.

― John Steinbeck, Of Mice and Men

They had strolled in single scrape down the way, and even in the open one stayed behind the other. Both were the dressed in the denim trousers and to denim coats with the brass buttons. Both of them wore black, shapeless...

― John Steinbeck, Of Mice and Men

Curley resembles a lot of little guys. He abhors huge guys. He's all the time picking scraps with enormous guys. Sort of like he's distraught at them since he ain't a major guy.

― John Steinbeck, Of Mice and Men

I seen an excessive number of you folks. If you had two bits in the world, why you'd be on getting two shots of corn with it and suckin' the bottom of the glass.

― John Steinbeck, Of Mice and Men

A guy needs somebody - to be near him. A guy goes nuts if he ain't got nobody. Don't make any difference who the guy is, long's he's with you. I tell ya, I tell ya a guy gets too lonely an' he gets sick.

― John Steinbeck, Of Mice and Men

I see several men drop by out and about an' on the farms with the bindles on their back a' that the same damn of things in their heads. Many them. They come, a' they quit a' go on; an' each damn one of them has a little land parcel in his head. A' never God damn one of them ever gets it. Much the same as paradise.

― John Steinbeck, Of Mice and Men

Of all the creatures that breathe and stroll on this earth there is nothing more vulnerable than the man is, of all the earth encourages; for he conceives that he could never endure challenges in the future days, while gods grant him mettle, and the knees have spring in them. Be that as it may, when the favored gods bring miserable days upon him, without wanting to he should endure it with continuing spirit. For the psyche of men to the earth goes as indicated by fortunes as to the Father of Gods and also Men, as day by day, to be bestows upon them.

― John Steinbeck, Of Mice and Men

Cultivated men and women who don't skim the cream of life, and are connected to the duties, yet get away from the harder blows, make acute and balanced observers.

― John Steinbeck, Of Mice and Men

Of mice and men essay questions

John Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men” is a deceptively uncomplicated tale of two vastly different men - the quick-witted, smaller George Milton, and the large, clumsy, unintelligent Lennie Small who is not aware of his own strength - and their time spent at a farm. Despite its short length, this novella explores plenty of deep, dark and intriguing themes as it ponders the nature of what it is to be human, and it poses some questions that require a good thinking cap to answer.

What themes are prevalent in this book?

  1. Loneliness. A large majority of the characters in this novel are experiencing the effects of loneliness and isolation. In fact, according to George, being a ranch or farm worker might just be the loneliest form of employment in the world. A lot of the story’s events are driven by the need of a character to find someone to confide in or spend time with, and it’s mentioned several times throughout the novel that loneliness is bad for a person. Sadly, in the end, we get to see just how bad it can be.
  2. Dreams and their impossibility. Almost every single character in “Of Mice and Men” has dreamed of living a different life than they currently do. Some dream of simply having their own place to call home, some have dreams of becoming movie stars, others dream of finding work elsewhere. However, none of these dreams come to fruition, and their lack of success is often compensated for through other, much sadder means. The potential movie star partakes in an unhappy marriage. An attempt at sharing a dream of independence leads to death. Perhaps, then, achieving goals is harder than just dreaming of them.
  3. Power and weakness. The ideas of the dance between strength and powerlessness are most the most central idea in this story. Lennie’s strength lies in his large form and powerful body, but due to his mental weakness, he cannot control that strength and it leads to things going awry. George, on the other hand, exhibits prominent mental strength and, as such, attempts to help Lennie where he goes wrong. However, he is also weak in the sense that he can only try to provide assistance and suggestion; he cannot actually control Lennie and what he does, and it is this play between power and powerlessness that leads to their ruin.

What are the symbols used in this novella?

  1. Dogs. There are two dogs in this story that function as symbols. The first is the old sheepdog that belongs to Candy, a swamper at the farm that George and Lennie work. The dog is old and tired and can no longer work due to age, and although Candy loves this dog, he decides to kill him painlessly to end his suffering. This is a foreshadowing symbol of what will happen to Lennie at the end of the novel, and it is also representative of the fate that awaits the weak who have outlived their purposes.
    Another dog that functions as a symbol is the puppy that Lennie accidentally kills. This represents the mercy at which the weak shall always stand under beneath the strong. Though gentle of nature and of good heart, Lennie cannot fathom his strength and kills the puppy simply by playing with him. Even with good intentions, the weak remain at the disposal of the strong.
  2. The pool. The pond featured in the very beginning of this tale is one that represents a safe sanctuary for George and Lennie. Lennie can always wait for him at this pool, and they consider it their hiding and rendezvous point. However, this is also the site of Lennie’s death at the end of the book. This, in turn, symbolizes the loss of innocence and life that can shatter a once-peaceful environment. These are just two of the questions that may need answering in this tale.

With that being said, the fluidity of literature means that you can come up with your own questions, answers, and interpretations as well.


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