Of Mice and Men Literary Criticism
Of Mice and Men Literary Criticism
At the mention of the name, “John Steinbeck,” many associations can be made to the classic works produced by the man. However, he did not begin his life as a successful writer. Growing up in Salinas, California, Steinbeck lived the life of a common man, working to survive in the Land of Promise. He began to develop a taste for writing; however, he studied marine biology while he attended Stanford University. Without graduating with a degree, Steinbeck began working as a laborer and reporter for the American in New York City. After realizing that he was not meeting his goals, or at least coming close to them, Steinbeck moved back to California where he continued to work in various odd jobs while he pursuing his career as a professional writer. In the early 1930’s Steinbeck met Edwards Ricketts, a marine biologist who later became a major influence on his works. Steinbeck enjoyed listening to Ricketts’s views on the interdependence of life. Steinbeck became intrigued by these concepts and began applying these themes to all of his developing works. His first two publications were undeveloped and deemed failures, but with the production of Of Mice and Men, Steinbeck was introduced to the world of literary acceptance.
Of Mice and Men is considered an American classic that is taught by almost every high school and featured on most “must read” booklists. The reason for such appraise can be found in the themes lying within the book. Steinbeck establishes the concepts of man’s destiny by developing his characters, the relationships they share, and their interactions and using them to reinforce underlying themes. The relationship between Lennie and George opens many types of interpretation for critics of the novel. Some wonder whether George cares for Lennie and a person, or maybe George only feels obligated to watch over him. Is it a matter of George’s sincerity, or does Steinbeck want to reinforce the idea that humans would naturally want to be alone?
Of Mice and Men tells the story of two men who depend on each other to survive. Their relationship resembles one that would be found between two brothers where one, George, is looking out for the other, Lennie. This relationship can be illustrated through out the novel. When the boss asked Lennie what he was capable of doing, George replied for him with, “He can do anything you tell him…he can do anything. Just give him a try” (22). George noticed that Lennie might no be able to give the boss the right answer so he decided to help out and take matters into his own hands. He does this because he feels that Lennie is his responsibilityand he continues to do this throughout the book. Lisca takes notice of the relationship and says that it “could be seen in George’s sacrifices and devotion to Lennie” (348). Devotiong is definitely the word to use because George was devoted to Lennie. George had a choice: whether he should take on Lennie’s responsibilities or not.
Steinbeck uses George and Lennie’s companionship to set them apart from the rest of the people. Not only do they have a dream, but they do have each other. Before the two arrive at the ranch, the two discuss exactly what it is that sets them apart from the rest of the rest of the ranchers when George says, “We got a future…If them other guys gets in jail they can rot for all anybody gives a damn. But not us” (14). George is letting Lennie know that they are above the others, that they have a plan to get out of the rut they are in. French also finds this element in Steinbeck’s work. “When George shoots Lennie, he is not destroying only the shared dream…but also destroying the thing that makes him different and reducing himself to the status of an ordinary guy” (349). It is evident that this dream made the two stand out among the rest.
Steinbeck wants to emphasize the idea of loneliness by creating characters and depicting them as being alone in the world, despite the fact that they are surrounded by other people. Candy has his companion, a dog, who eventually dies leaving Candy alone. This killing is essential to the book because while in contributes to the theme of man being alone in the world, it also is used to foreshadow what will come. When Candy thinks back on his dog, he becomes sad and says to George, “I ought to of shot that dog myself, George. I shouldn’t ought to of let no stranger shoot my dog” (61). Candy thinks that the right thing to have done would have been to kill his dog himself. Later in the story, George is faced with a similar situation. While Lennie is being hunted by the angry group, George decides that it would have been better to kill Lennie himself because Lennie was George’s companion, his best friend, his pet, and his responsibility. Candy continues to search for companionship by trying to get in on the dream to own land, which was originally shared by Lennie and George. Candy tries to contribute