Of Mice And Men George Analysis Essay

The relationship between the intelligent but weak George Milton and the retarded but strong Lennie Small is the focal point of Steinbeck's novella, and a surface reading strongly suggests that "friendship" or "personal commitment" is one of this work's salient themes. As the half-witted Lennie dutifully intones, the two men are distinguished from all of the other characters in the story "because I got you to look after me, and you got me to look after you, and that's why." (p.15). The initial interview by the ranch boss underscores the unusual quality of this bond, and the jerkline skinner Slim later echoes his employer's bewilderment when he says to George, "'Funny how you an' him string along together.'" (p.43). George confides that he and Lennie are not, in fact, cousins, but we learn that they have known each other since grammar school. They are linked together by a shared past, by a dream of the future, and by current circumstances. All of this implies a substratum of mutual affection.

Yet theirs is a symbiotic relationship. The two men are forced together by common necessity rather than genuine emotional attachment. Lennie, of course, depends entirely upon his long-time comrade, and the very thought of George abandoning him sends the childlike giant into a state of panic. It is evident from the start that Lennie could not possibly function in the harsh world that they inhabit without George, who holds his companion's work card and always does the talking for him. The stable buck Crooks is unsparingly accurate in his assessment that without George's continual guidance, Lennie would wind up chained like a dog in an institution for the feeble-minded. Lennie wears the same clothes as George and even imitates his gestures. The extent of Lennie's psychological integration with the George is acutely apparent in the novel's concluding chapter when the giant rabbit of his stricken conscience mouths George's words in Lennie's own voice.

By the same token, just as Lennie needs mice and pups and rabbits to take care of, George needs Lennie to tend. As George discloses to Slim, the incident that sealed the bond between the duo came when he told his utterly compliant friend to jump in the rushing Sacramento River and was then forced to save the huge man from drowning. Lennie furnishes George with an object for his own lower-case ennoblement. George also uses Lennie as an excuse for the menial hardships that he must endure. He repeatedly claims that life would be "so easy" for him were it not for the burden of caring for Lennie. This is plainly an expression of wishful thinking. With or without Lennie in tow, George would still be compelled to eke out a meager, inane existence as a lowly ranch hand. But most of all, George needs Lennie to concur with and to prop up his "dream" of owning a little farm and thereby preserve it from dissolving under the brutal force of reality. It is a web of dependencies, not brotherly love, which binds the two men together.

A profound, primordial isolation runs through the lives of all of the characters in Of Mice and Men, and it is this separateness that constitutes the novel's predominate theme. George and Lennie are adrift and, at bottom, on their own in the world that Steinbeck depicts. Although this lack of anchorage is particularized as an historical manifestation of the Depression Era, people in this story are basically divided by a timeless and universal feature of the human condition, a distrust born of vulnerability . As Slim muses, the reason that ranch hands are loners is that "'everybody in the whole damn world is scared of each other.'" (p.38). In one of the novel's most touching episodes, the black stable worker Crooks (set even further apart from his fellows by virtue of his race) tells Lennie that lacking someone to share his experience, he can't even tell if what he sees before him is real or merely a dream. (p.80).

Curley's wife is there to remind Crooks that his subordinate status is all too real when she responds to a felt insult: "'Nigger, I could bet you strung up on a tree so easy it ain't even funny'" (p.89). As a black man, Crooks is clearly liable to such false...

(The entire section is 1697 words.)

The following analytical paper topics are designed to test your understanding of this novel as a whole and to analyze important themes and literary devices. Following each question is a sample outline to help you get started.

  • Topic #1
    Loneliness is a dominant theme in Of Mice and Men. Most of the characters are lonely and searching for someone who can serve as a companion or just as an audience. Discuss the examples of character loneliness, the efforts of the characters in search of companionship, and their varying degrees of success.

    Outline
    I. Thesis statement: In his novel Of Mice and Men, Steinbeck depicts the essential loneliness of California ranch life in the 1930s. He illustrates how people are driven to find companionship.

    II. Absence of character names
    A. The Boss
    B. Curley’s wife

    III. George and Lennie
    A. Consider each other family
    B. Lennie described as a kind of pet
    C. George’s philosophy about workers who travel alone
    D. The Godlike Slim as George’s audience

    IV. Candy
    A. Candy’s attachment to his dog
    B. The death of his dog
    C. His request to join George and Lennie
    D. His need to share his thoughts with Lennie

    V. Crooks
    A. Isolated by his skin color
    B. His eagerness for company
    C. His desire to share the dream of the farm

    VI. Curley’s wife
    A. Flirting with the workers
    B. Talking to Crooks, Candy, and Lennie in the barn
    C. Persuading Lennie to listen to her

    VII. The hope and power when people have companions
    A. George and Lennie
    B. Candy
    C. Crooks

    VIII. The misery of each when companionship is removed
    A. Crooks
    B. Candy
    C. George

  • Topic #2

    The novel Of Mice and Men is written using the same structure as a drama, and meets many of the criteria for a tragedy. Examine the novel as a play. What conventions of drama does it already have? Does it fit the definition of a tragedy?

    Outline
    I. Thesis statement: Steinbeck designed his novel Of Mice and Men as a drama, more specifically, a tragedy.

    II. The novel can be divided into three acts of two chapters (scenes)
    A. First act introduces characters and background
    B. Second act develops conflicts
    C. Third act brings resolution

    III. Settings are simple for staging

    IV. Most of the novel can be transferred into either dialogue or stage directions
    A. Each chapter opens with extensive detail to setting
    B. Characters are described primarily in physical terms

    V. The novel fits the definition of tragedy
    A. The protagonist is an extraordinary person who meets with misery
    B. The story celebrates courage in the face of defeat
    C. The plot ends in an unhappy catastrophe that could not be avoided

  • Topic #3

    There are many realistic and naturalistic details in Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men.
    Discuss how Steinbeck is sympathetic and dispassionate about life through the presentation of realism and naturalism.

    Outline
    I. Thesis Statement: Steinbeck displays a sympathetic and a dispassionate attitude toward man’s and nature’s condition through the use of realistic and naturalistic details.

    II. Realism—things as they are
    A. Setting of chapter one
    1. Water
    2. Animals
    3. Plants
    4. People
    B. Description of the bunk house
    C. Dialect and slang of the characters
    D. Dress and habits of the characters
    E. Death as a natural part of life

    III. Naturalism—fate at work
    A. Animal imagery to describe people
    1. Lennie
    2. Curley’s wife
    B. Lower class characters
    C. Place names
    1. Soledad
    2. Weed
    D. Foreshadowing
    1. Light and dark
    2. Dead mouse and pup
    3. Lennie’s desire to leave the ranch
    4. Candy’s crippled dog
    5. Solitaire card game
    E. Symbolism in the last chapter
    1. Heron and snake
    2. Gust of wind
    3. Slim’s comment

  • Topic #4

    The story of George and Lennie lends itself to issues found in the question: Am I my brother’s keeper? Does man have an obligation to take care of his fellow man, and what is the price that must be paid if the answer is “yes” or if the answer is “no”?

    Outline
    I. Thesis Statement: Steinbeck shows that there is a great price to be paid for not being sensitive to the needs of others as well as for taking care of others.

    II. The vulnerable ones
    A. Lennie
    B. Candy
    C. Crooks

    III. The heartless ones
    A. The boss
    B. Curley
    C. Curley’s wife

    IV. The insensitive one—Carlson

    V. The sensitive ones
    A. Slim
    B. George

  • Topic #5

    The American Dream is for every man to have a place of his own, to work and earn a position of respect, to become whatever his will and determination and hard work can make him. In Of Mice and Men the land becomes a talisman, a hope of better things. Discuss the American Dream as presented in the novel.

    Outline
    I. Thesis Statement: For the characters in this novel, the American Dream remains an unfulfilled dream.

    II. The dream
    A. Owning a home
    B. Enjoying freedom to choose
    1. Activities
    2. Companions
    C. Living off the fat of the land
    D. Not having to work so hard
    E. Having security in old age or sickness

    III. The dream’s unrealistic aspects
    A. Too good to be true
    B. A pipe dream for bindle stiffs
    C. Lack of money

    IV. George and Lennie’s attitude toward the dream
    A. Was a comfort in time of trouble
    B. Did not really believe in the dream

    V. Crooks’s attitude toward the dream
    A. His belief
    B. His disappointment

    VI. Candy’s attitude toward the dream
    A. His belief
    B. His money
    C. His disappointment at the end

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