Of Mice and Men
The novella “Of Mice and Men” by John Steinbeck teaches a lot about human behavior. We learn that each character’s past experiences, attitude, emotion, and their authority all have a great affect on the way they behave. The whole concept of human behavior is what ties together the themes of this short novel. Some of these themes include the impossibility of achieving the American dream, loneliness vs. companionship, and the predatory nature of human existence. Throughout the story these are reoccurring themes that are vital to comprehending the story.
The theme of the impossibility of achieving the American dream is a huge part of the story. Many of the characters did not end up where they wanted to be in life. Some of them include Crooks, Curley’s wife, Lennie, and George. Crooks, the black ranch hand, is unable to reach his dreams because of his race. He is segregated from the other men and is viewed differently also because of his crooked back. He wants to be accepted by the others because he feels so alone that it drives him mad. Curley’s wife is also unable to reach her American dream because of her mother, along with her husband.
She has dreamt of being an actress for a very long time and because of her mother is unable to move away in order to achieve her goals. Her husband holds her back because he could care less about her; he just wants to be able to show her off, to him she is just a trophy wife. Curley’s wife also tries to act as if she is educated but it is clear that is not the case. She tries to use large words but mixes them up or pronounces them wrong. Just as her husband does, she believes that the only thing that she has going for her is her looks so she tries to use them to her advantage. Lennie and George have the same dream to own their own ranch and to live off “the fat of the land”. Although George realizes that this dream is impossible to obtain a small part of him believes they will eventually reach their goal. He often tells Lennie of their future on the ranch and all the different animals they wish to have and each time he repeats this story he starts believing himself more and more. Lennie is completely convinced that they will someday own this ranch. Lennie is a huge part of why they cannot chase after this dream. He has some mental disabilities that restrain him from doing a lot of things the other men his age can do. He acts as if he is in the same state of mind as a child.
The theme of loneliness vs. companionship also plays a large role in this novella. Each of the characters are lonely, but in many different ways. Crooks and Curley’s wife are both lonely in the same manner. They are each desperate for some sort of human interaction. The other characters in this book already have a prejudgment on the both of them; Crooks because he is black and Curley’s wife because she is a woman. Lennie and George are different from the other characters in the story because they had each other. They would do absolutely anything for the wellbeing of one another. In the story George would tell Lennie he always made sure that he would tell him know different they are from the others, and how lucky they are because they have each other unlike the others at this time. They were looked at as being strange because it was not common at all to see two men traveling together as they did. In this way they were lonely because they couldn’t really relate to anyone and not many people understood them, or accepted them.
The character Candy and his dog have sort of a similar companionship as George and Lennie. No one can understand why Candy puts up with his dog, just as no one understands how George puts up with Lennie. There is a huge difference between being lonely and being ALONE. The theme of the predatory nature of human existence is also an essential part of the novella. The predatory nature of human existence is when people feel the need to bully, harm, or in any means destroy the obstacles in which they are faced. This basically means that when it comes down to it most people are going to do what is best for themselves, to protect them. Also, if someone has authority then they will use it to their advantage. Just as Curley, his wife, and Carlson do in the story. Curley bullies Lennie because he is trying to make up for his size by picking on a bigger guy. He thinks he is just so slick, and intimidating to the others by acting arrogant when in reality all he is doing is making himself look bad. Curley’s wife uses her looks to her advantage and tries to flirt with all of the men. Also, when she is around Lennie she feels intelligent because she has more knowledge than him so she uses that for what she thinks will be her own personal gain but it actually ends up turning on her creating an unfortunate outcome.
Carlson’s character sort of bullies Candy into letting him put his dog down. Carlson is not thinking of what would be best for the dog he is thinking of what he wants. In my opinion the novella is realistic and can be applicable to the present as to human behavior. The different themes that occurred throughout the novella do apply to our society today. They are actually very common; the predatory nature of humans is a big deal. Many people who have authority use it to their advantage and let the power get to them. Loneliness and companionship are also common in our society. Even if you have someone you can still feel alone, and like no one understands you. Just as Curley’s wife does. Finally, the impossibility of achieving the American dream is highly likely in our society. A lot of people are in debt and cannot afford the things that they may want, or need. Steinbeck was actually really accurate with the themes in this short novel, and it is easily relatable.