of Mice and Men
American Literature research papers that focus on the work of John Steinbeck often look at the depression era novel, Of Mice and Men. The literature experts that Paper Masters uses will explain Steinbeck's most well-known novel for you in a custom written project that focuses on any aspect of the novel you need it to.
John Steinbeck (1902-68) was a writer who was best known for his works written during the thirties, the period of the Great Depression, works which show great sympathy for the plight of the common man. Of Mice and Men, one of his most highly respected novels, is about the fate of two migrant farm workers. It was written in 1937, a time in which Americans were familiar with the spectacle of rootless people roaming the land and looking for jobs. There are three major themes that are in the book:
- What people can do for one another if they practice decency and compassion and are capable of loving one another;
- The fact that all people containflaws and these cause them to suffer;
- How life, in order to be bearable to most people, must have hope even if this hope is really only a dream.
George and Lennie are members of an underclass, the migrant farm workers of the thirties. Their lives are very insecure and they suffer economic exploitation. Taken together, George and Lennie show us one strategy for survival under pressure. Because George is, at heart, a good, compassionate, and decent man, and Lennie an innocent one, they are able to form an iron bond. They wander the country together and they share each other's fate. George is somewhat sheepish about this bond and, at one point, suggests that Lennie is so much trouble to him-Lennie is physically powerful, but mentally retarded-that he ought to abandon him. But this is merely bad temper. He understands that their relationship is not just a case of him taking care of Lennie, but that the survival of both of them is helped by their friendship. He says, "We got a future. We got somebody to talk to that gives a damn about us If them other guys gets in jail they can rot for all anybody gives a damn. But not us." And Lennie breaks in, "But not for usbecause I got you to look after me, and you got me to look after you." There is love between them and when, faced with an impossible situation, George has to kill Lennie, he says to him-and to the reader as well, "I ain't mad. I never been mad, an' I ain't now. That's a thing I want 'ya to know ." The killing is an act of love, a sparing of Lennie from a worst fate. Here Steinbeck is telling us something about the necessity of love for survival, about the strength of the bonds it can create, and about the fact that in many cases it ends in sadness. He is telling us also that it will improve our life if we find it, but that life can not only deprive us of those we love, it may even, cruelly, force us to be the instrument of their death. These are universal themes.
Throughout Of Mice and Men, Steinbeck undermines the traditional Christian-based values of 'good' and 'bad', 'right' and 'wrong'. Even the working title that he used for the text, Something That Happened, illustrates Steinbeck's unwillingness to categorize people and events on the basis of their societal labels. For instance, Lennie, the character whom Steinbeck chooses to portray in-depth (and therefore the character he invites readers to sympathize with), is regarded by society as a sex offender. By resisting the accepted practice of explicitly detailing Lennie's thoughts, reasoning, motivations, and justifications, Steinbeck forces readers to ponder the moral significance of Lennie's actions on our own terms. In fact, by paralleling Lennie's death with that of Candy's dog, Steinbeck presents readers with the exact opposite of the doctrine of free will, a kind of biological predestination or natural selection argument. Both Lennie and the dog were removed when the inconvenience of their impairments came to outweigh the positive benefits of their continued survival. Moral judgments, Steinbeck contends, cannot rightfully be imposed on acts of nature.