Author John Steinbeck
Type of Work Novella
Genre Fiction; tragedy
Time and place written Mid-
Date of first publication
Publisher Covici, Friede, Inc.
Narrator Third-person omniscient
Climax Lennie accidentally kills Curley’s wife in the barn
Protagonists George and Lennie
Antagonists Curley; society; the cruel, predatory nature of human life
Setting (time) 1
Setting (place) South of Soledad, California
Point of View The story is told from the point of view of a third-person omniscient narrator, who can access the point of view of any character as required by the narrative.
Falling Action Lennie runs away from the barn; the men return and find Curley’s wife dead; Curley leads a mob of men to search for and kill Lennie; George finds Lennie in the clearing and, while retelling the story of life on their farm, shoots him in the back of the head.
Foreshadowing Lennie petting the dead mouse, Lennie being run out of Weed for the incident involving the girl in the red dress, and Lennie killing his puppy—all of which anticipate Lennie accidentally killing Curley’s wife; the death of Candy’s dog, which anticipates the death of Lennie; Candy’s regret that he didn’t kill his old dog himself, which anticipates George’s decision to shoot Lennie
Tone Sentimental, tragic, doomed, fatalistic, rustic, moralistic, comic
Themes The predatory nature of human existence; the importance of fraternity and idealized relationships between men; the impossibility of the American Dream; the destructive imbalance of social power structures in American society
Motifs Strength and weakness; loneliness and companionship
Symbols The clearing in the woods; Lennie and George’s farm; mice; Candy’s dog; the heron that plucks water snakes from the stream; Curley’s boots; Lennie’s puppy