Of Mice and Men

John Steinbeck
Main Ideas

Key Facts

Main Ideas Key Facts

full title  Of Mice and Men

author  John Steinbeck

type of work  Novella

genre  Fiction; tragedy

language English

time and place written  Mid-1930s; Pacific Grove and Los Gatos ranch, California

date of first publication  1937

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)  1930s

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.

tense  Past

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  The corrupting power of female sexuality; 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