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Why did Steinbeck choose the title Of Mice and Men?
Steinbeck chose the title Of Mice and Men after reading a poem called “To a Mouse” by Robert Burns, in which the poet regrets accidentally destroying a mouse’s nest. The poem resonates with several of Of Mice and Men’s central themes: the impermanence of home and the harshness of life for the most vulnerable.
The struggles of the mouse whose home is destroyed parallels with the struggles of George, Lennie, and other migrant workers whose dreams of purchasing land are destroyed by the trials of the Great Depression. Their own fate is not so different from the poem’s mouse, or the dead mouse Lennie pulls from his pocket—the characters are destined for destruction beyond their control.
What happened in Weed?
In the town of Weed, Lennie—a lover of soft things—touched a girl’s dress, became frightened when she started to “squawk,” and was accused of rape after the girl reported Lennie to the authorities. The men of Weed ran George and Lennie out of town, and the two escaped by hiding in an irrigation ditch until nightfall. This anecdote foreshadows the death of Curley’s wife, which happens as a result of a nearly identical misunderstanding. Because George observes first-hand the misunderstanding in Weed, he can be sure that Lennie is not guilty of deliberately murdering Curley’s wife (and so can the reader).
Why does Carlson shoot Candy’s dog?
Carlson shoots Candy’s dog because it is old, sick, and no longer able to work as a sheep dog. Carlson says the dog “ain’t no good” to Candy, unable to see that the dog still has value as Candy’s friend and companion. This assertion reveals how in the world of migrant laborers, companionship is so rare and undervalued that many laborers don’t even recognize a loving relationship when they do see it. The shooting of Candy’s dog is also framed as a merciful act intended to prevent the dog’s suffering, which foreshadows George’s decision to shoot Lennie rather than let him be imprisoned or tortured by Curley.
Why does Curley attack Lennie?
After Slim denies Curley’s accusation that he was hanging around Curley’s wife, Curley looks to take his anger out on an easier target, and chooses Lennie. Lennie is “smiling with delight” as he dreams about the future farm, ignorant that he has attracted Curley’s humiliated anger. By picking on Lennie, Curley demonstrates that he is willing to prey on the most vulnerable in order to maintain his dominance over the workers. Of Mice and Men suggests that this is one way that the property-owning classes uphold their power.
Why does George kill Lennie?
George knows that if he doesn’t kill Lennie himself, Curley will torture and murder Lennie in a more inhumane way, making Lennie suffer for killing Curley's wife. George must choose between mercifully shooting the friend he loves with his own hands, or allowing Lennie’s inevitable lynching by a mob that does not care about Lennie’s fate. Of Mice and Men argues that on the bottom rung of the American economy, the destitute are left with only stark and terrible choices.
Why does Lennie have a dead mouse in his pocket?
As the story begins, Lennie has a dead mouse in his pocket because he likes to pet soft things but doesn’t know his own strength and accidentally killed the mouse when he pet it too hard. When George realizes that Lennie has a dead mouse in his pocket, he asks him what he would “want of a dead mouse, anyways,” and Lennie explains that he “could pet it with [his] thumb while [they] walked along.” Even after George throws the mouse into the woods, Lennie finds it and tries to hide it once again, saying, “I wasn’t doin’ nothing bad with it, George. Jus’ strokin’ it.” The dead mouse introduces Lennie’s clear obsession with soft things and unintentional destruction of them, foreshadowing future events in the story.
How is Lennie different from the other men?
From the first pages of the novella, Steinbeck makes it clear that Lennie is different. Despite his large size, he comes across as childlike, and George seems to have to take care of him. For example, George warns Lennie not to drink too much water and has to repeatedly remind him where they are heading, saying, “So you forgot that awready, did you? I gotta tell you again, do I?”
It is not until later in the story when George confides in Slim that readers learn some clues about Lennie’s “differences.” George says, “He ain’t no cuckoo . . . He’s dumb as hell, but he ain’t crazy . . . I knowed his Aunt Clara. She took him in when he was a baby and raised him up.” Even though there is never a specific diagnosis given to Lennie, he seems to have a different intellectual ability than the other adult men just as Slim describes when he says, “He’s jes’ like a kid, ain’t he.
Why do George and Lennie travel together?
George and Lennie travel together because they have known each other since they were children and a natural friendship developed over time. George explains their history when he confides in Slim, saying, “Him and me was both born in Auburn. I knowed his Aunt Clara. She took him in when he was a baby and raised him up. When his Aunt Clara died, Lennie just come along with me out workin’. Got kinda used to each other after a little while.” George explains to Slim that even though Lennie can be a challenge, their friendship and companionship make life better for both of them.
Why does Curley wear a glove on one hand?
Curley wears a “glove fulla Vaseline” on one hand because, according to Candy, “he’s keepin’ that hand soft for his wife.” Since farm work is physical and tough on a person’s hands, the Vaseline will prevent at least one of Curley’s hands from becoming chapped and rough—something he clearly believes his wife would find undesirable. The choice to wear the Vaseline-filled glove reveals a lot about Curley’s character, such as his need to feel superior in strength but also in sexuality.
Later in the novella, George refers to the glove once again, saying disgustedly, “Glove fulla Vaseline . . . An’ I bet he’s eatin’ raw eggs and writin’ to the patent medicine houses.” During this story’s time period of the 1930s, both of these “remedies” were believed to increase physical and sexual strength in men, so George makes assumptions about Curley due to his wife’s flirty behavior and the glove full of Vaseline.
How does Lennie’s puppy die?
Like many of Lennie’s destructive incidents, his puppy dies because Lennie can’t control his own strength. After sadly staring at the dead puppy for a while, Lennie, sorrowful and confused, asks aloud, “Why do you got to get killed? You ain’t so little as mice. I didn’t bounce you hard.” Later, Lennie attempts to explain how the puppy died to Curley’s wife, saying, “He was so little . . . I was jus’ playin’ with him . . . an’ he made like he’s gonna bite me . . . an’ I made like I was gonna smack him . . . an’ . . . an’ I done it. An’ then he was dead.” Both of Lennie’s explanations make it clear that while he didn’t intend to hurt the puppy, his inability to control his own strength caused the puppy’s death.
Why does Lennie kill Curley’s wife?
Lennie kills Curley’s wife because of his inability to control his own strength and emotions. However, Lennie doesn’t simply kill her—several unfortunate events lead to her death. First, Curley’s wife insists on talking with Lennie even after he warns her that he “ain’t supposed to” because “George’s scared [he’ll] get in trouble.” Then Curley’s wife invites Lennie to pet her soft hair, but when he gets too rough, she “jerked her head sideways, and Lennie’s fingers closed on her hair and hung on.”
Finally, when Curley’s wife yells at Lennie to let go, he panics in fear that George will get mad and not let him tend the rabbits, so he puts his hand over her mouth. The more Curley’s wife struggles and yells, the angrier and more scared Lennie becomes, leading him to shake her harder until “she was still, for [he] had broken her neck.”
Why is Crooks’s room set apart from the others?
Race is the central reason why Crooks has his own room set apart from the other men at the ranch. When Lennie visits Crooks’s room trying to make friends, Crooks keeps his guard up and explains the situation, saying, “You got no right to come in my room . . . You go on get outta my room. I ain’t wanted in the bunk house, and you ain’t wanted in my room.”
When Lennie persists and asks why Crooks is not allowed in the bunkhouse, Crooks presents the clear racial reasoning when he says, “ʼCause I’m black. They play cards in there, but I can’t play because I’m black. They say I stink. Well, I tell you, you all of you stink to me.” This segregation presents the larger topic of racism and social position throughout this story as Crooks is ultimately “put in his place” just as the ranch workers have their place in the lowly bunkhouse.
Why isn’t Curley’s wife’s name ever revealed?
Curley’s wife’s name is never revealed as a way of showing her lack of independence and identity while also displaying the role of women on a ranch in the 1930s. In other words, she is Curley’s possession, confined to a dependent role as “wife.” Curley’s wife’s unhappiness and regret are directly connected to this lack of autonomy. She confides to Lennie, “I ain’t used to livin’ like this. I coulda made somethin’ of myself . . . Maybe I will yet . . . I don’ like Curley. He ain’t a nice fella . . . Coulda been in the movies, an’ had nice clothes[.]” Clearly, Curley’s wife’s discontent is directly linked to the fact that she has lost her identity by marrying Curley.
What does Slim do at the ranch?
Slim’s job at the ranch is a jerkline skinner, the head mule driver, and “the prince of the ranch, capable of driving ten, sixteen, even twenty mules with a single line to the leaders.” Aside from Slim’s specific job at the ranch, he is looked up to by all, making him a leader in his work and among the men: “There was a gravity in his manner and a quiet so profound that all talk stopped when he spoke. His authority was so great that his word was taken on any subject, be it politics or love.” Slim holds an unchanging, respected role at the ranch.
Do George and Candy still plan to buy the dream farm after Lennie’s death?
George and Candy give up on the plan to buy the dream farm once they realize that Lennie has killed Curley’s wife and his future is bleak. Without Lennie, the hope of the dream of escaping their difficult life as ranchers is washed away. After desperately trying to hold on to the possibility of still pursuing the dream of owning land, Candy asks, “‘You an’ me can get that little place, can’t we, George? . . . Can’t we?’ Before George answered, Candy dropped his head and looked down at the hay. He knew.” George explains that he only believed they would buy a farm one day because Lennie liked to hear about it so much.
Ace your assignments with our guide to Of Mice and Men!