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However opposite these two novels may seem on the surface – for example, one a New England setting, the other a Western setting -- they can be compared on a social level: both novels, the 19th century American novel by Nathaniel Hawthorne and the 20th century novel by John Steinbeck, deal with the dramatic circumstance of an individual in an over-strict social environment. In both novels, the protagonist(s), the persons whose dilemma we as readers are following, are seeking to fit it, but have individualized goals that prevent their being accepted fully – in The Scarlet Letter, Hester’s public humiliation destroys any happiness the protagonist may seek, and in Of Mice and Men, the condemnation of the modest ambitions of the men, together with Lennie’s mental handicap, makes the social/economic quagmire of these migrant workers inescapable. Lennie’s strength, together with his affection, and his unknowing acts, force the story to its tragic conclusion.
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