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How is the world in Of Mice and Men portrayed as brutal and indifferent? 

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ritibahl | Student, Grade 9 | eNotes Newbie

Posted February 28, 2013 at 3:33 PM via web

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How is the world in Of Mice and Men portrayed as brutal and indifferent? 

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gojsawyer | Teacher | (Level 1) Assistant Educator

Posted February 28, 2013 at 4:16 PM (Answer #1)

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One way in which the world in “Of Mice and Men” is portrayed as brutal and indifferent is in Lennie’s killing of small animals. The world is portrayed as brutal because Lennie is characterized as an oaf and a brute. He is big, somewhat bumbling, and uncontrollable. His killing of animals so much smaller than he is suggests a certain desensitizing to violence and lack of regard and accountability for his behavior. The world is portrayed as indifferent because Lennie can only objectify the small animals for his own pleasure in regaling and petting them for their softness. Yet, he cannot contextualize or control his impulses or his supposed accidents that end in the tragic taking of lives. He cannot see outside of himself from the perspective of other living beings, a flaw that reflects both the brutality and indifference in his world and in the world-at-large.

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readerofbooks | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted June 7, 2015 at 4:52 PM (Answer #2)

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This is a great question. There are many instances where the world is portrayed as brutal and indifferent. In light of this, let me give three examples. 

First, when Candy's dog was too old, the men in the bunker wanted to kill it. They said the dog was too old and too smelly. Candy said that this dog was the best and served well all his life. In the end, the men's opinion prevailed and the dog was shot. The deeper meaning is that when an animal or person has passed the age of "service" it should be put out of its or his misery. Life is cheap and utilitarian. Candy is now an old man. He is also expendable. 

Second, the world is also racist. Crooks is the sole black man on the farm. No one talks with him, and he has no community. He is alone socially and spatially. He just exists. 

Finally, when it comes to Lennie, it is clear that no one really cares about him, except George. There is no compassion for those with mental disabilities. No one seeks to understand him or give him a chance. All of these points show that the world is a brutal place.

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