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What if the importance of hands in Of Mice and Men?The hands of many characters are...

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stevie-pardoe | Student, Grade 11 | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted May 19, 2012 at 3:40 PM via web

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What if the importance of hands in Of Mice and Men?

The hands of many characters are mentioned inlcuding Curley, Lennie,  Curley's Wife and Candy's lack of a hand. What is the importance behind this and is there any symbolism?

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literaturenerd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted May 19, 2012 at 5:09 PM (Answer #1)

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Hands do exist as an underlying symbol in Steinbeck's novel Of Mice and Men. Perhaps the most poignant image of hands comes with relation to Curley.

Curley's hands have dual meaning. One hand, the one without the glove, is meant to symbolize strength. Curley is very open about his fighting ability and it is even spoken about among the ranch-hands. Curley's other hand, the one with the glove, is one he protects with Vaseline--"Keepin' that hand soft for his wife."

The symbolism of Curley's hands change after his fight with Lennie. Curley underestimates Lennie's brute strength and Curley's hand is crushed. This symbolizes two very distinctive things. First, the crushing of Curley's hand depicts the crushing of Curley's ego. He has been beaten by a man he deemed weaker and less of a man than himself. Secondly, the crushing of Curley's hand represents the loss of his own sexual prowess/power. Lennie, by crushing Curley's hand, takes away both Curley's sexuality (the ability to please his wife) and his fighting past.

Outside of that, Candy's lack of a hand represent his inability to be a true man. He is unable to perform the tasks as well as the other ranchers and they look down on him for this. Lennie's hands simply represent a combination of brute strength and softness. It is Lennie's inability to comprehend his strength which results in the death of the animals he adores. As for Curley's wife's hands, they represent what is lacking on the ranch--a woman's touch.

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