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What are some representations of IDENTITY in the novella "Of Mice and Men"?I know there...

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helpplease22 | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted September 28, 2010 at 4:21 PM via web

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What are some representations of IDENTITY in the novella "Of Mice and Men"?

I know there are representations of class, gender, race, handicapped identity, but I'd like some information on the specific representations of these.

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mstultz72 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted September 28, 2010 at 4:57 PM (Answer #1)

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The most important aspects of identity are related to social class and animal symbolism (anthropomorphism).  Steinbeck sets up a social class hierarchy on the ranch based on the white male's work status:

THE RULING CLASS:

1.  The Boss

2.  Curley

THE WORKING CLASS:

3.  Slim

4.  Carlson, Whit

5.  George / Lennie (Lennie is in two classes, really.  He does the work of two men in the fields, but in the bunkhouse, he's like a child)

THE UNDERCLASS:

6.  Candy (old, missing hand)

7.  Lennie (mentally disabled)

8.  Curley's wife (a woman in a man's world)

THE OUTCAST:

9.  Crooks (lives alone because of his race)

In terms of animal symbolism, here are the connections:

Lennie: identified as a bear early by the size of his hands.  Also connected to mice and puppies (which he kills).  Later, dreams of tending rabbits.  Thinks he sees a giant rabbit, symbolic of his Id, or pleasure principal.

George: not identified with much animal symbolism, but he's small and crafty (fox?).

Slim: identified by the team of horses he drives.  A leader.  The hero of the novella

Curley: hates big fellas, so he's got a Jack Russell (little dog) complex.

Curley's wife: becomes like the dead mice and puppy that Lennie kills.  Dies in the barn like an animal.

Candy: identified by his old smelly dog, which gets shot by Carlson

Crooks: crooked back like the mule that kicks him.  Lives in the stable next to the mules.

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