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What view of life on the ranch does Steinbeck present  and envelop in Of Mice and Men?

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oliver78 | eNoter

Posted July 15, 2013 at 1:45 PM via web

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What view of life on the ranch does Steinbeck present  and envelop in Of Mice and Men?

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akannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted July 15, 2013 at 2:15 PM (Answer #1)

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In Steinbeck's construction of the ranch, the view of life is a very isolated one.  From the very start of the narrative this is evident with the George's repeating of how "guys like he and Lennie" are different from others.  George says that "they work up a stake."  For Steinbeck, this need to "work up a stake" is significant because it is a key feature of his view of life on the ranch.  In the opening to chapter 2, there is an emotionally detached construction of the living quarters that George and Lennie encounter.  This emotional detachment is seen in the small details relayed as well as how there is little to indicate to know who was there earlier.  Such a reality helps to enhance what Steinbeck feels is essential in life on the ranch: Lack of emotional attachment.  Ranch hands come and they go and there is little in way of emotional connection or investment to one another or to something larger than themselves.  The view of life on the ranch is atomized, individualistic, and devoid of attachments.

It is for this reason that the friendship between Lennie and George are fundamentally different than the other men on the ranch.  The boss notes this in thinking that George is stealing from Lennie.  Slim remarks on this to George when he first meets him, carefully considering how people are "afraid" of one another to commit to them as George and Lennie have committed to one another.  Steinbeck presents George and Lennie as the opposite of what life is.  His presentation of the friendship and loyalty that both share represents what Steinbeck believes should be as opposed to what is.  The view of life that Steinbeck presents and envelops is one of isolation and emotional forlornness.  Yet, in presenting Lennie and George as people who believe in one another until the end, Steinbeck suggests that even the most atomized of conditions can be changed into something of solidarity.  When Slim takes George at the end for a drink, it is a reflection of how there might be a change to the view of life presented.  There is some level of hope in which what is can be transformed into what can be.

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