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When Curley's wife is killed, immediately after her death a pigeon flies out of the...

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ramons | Elementary School Teacher | eNotes Newbie

Posted February 25, 2010 at 8:41 AM via web

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When Curley's wife is killed, immediately after her death a pigeon flies out of the barn. What might this symbolize in Of Mice and Men?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted February 25, 2010 at 8:46 AM (Answer #1)

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Good question.  The pigeon actually flies into the barn and then back out.  And it is not immediately after, it's a little after.

I point these things out not to nitpick but because it changes my thinking on this.  At first, the most likely interpretation is that the pigeon (related to a dove) is a metaphor for her soul.  We often see souls and the Holy Spirit represented as birds.  So I think it might represent her soul flying away.

But that would make more sense if it had flown out of the barn and had done it immediately.

Since it flew in and then out, I'm put in mind of the dove from Noah's ark.  It seems to me that maybe this pigeon is looking for a safe place to land but sees that this barn is not a restful place.  Maybe it is a bird flying to see if the world is safe for people yet.  It finds that the world is not, and tries to go back to where it came from.

What do you think?

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coachingcorner | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

Posted February 26, 2010 at 3:39 PM (Answer #2)

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In the novel Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck, a strange atmosphere is created when lennie Small kills Curly's wife and during the description, a pigeon is mentioned flying out of the barn. This image will have different effects on different readers, depending on the personal experiences each brings to the book. For me, the effect is an atmospheric one. I associate pigeons, particularly wood pigeons, with the act of being startled or shocked. For example, when all is dead silent and a pigeon is suddenly spooked by something, the noise they make on rising is loud due to the panicky clatter of their wings. I think it symbolizes the "flying away" that Lennie is going to have to do to escape the scene.

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kiwi354 | Student, Grade 10 | eNotes Newbie

Posted February 25, 2010 at 9:02 AM (Answer #3)

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An Angel coming to claim her soul that might symbolize it flying in getting her soul them flying out.

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