When Steinbeck began Of Mice and Men, he was planning to write a children’s book called Something That Happened. His intent was to demonstrate that events often have a momentum of their own and need not reflect the existence of a higher power that is exacting punishment. Perhaps it was for this reason that he decided to retitle the book, drawing from Robert Burns’s oft-quoted poem “To a Mouse,” which contains the line “The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft a-gley.”
Casting Lennie as he does, Steinbeck forces the reader to deal with the fact that well-intentioned people commit acts that are beyond their control or understanding. Lennie, although slow, has no malice. Even when he is under physical attack from Curley, he restrains himself until George orders him to take action. Lennie, however, stricken by fear, loses control and cannot let go of his attacker.
At this point, Steinbeck is clearly asking the reader to understand Lennie’s dilemma and to empathize with him. He depicts him as a terrified giant who, when threatened, loses all control of his faculties and unleashes his enormous strength. He injures Curley because Curley has attacked him, not because of any willful animosity. If there is blame to be cast, therefore, it resides with Curley.
Throughout the novel, Steinbeck depicts Curley as a vain and shallow little man. Being the boss’ son and a former Golden Glove finalist, he...
(The entire section is 568 words.)
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