In "Of Mice and Men", what are three main themes?

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ms-mcgregor eNotes educator| Certified Educator
1. One of the most important themes of the novel is "broken dreams". Each major character in the novel has a dream that is either destroyed during the novel or was destroyed before the novel began. George and Lennie lose their dream of a farm when George must kill Lennie to prevent him from hurting any more people. Curley's wife lost her dream of becoming a movie star. Candy loses the dream of the farm, as he lost his arm, and ability to make a decent living. And Curley loses his wife and any chance for happiness her could have learned from her.

2. The importance of friendship is also an important theme. Lennie and George. This sets them apart from the other men on the ranch. George alludes to this when he says, "Guys like us," George says, "that work on the ranches, are the loneliest guys in the world. They got no family. They don't belong no place." Lennie replies: "But not us. And why? Because . . . because I got you to look after me, and you got me to look' after you, and that's why."

3. Another closely related theme that is often overlooked is the theme of racisim. Steinbeck was one of the first novelists in the twentieth century to deal with this problem. Crooks, the only Black man on the ranch, is separated from the rest of the men. This leads to his isolation and alienation. All Crooks has is his books and the men look down on him simply because of his race. Yet Crooks has the dignity and honesty that mirrors Slim. But Slim is respected and Crooks is not.