How is Robert Burns's poem "To A Mouse" related to John Steinbeck's novella Of Mice and Men?

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kmj23 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

To answer this question, take a look at the following lines from the poem. These have the most significance:

The best-laid schemes o' Mice an' Men

Gang aft agley.

What Burns is saying here is that, sometimes, despite our best intentions, our plans ("schemes") do not always work out as we had hoped ("gang aft agley").

You will not only notice that Steinbeck named his book after the phrase, "'o' Mice an' Men," he also used this idea as a recurrent theme in his story.

Take George and Lennie, for example, two friends who are driven by the idea of having their own ranch. This is their plan, their vision of utopia, and they are determined to make it happen. However, despite their best intentions, this plan does not come true.

Although it is an accident when Lennie kills Curley's wife, he also kills any hopes of ever making their ranch a reality. The ending of her life also leads to the ending of his own.

Accordingly, Burn's idea that plans can often go wrong is directly used by Steinbeck to influence the plot.

mdelmuro eNotes educator| Certified Educator

(Note: I'm using the modern English version of the poem "To a Mouse")

The title of John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men is an allusion to "To a Mouse," a poem written by Robert Burns, who lived during the 18th Century. In this poem about a farmer who turned up a mouse's burrow while ploughing Burns writes, "The best laid schemes of mice and men, / Go oft astray, / And leave us nought but grief and pain, / To rend our day."

These lines alone should provide some connection to Of Mice and Men. Each character presented in the book has some type of dream he or she feels destined to reach. For George and Lennie, it's owning that ranch where Lennie can take care of the bunnies. For Curley's wife, it is going to make movies. But for every character, there is a dashed dream. Their "best laid schemes" went "astray."