Discuss the presentation of conflict in Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men.

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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One of the strongest entities in Steinbeck's work is to examine the multiple conflicts that each character undergoes.  Steinbeck presents this in both internal and external manners, with both converging upon one another in many occasion.  For example, Lennie and George struggle with the pursuit of their dream in the fact of their economic reality.  This collision between the realm of the subjective and that of the external pits both characters in a condition of constant conflict.  Candy struggles with the conflict of wanting a better life, but knowing very well that he is similar to his dog, in reaching a point where his usefulness is on the decline.  He struggles with the conflict of envisioning a life that pursues dream, but battles through the external condition of age that makes his pursuit less likely.  Curley's wife struggles with the idea that she might have been "something more" than what she is.  Her attribute of beauty is a futile one because she never is able to experience anyone of supposed value experiencing it.  She is unable to interact with the ranch hands because of the weight of being the wife of Curley and the fact that her reputation as "jail bait" precludes any meaningful interaction.  Her struggle resides in her beauty matched by the sense of her loneliness that pervades her state of being.  Crooks battles through the conflict that is brought on by racial and economic constructions of reality.  Being marginalized on both of these spheres, though, is only a part of his struggle.  Crooks also struggles with the idea of whether or not someone who endures as much silencing of voice and isolation as he does is able to dream or able to possess the ability to dream.  Crooks' desire to share in the dream of Lennie and Candy is fleeting, rebuked by the cruelty shown by Curley's wife.  Crooks' struggles are both internal and external, reflecting the complexity of all of the characters in the novel who endure struggle and conflict.

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