Explain the significance of the final statement in the novel.Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

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gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Following George's difficult decision to kill Lennie in order to save him from a brutal death at the hands of Curley's lynch mob, Slim consoles George and tells him that he'll have a drink with him. As the two characters walk beside each other up the hill, Carlson says to Curley, "Now what the hell ya suppose is eatin' them two guys?" (Steinbeck, 53). Carlson's statement is significant for several reasons. Throughout the story, Carlson and Curley are depicted as unsympathetic, violent men, who do not hesitate to harm animals and people alike. They represent the dominant, destructive nature of the society that lacks compassion and insight. Carlson and Curley's relationship is the antithesis of George and Lennie's friendly bond, which is why Carlson is oblivious to the traumatic events that just took place at the end of the novella. America in the 1930s was a bleak place where individuals struggled to survive during the economic crisis. Steinbeck portrays these malevolent forces of society through characters like Curley and Carlson. Carlson's final statement reflects the views of the masses during this time period, where the majority of individuals were only concerned about their well-being and not about the plight of their neighbors.  

mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Curley and Carlson, unlike Slim, with his "God-like eyes," and George, "small and quick,with restless eyes and sharp features" whom they watch walk away, represent the isolated men.  These are the men who have spent too long alone, and the predatory features of their nature have emerged.  Curley and Carlson do not understand, as Slim does, that the dreams of Lennie and George are what have sustained them and protected them from the inhospitable world of men such as they. This line underscores the theme of distrust that arises from the alienation and loneliness of the itinerant workers of the Great Depression.

It is fitting that these men stand, "looking after" George and Slim, for they represent the callous, insensitive, brutal, and violent destructivess of isolated man that George must now face without Lennie to share his "dream" in John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

At the end of the book, Slim and George are walking away.  They are sad because of Lennie being killed.  Curley and Carlson watch them go and Carlson says "Now what the hell ya suppose is eatin' them two guys?"

To me, the meaning of this is that Carlson has no feeling for the emotions of other people.  He is cold and uncaring, as we saw when he pushed Candy to kill his dog that he loved so much.

In my opinion, Carlson represents the society at large.  The society does not really care about the dreams and feelings of people like George and Lennie.  This is what makes life so bad during these times.

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Of Mice and Men

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