How do the references of violence (e.g. incident in Weed, dog is shot and Curley attacking Lennie) build to the plot, atmosphere and suspense?
Why did Steinbeck choose to portray violence like this, and what did he mean? Perhaps violence is a whole product of the isolation of the characters, perhaps it is a metaphor.
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The violence throughout the text foreshadows the dramatic ending whereby George is driven to kill his best friend Lennie as the best means of escape from his doomed existence. The reader sees the violence within the natural and the human world, and this inevitability contributes to the atmosphere of doomed hopelessness, which pervades the lives of each of the characters.
The violence begins small scale. Lennie unwittingly kills the mice he chooses to pet. As an audience we are prepared to accept that the incident in Weed was due to Lennie’s desire to ‘pet soft things’ rather than a violent assault. However, as the story progresses, it becomes evident that violence and aggression are a normal part of life. Candy’s dog is executed –albeit humanely. Lennie is given a puppy, which he kills. His killing of Curley’s wife perhaps changes our perception of the earlier events in Weed. Lennie is selfish: Curley’s wife is killed to prevent him getting in to trouble with George. He may not have meant to kill her, but Lennie certainly meant to silence her.
Curley’s sadistic streak is evident from the beginning. We know he ‘likes to pick on big guys’, and his attack on Lennie is cruel and vicious. We are pleased that he does not get the better of Lennie and, uncomfortably, we are pleased that he suffers. As the story develops we become more accepting of the violence, which may well be Steinbeck’s disturbing message. We see the shooting of Lennie as merciful, a release, when it can also be seen as an execution. Slim’s lack of comprehension of the enormity of the event-
Now what the hell ya suppose is eatin’ them two guys?
reminds us how inured to violence this community is.
Just to correct a mistake above, it is Carlson who says the quote and he who has a limited understanding of true friendship, not Slim.
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