How does Steinbeck present conflict in 'Of Mice and Men'?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Steinbeck presents conflict in the most basic way through showing the collision between subjectivity and external reality.  For Steinbeck, conflict is evident when individuals find themselves desiring one thing against a reality or a backdrop that presents quite another.  Lennie and George wish for a farm that they can own and one in which Lennie can tend the rabbits.  Their reality denies this to them.  Lennie wishes to befriend animals, only to find a reality in which he actually kills them.  Candy yearns for a place and a condition in which he is useful and relevant again, only to find that his one- arm on the ranch relegates him to a sense of being marginalized.  Curley wishes to find his wife, literally and figuratively, only to be confronted with a reality that constantly keeps both of them separate.  Crooks yearns for companionship, only to find that issues of race and class keep him separated.  Curley's wife yearns for pictures and a sense of belonging, only to find herself alone and incapable of forming any real human emotion.  In the end, this is where conflict resides for Steinbeck in his construction.  It is a condition in which what one wishes to be is smashed by the reality of what is.