How does the title Of Mice and Men tie into the whole story and ideas of it?The title of the book comes from a poem where its says something along the lines of "even the most carefully planned...

How does the title Of Mice and Men tie into the whole story and ideas of it?

The title of the book comes from a poem where its says something along the lines of "even the most carefully planned schemes of mice and men go astray"

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jamie-wheeler's profile pic

Jamie Wheeler | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted on

There is validity in both of the previous arguments, but Steinbeck's title comes from the  1785 Robert Burns poem, "To a Mouse, On Turning Her Up in Her Nest with a Plough."  Here is where Steinbeck "sampled" the line:

"The best laid plans o' mice an' men / gang aft agley."  ("Gang" means "often"; "aft" means "go"; "agley" means "awry")

Like the little mouse whose well-planned home is suddenly overturned by the plough, so to are George and Lennie's plans "gang aft agley."

brendawm's profile pic

brendawm | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

Posted on

In my opinion, the title Of Mice and Men ties into the whole story and the ideas presented therein in that Steinbeck addressed the economic conditions of the depressed area in which the story is set and related it to his characters and their situations along with society’s view of their situations.  He deals with the circumstances in which men like George and Lennie are victimized workers whose quest for land was frustrated by cruel and powerful forces beyond their control.  Society’s view would be that George and Lennie are lowly beings like, mice, while those who have power would be viewed as men.  Steinbeck, however, uses tragedy to demonstrate with the ultimate display of compassion and love who truly demonstrates the qualities of men and who truly demonstrates the qualities of mice, or lowly creatures incapable of love and compassion. 

dymatsuoka's profile pic

dymatsuoka | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

A main theme of the book is the relative value of the lives of animals vs. humans (mice vs. men), and I believe the title is symbolic of this issue.  Lenny likes to pet mice, and accidentally kills them; he wants to touch Curly's wife, and accidentally kills her.  The significance of the woman's murder is obviously much more grievous, but Lenny is unable to understand this. 

The question raised in the story, then, is "what is the value of Lenny's life"?  He is described as animal-like throughout the book; George kills him at the end in effect to spare him from misery beyond his comprehension, as he might with a dumb animal.  The moral dilemma, relating back to the title, is this - if George was justified in his action, does that place the value of Lenny's life closer to that of beast than of man?

xoxgrail's profile pic

xoxgrail | Student, Grade 9 | eNotes Newbie

Posted on

Well in the line "the best laid plans of mice and/ often go awry" He is saying like George, Lennie and Candy compared to the mouse their dream so close like winter and the nest was it was ruined.

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