How does the title "Of Mice and Men" relate to the story?

Expert Answers
Susan Woodward eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The title is an allusion to Robert Burns' poem "To a Mouse".  The section of the poem containing the allusion is:

But Mousie, thou are no thy-lane,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best laid schemes o' Mice an' Men,
Gang aft agley,
An' lea'e us nought but grief an' pain,
For promis'd joy

What this means is that the mouse (whose house had been destroyed by a farmer plowing the field and the farmer is feeling badly for the mouse) is like men in that sometimes plans (like the mouse's house) seem great until something unforeseen comes along to ruin them (the plow).  In the case of George and Lennie, the two had planned to "buy a little place" and "Live off the fat of the land", but when Lennie accidentally kills Curley's wife, the plans go astray.  George is put in the terrrible position of having to kill his best friend in order to protect him from an outraged and vengeful Curley.

Of Mice and Men is part of a trilogy about migrant farm workers, and is the second book in the collection.  The first is In Dubious Battle and the last part is Grapes of Wrath.  All of the titles are allusions.  The first is an allusion to Milton's Paradise Lost while the other alludes to "The Battle Hymn of the Republic".

pmiranda2857 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The title of the book relates to the story because Lennie is very fond of petting mice.  And, in a way, he has the intelligence of a tiny creature, like a mouse.  George takes care of Lennie, in a way, like a pet; he tells him what to say and what to do. Lennie is totally dependent on George.  When he is not around, Lennie gets confused.    

While Lennie and George are walking on the road, he is hiding something from George. 

"Lennie held his closed hand away from George's direction.  "Its on'y a mouse, George." A mouse?  A live mouse?  Uh -uh. Jus' a dead mouse, George.  I didn't kill it.  Honest! I found it.  I found it dead." (Steinbeck, pg. 6)

The title of the book is very symbolic of Lennie and George's relationship. 

guitardude7 | Student

The connection between the title for the book "Of Mice and Men", and the actual storyline is a poem written by poet Robert Burns. This poem is about a mouse who builds his home in a wheat field, only to have it destroyed by a ploughman. The home the mouse had dreamed of living in for the winter is now gone, forcing the mouse to face the cold, harsh, winter homeless.

This title is appropriate for the story because the dreams that Lennie and George had were similar to those of the mouse. They were planning on living in a home of their own in order to be free of societies wrath. But like the poems states, sometimes even the best plans go wrong. When Lennie killed Curley's wife, the dreams Lennie and George had became unachievable, leaving George in sadness.

xblackstonex | Student

The title of the book comes from a poem by the 18th century Scottish poet Robert Burns. It is about a mouse, which carefully builds a winter nest in a wheat field, only for it to be destroyed by a ploughman. The mouse had dreamed of a safe, warm winter and is now faced with the harsh reality of cold, loneliness and possible death. Part of the poem goes:

The best laid schemes o' Mice an' Men, 
Gang aft a-gley, 
An' lea'e us nought but grief an' pain, 
For promised joy

Which pretty much means:

(The best laid schemes of mice and men
Often go wrong
And leave us nothing but grief and pain,
Instead of promised joy!)

This is an appropriate title for the novel because George and Lennie had the same dreams and plans as the mouse. They wanted to have their own place and live their life free of society’s harsh grasp. But, as the poem states, the best plans often go wrong and leave them with nothing but sorrow and pain. When Lennie accidently killed the puppy, he was deeply disappointed, thinking that George will not let him have the rabbits he so loved. However, when Lennie killed Curley’s wife he was forced to run to the safety of the bush near the river, where George would come looking for him.

From the moment Lennie killed Curley’s wife, George and Lennie’s dreams were shattered and left George grieving, as he had to kill Lennie in order to protect him from Curley’s madness and anger.