How is tragedy central to the characterisations in Of Mice and Men?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

If we take the poem from which the title is derived, one can see where tragedy is evident.  The implications that "the best laid plans of mice and men" go astray helps to establish that the characterizations in such a narrative will be of tragic proportions.  In focusing on the idea of how the designs of plans never materialize, Steinbeck creates his characters.  Lennie's design is to tend to the rabbits and be happy with the animals on the farm, while George's plans of owning his own farm and being able to be in control of his own destiny help to drive both of them.  These plans go to waste, cut down by the reality of the life of being "bindle stiffs."  Curley's "best laid plans" of being a boxer go awry, when he has to be content with simply working as the boss' son on the ranch.  Curley's wife laid her plans in "pitchers" and being a cinema star.  This had to be put aside when her dreams did not materialize.  Crooks and Candy envisioned so much more than they wind up with, having to recognize the vast gulf between what they yearned for and what they received.  In this light, there is a tragic sensibility to the characters in the novel, primarily because each of them wished for something more, much more, than what they received.  In this, there is tragedy.  There is a tragic sensibility in seeing the "best laid plans" end up going to waste in the reality that confronts them all, a sad statement where what could be collides with what is and thus what has to be.  In this, there is tragedy central to both their characterization's and themes in the work.