How is tragedy central to the predicament of George and Lennie?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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I would say that the suffering that George and Lennie endure holds high degrees of tragic value.  I think that a part of this would be how the balance between idealism and reality seems to slowly tilt towards the former, and then with blunt and crushing force, swing to the latter.  The idea of the farm as a dream that both men share is something introduced in the start of the narrative and is a driving force throughout the story.  It is also something that both men can begin to envision.  With the help of Candy and the small steps towards some type of plan that comes out, the men will actually accomplish their dream, find some idealistic refuge from the realistic predicament that envelops them.  Yet, the ending is one that unfolds so quickly, and with little regard for their dream.  The realistic way in which Lennie causes Curley's wife's death, the manner in which Lennie is hunted down, and in what George must do at the end are all examples of the tragic condition that has failed upon both men.  This is such a stark picture of suffering that both of them endure, one in which there is an almost poetic rendering of something so painful, that tragedy is evident.  The desire to appropriate one's own being in accordance to one's own subjectivity is brutally cut down but one's own reality and within this, tragedy lies.

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