What contrasts can be made between To Kill A Mockingbird and Of Mice and Men?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

With Of Mice and Men being a novella, originally written in the format of a play with five separate scenes and To Kill a Mockingbird as a fully developed novel, There is arguably a sharp contrast between the extensiveness of the development of characters and themes in these two works set in the 1930s. 


  • For the most part, Steinbeck's characters are flat and representative of types.

Candy is simply the broken-down ranch worker who lives out his life much like his old dog; no longer useful, he worries about being let go and simply dying from want.

Carlson is a cold, heartless man who considers no one's feelings. When, for example, he enters the bunkhouse he yells,

"God awmighty, that dog stinks. Get him outa here, Candy!"

Curley's wife is certainly representative of a type, the temptress, the "Eve." She is the negative force that prevents the fraternity of men; moreover she is responsible for the death of the "American dream" for George, Lennie, Candy, and even Crooks, for a time. As she lies dead in the hay, Candy angrily utters, 

"You done it, di'n't you? I s'pose you're glad.  Ever'body knowed you'd mess things up. You wasn't no good.

  • In contrast to Steinbeck's characterization, Harper Lee fully develops many of her characters.

Even the temptress of her novel, Mayella, who is also lonely and desirous of attention and exploits Tom as Curley's wife does Lennie, has more depth than Curley's wife. For, she is not motivated by vanity when she asks Tom to help her; she simply desires some attention. Instead of having him feel her hair, Mayella reaches out to Tom, hugging him. 

Differing from Steinbeck's minor characters, Lee's minor characters are more empowered. While marginalized in society as is Crooks, Dolphus Raymond yet is able to interact with members of the community as does Calpurnia and even Tom Robinson who works for Link Deas, who supports Tom in the courtroom and gives his wife a job after Tom's death. 

Examining the differences among main characters, there is much more development of the inner personalities of these personages. The reader knows little of George's inner thoughts as set against such a character as Scout, for instance.


  • Racism is certainly a theme is both works; however, in Of Mice and Men, the black character is completely isolated from everyone while such characters as Calpurnia interacts with whites and is respected. 
  • Hopelessness is also a theme in Steinbeck's novella as even the small dream of owning a farm and the hope of having some security and fraternity with other men are shattered. While the Robinson family is left without much hope, with Mr. Cunningham's one dissenting vote in the trial of Tom Robinson, there is certainly hope that Maycomb will cure "its usual disease" when Mr. Underwood, known for his racial hatred, writes his editorial.
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To Kill a Mockingbird

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