What connections can be made to Of Mice and Men?

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The most likely connections that a student reader will make are those that connect the novel and actual events, or "text to world" connections. John Steinbeck grew up in the area of California where Of Mice and Men takes place. As an adult, he spent time traveling through the United States during the Great Depression and lived in agricultural laborer camps. His perspectives on the workers's lives and camp life are strongly grounded in real life. Although some work conditions have changed since the 1930s, many farm and ranch hands now are seasonal or itinerant workers with no job security and still receive few if any benefits.

Steinbeck's themes in this novel can also be connected with those he develops in other works. These include other fictional treatments, such as The Grapes of Wrath. His nonfiction coverage of the workers' situation is presented in The Harvest Gypsies. Another moving nonfiction treatment of rural families during the Great Depression is Now Let Us Praise Famous Men, with text by James Agee and photographs by Walker Evans.

Students may also be able to draw personal connections to the characters' experiences or similar ones. Many Americans work as migrant workers and their children live with them in camps or other substandard housing.

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The three primary ways to connect to a text include the following:

Text to self: This is largely personal. The reader’s own life experiences allow them to draw connections to the book. For example, consider the following quote:

God a'mighty, if I was alone I could live so easy. I could go get a job an' work, an' no trouble. No mess at all, and when the end of the month come I could take my fifty bucks and go into town and get whatever I want. Why, I could stay in a cathouse all night. I could eat any place I want, hotel or any place, and order any damn thing I could think of. An' I could do all that every damn month. Get a gallon of whisky, or set in a pool room and play cards or shoot pool." Lennie knelt and looked over the fire at the angry George. And Lennie's face was drawn in with terror. "An' whatta I got," George went on furiously. "I got you! You can't keep a job and you lose me ever' job I get.

In this quote, George complains about being stuck with Lennie. This may remind the reader of a time that they felt alienated or unwanted by their peers. Finding personal connections to a text is subject to the life experiences of each individual.

Text to text: This connection can be described as the way one text relates to another. For example, maybe the fatalistic tone of Of Mice and Men—that is, the sense that the characters are doomed from the start—reminds the reader of The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway. Or perhaps George and Lennie’s work for and belief in a better future reminds the reader of Kino in The Pearl, another work by Steinbeck.

Text to world: This connection comes from the reader’s perceptions about how the world works. For example, maybe Lennie’s fate at the end of Of Mice and Men reminds the reader of the way those with cognitive disabilities are treated in the legal system—possibly punished without receiving the help they require.

Please note that all of these examples are hypothetical because all of these connections are highly subjective to our individual schemas—that is, our personal, previous experience, knowledge, and ideas—that affect the way we connect with literary works.

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Connections in literature can be made in three different ways : 

  • Text to text: When the literature is comparable to other literature
  • Text to self: When the literature is comparable to personal events
  • Text to world: When the literature is comparable to historical, social, or other world events

It is recommended that all readers attempt to make all three connections in order for the literature to make full meaning. After all, literature tells fictional and non-fictional accounts of everyday life within a myriad of different backdrops and scenarios. 

Depending on your particular experience with literature, and your exposure to it, you may be able to find all these connections in Of Mice and Men. 

For example:

Text to Text connections:  Of Mice and Men is comparable in theme and setting to another Steinbeck novel, The Grapes of Wrath. They are not the same, just comparable. For example, both novels take place during the Great Depression. The characters are also farm-connected, and driven away by harsh or desperate situations. The same sense of desolation, poverty, hunger, and isolation permeate the works. 

Text to Self connections: Think of any time you have felt entirely alone. Did the few people around you make you feel less lonely? Have you ever been on the run from something and unsure about your future?

The title from the novel Of Mice and Men comes from a verse of the Robert Burns poem "To a Mouse" in which he writes

the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry

Think about it: When have you ever had "best laid plans" which go all wrong?

**This could also be a text to text connection, as the title comes from another work of literature.

Text to World:  Think about the historical consequences of The Great Depression and the universal topics that came with it: hunger, sadness, death, depression. Those universal themes are part of the world in which we live. Can you think of other events in history that have affected people the way that it affected those men in the story? What other consequences happened as a result of the Great Depression that affected the country, or the world as a whole? 

Those are examples of connections.

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