Of Mice and Men Questions and Answers
by John Steinbeck

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What does the Salinas River symbolize in Of Mice and Men?  

The Salinas River in Of Mice and Men symbolizes George and Lennie’s dream of the good life. Steinbeck’s description of a safe and peaceful clearing along the river represents hope that the fantasies of the protagonists will someday be realized. At the end of the novel, when a heron eats a snake by the Salinas riverbed, the scene symbolizes George’s killing of Lennie and the death of their dream.

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In John Steinbeck’s novel Of Mice and Men, the author uses symbolism to mirror the dreams and aspirations of his main characters and the ultimate realization that those desires can never become reality.

The book features two protagonists. The first is George Milton, a kind, gentle man who looks after his friend who is mentally challenged as the pair floats from job to job. George needs friendship and wishes he and his companion could break free of poverty and someday own a piece of land for themselves. The second is Lennie Small, George’s pal who is a physically huge man and very powerful. Lennie desires to join George on his journey. He is also an animal lover who longs to own some property where he can raise rabbits peacefully:

A few miles south of Soledad, the Salinas River drops in close to the hillside bank and runs deep and green ... On one side of the river the golden foothill slopes curve up to the strong and rocky Gabilan Mountains, but on the valley side the water is lined with...

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clareb2011 | Student

The Salinas river is a safe haven for Lennie to shelter. It is a calm santucary and acts as a contrast to the rest of the novella.

On the second description there are clues that Lennies life is ending:

- Sun going down --> reflecting on Lennies life

- The watersnake doesn't die so something will i.e. Lennie

- A second watersnake emerges --> cycle

- The cycle idea is also backed up by the fact the novella starts and finishes at the river

- The description seems forced and not so fluid --> theres a problem

The river starts and finishes the novella. It is like a link running through the whole poem. Water is usually means new life however this is a contradiction. When the river theme emerges again we know that the book is closing to an end as a complete cycle has commenced.