What kind of diction dominates the text of Of Mice and Men?I don't understand how one can describe the diction of a text. John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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In order to achieve realism in his portrayal of the characters of his novella, Of Mice and Men, John Steinbeck uses the vernacular of the bindle stiffs.  That is, when George and Lennie speak, their diction is that of uneducated men, some of whom cannot even read.  The vocabulary of these men is very simple, often including the use of slang; their syntax, or grammatical structures, are substandard. For instance, when George talks with Lennie after the pugnacious Curley has stepped into the bunkhouse and demanded that Lennie speak to him:

"I hat that kinda b--d....I seen plenty of 'em.  Like the old guy says, Curley don't take no changes.  He always wins....If he tangles with you, Lennie, we're gonna get the can.  Don't make no mistake about that.  He's the boss's son....You try to keep away from him, will you?  Don't never speak to him.  If he comes in here you move clear to the other side of the room.  Will you do that, Lennie?"

At yet, by employing this diction, Steinbeck implies a certain empathy for the men.  For instance, in the final section, as Old Candy watches George go, he looks helplessly back at Curley's wife, and Steinbeck writes,  "gradually his sorrow and his anger grew into words,"

"You --- ---tramp," he said viciously "You done it, didn't you?  I s'pose you're glad.  Ever'body knowed you'd mess things up.  You wasn't no good.  You ain't no good now, you lousy tart."  He sniveled, and his voice shook.  "I could of hoed in the garden and washed dishes for them guys."

With the diction of Old Candy, there is a certain poignancy for the poor disabled man who is bereft of all hope for his future. In the bindle stiffs' simple diction there is the expression of the essential needs of the alienated men of Of Mice and Men for whom tomorrow is only the next day.

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