What are some examples of figurative language in Chapter 1-5. John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles
  • Chapter One of Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men is replete with symbolism and imagery.  The town of Soledad, for instance, a name that means alonesymbolizes the loneliness and alienation of the bindle stiffs who enter the clearing.  And, the color imagery prevails throughout the passage as the hillside, also personified as having "slipped," twinkles over yellow sands as the hillside is "deep and green."  Then, there are the "golden foothill slopes" that face the valley side with its fresh and green willows. Nature abounds in this visual scene as rabbits, lizards, and the evidence of deer.
  • In Chapter Two, Steinbeck's description of Slim, the skinner is quite figurative:

A tall man stood in the doorway....Like the others he wore blue jeans and a short denim jacket.  When he had finished combing his hair, he moved into the room, and he moved with a majesty only achieved by royalty and master craftsmen.  He was a jerkline skinner, the prince of the ranch [metaphor], capable of driving ten, sixteen, even twenty mules with a single line to the leaders....There was a gravity in his manner and a quiet so profound that all talk stopped when he spoke.  His authority was so great that his word was taken on any subject, be it politics or love.  This was Slim, the jerkline skinner.  His hatchet face [metaphor]was ageless.  His hear heard more than was said to him, and his slow speech had overtones not of thought, but of understanding beyond thought.  His hands, large and lean, were as delicate in their action as those of a temple dancer [simile].

  • Chapter Three furthers the description of Slim with the simile of Slim's "God-like eyes." In a much lesser comparison, George describes Lennie as "jes' like a kid."  Then, of course, Candy's dog is rather symbolic of Candy himself, who is old, too, and has outserved his usefulness.  Some of the slang of the men is figurative, as well.  For instance, George tells Whit, "We're gonna stick aroun' a while,...Me an' Lennie gonna roll up a stake."  "Roll up a stake" is a metaphor for saving money.  
  • In Chapter Four, Crooks talks with Lennie, taunting him with the idea that George may not return from town and then, "They'll take ya to the booby hatch.  They'll tie ya up with a collar, like a dog [simile]"  Later, Crooks softens and confides in Lennie how lonely he is, how he misses having someone else with him because without another person "He got nothing to measure by."  This phrase is a figure of speech meaning that a man needs someone to compare himself to in order to know what is real.
  • There is imagery in the third paragraph:

From outside came the clang of horseshoes on the playing peg and the shouts of men, playing, encouraging, jeering. But, in the barn, it was quiet and humming, lazy and warm.

  • Of course, the little pup that Lennie has petted plays at smacking dies and, in so doing, becomes symbolic of  Curley's wife who will shortly die as Lennie pets her hair.
  • In Chapter Five, the visual and aural imagery of the clearing reappears with the "deep green pool" of the Salinas River and "a far rush of wind." The water snake that glides "smoothly up the pool" is symbolic of the evil that approaches.  As Lennie waits, he sees the "darkening slopes of the Gabilans."


Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
Soaring plane image

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial