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cornert07 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Central to Steinbeck’s portrayal of ranch life is his creation of a distinct hierarchy. It becomes immediately clear that the Boss maintains the highest position. Through the symbolism of his lack of name, “The Boss” is defined as being almost like an uninvolved god-like figure. This impression is reinforced by his imposing body language; the daunting action, “he hooked his thumbs”, is used to demonstrate the superiority in his position. At the conclusion of his meeting with George and Lennie, he “abruptly” left, consequently stressing his self-importance.

Simply because of his connection to The Boss, Curley adopts a position of power. Corrupted by the authority, he possesses a threatening personality. This is exhibited by Steinbeck’s description of his physical appearance – his glance is “cold” and he adopts the stance of a fighter, with his “hands closed into fists”. Furthermore, he seems to think that he can assert his authority only by physically terrorising others, such as Lennie. The tension in their relationship is exhibited by Curley’s vicious threat, “Well, nex’ time you answer when you’re spoke to.” This bravado can be explained by the fact his status is undermined because his wife is not satisfied with their married relationship and is “eyeing” other men.

In juxtaposition to Curley, his wife is presented as having a very low status. Steinbeck doesn’t give her a name and this has a symbolic meaning that emphasises her second-class citizenship. It reflects the inferior role of women in society at that period in time and gives the impression that she is a “possession of Curley”; this is ironic, as they never seem to be together. Apart from referring to her as “Curley’s wife”, the author and some of character use many derogatory terms for example “tart” and “rat trap”. This shows that the men are wary of and don’t class her as an equal.

Similarly, Crooks also holds no authority and he has long been the victim of oppressive violence, due to the colour of his skin. He is often referred to as “nigger” by his fellow ranch workers and this dehumanising insult exhibits the lack of respect for him. Nevertheless, he gains self-confidence from the company of Lennie and Candy in his “bunk”; this encourages him to try to counter the intrusion of Curley’s Wife. However, his he humiliated by her consequential fierce threat, “I could get you strung up”. This brutal threat establishes the cruel power of white over black.

When Steinbeck first introduces Candy, he is just described as “the old man”. This generic term dehumanises him, showing the reader the low status he possesses, because of his old age. Moreover, he is shown to have no real place on the farm; exhibited by the way he was “jus’ standing in the shade”. The word “jus’” implies that he has nothing better to do, due to the other ranch workers; exclusion of him. This illustrates how, because of his age and his disability, he has become marginalized, as symbolised by the word “shade”.

Slim is the most respected person on the ranch. Steinbeck's descriptions of Slim suggest an idealised characterisation and he attaches images of royalty: “majesty” and “prince”. He exerts a natural authority as a result of his strong moral sense. His opinions are valued by the ranchers and his pronouncement about Candy’s dog, “he ain’t no good to himself”, seals its fate.

William Delaney eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Steinbeck was always concerned about the hard lives of the lowest classes in America, especially of the sharecroppers and itinerant farm laborers. He was also concerned with showing that these men are all different and not just one stereotype. Some are mean, some are kind, some are dumb, some are intelligent, some are lazy, some are hard workers, some are honest, some are dishonest. All of them have to struggle for existence because wages are low and jobs are scarce. When they get old they are cast off. If they get injured, like Crooks and Candy, they are even more desperate. The implicit theme of Steinbeck's novel is economic injustice. The men who own the land can make virtual slaves out of the men who have to survive by working on that land. It was impossible in that depression era for them to organize. George and Lennie had a tiny partnership which might have led to their owning a piece of their own land. Then Candy wanted to join and contribute his savings. And Crooks indicated that he would like to be included in the little communal enterprise. But even that cooperative effort failed.

lensor eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Steinbeck presents several themes in this work: loneliness, the elusiveness of the American Dream, and victimization. 

The feeling of loneliness is palpable throughout the book.  The men on the ranch travel by themselves and have no real connections to each other.  Curley's wife spends her days wandering about the ranch, searching for someone with whom she can share her dreams.  Crooks is segregated from the others, as he is not allowed to live in the bunkhouse with the others because he is black.

Candy and Crooks join George and Lennie in their quest for the American dream, when they try to become a part of the plan to buy a house on a small piece of land.  They all seem to understand from the outset, though, that they will never realize this dream.

Finally, every one of the major characters is a victim.  The ranch hands are victims of the boss's instructions and wishes.  Curley's wife is a victim of a patriarchal society.  Crooks is a victim of racism.  

There is an excellent discussion of the themes of this book on eNotes.

morrol eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One major theme in "Of Mice and Men" is childhood idealism verses adult reality. Lennie has dreams of keeping rabbits while George knows that this idea is foolish. The beauty of Lennie's dreams is continually squashed by the reality of the adult world he lives in. Another theme is loneliness and friendship. George says "Guys like us that work on the ranches, are the loneliest guys in the world. They got no family. They don't belong no-place." Despite George's pessimistic view of his social standing, Lennie reminds him that they in fact have each other to socialize with and take care of.

sullymonster eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This question has been answered.  The link to the answer is provided below.  I have also included the themes page of the enotes summary, which provides much useful information.

Let me add this information.  Steinbeck's moral code includes and highlights loyalty.  It is acceptable for George to lie and to commit murder because he does it all in order to be loyal to Lennie.  He promised to take care of Lennie, and he is following through with it.  The message is that to be a good man,  you must show loyalty to those people you consider family.

jobyrnscheer03 | Student

i am currently doing a term paper on this book and there are many different themes. You just have to remember that a theme is what you percieve that the author is trying to get across to you. But for my paper i chose the theme of dreams. (The pursuit of an unrealistic dream can be demoralizing.) i got this from lennie and george and how they want to own there own farm and become their own bosses and george deep down inside he knows that that would never happen. Every character in this book has their own dream and none of them come true. There are many other themes such as lonieness, freindship, and many others. Just dont go by what other people say the theme is. think of what you think it is.

williams3 | Student

Loneliness is an ever-present theme in Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck where each character experiences degrees of isolation. Crooks is physically and emotionally isolated from the other ranchers and from society due to racism.  Curley's wife, who even lacks her own name let alone an identity separate from her husband, is disenfranchised, lonely, and powerless even though she has a husband.  Candy, maimed and feeling useless, faces the isolation and powerlessness of advancing age in a world with no support system for the aging.  Curly, who should be basking in the glow of newly-married bliss, is a pugilistic, frustrated, small man fighting everyone and connecting with no one. 

George and Lennie are at times an appealing contrast to the lonely characters around them, but a closer look reveals their own isolation from each other and from society.  Lennie's innocent, self-centered, one-track mind makes true communication with George all but impossible, aside from the  momentary lapses into their "dream story" motif.  George's loneliness is perhaps the most heroic and tragic.  He has accepted the responsibility of helping another human being in need, with little hope of receiving much in return from the relationship. It is a sacrificial offering on George's part for which he is unprepared and in his solitude incapable of pulling off a happy ending. 

The friendship is ended tragically, not as a result of loyalty, not because it is the right thing to do, (I shoulda shot my dog myself), but in a tragic turn of events in which in his islolation and loneliness, George can only see an act of euthanasia as a way to protect Lennie from a fate worse than death.  With no one to turn to, no one to help, George ends up alone, guilty, and just another one of the Great Depression's dispossessed vagabonds.

yuzumaki | Student









jfc503 | Student

Things Don't Go As Planned is one good them for this book.

kdslewis | Student

Steinbeck's ability to create unforgettable themes is one of the many attributes of his work that made him a Nobel Prize winner in 1962.

The theme of Of Mice and Men is the importance of FRIENSHIP.  George and Lennie are the best of friends, where George takes care of Lennie.  However, there are many other examples of FRIENDSHIP in the novel: Crooks and Lennie, Slim and Curley, George and Candy.


rachel-xx | Student

There are many themes in of mice and men as i have been studying in school but the main themes are





unimportance linked with the characters and mice as the are both unimportant



elekzy | Student

The dominant theme is loneliness


funrun9 | Student

The main theme in Of Mice And Men is Loneliness and Isolation

sumon4544 | Student

The main theme would be lonliness. Every charecter in the book is lonley.


littlestudent | Student

there are two main theame in of mice and men. dreams and lonliness.

george is not lonley but has an american dream to own land

lennie is not lonley either but is angered by crooks when he says george will not come back. he dreams of having land with george and petting rabbits

curlys wife is lonley being the only woman on the ranch and with a husband she doesnt love and who doesnt love her and she dreams of fame and fortune by becoming a star.

candy candy is lonley with no real freinds as he is assertive but he has(had) his dog. dreams (and makes that dream seem real) of owning some land with george and lennie

crooks is lonley as he is segregated due to his colour of skin and dreams of having the same rights as a white man and living with the white man the same way he did when he was a child. he quickly dreamed of going and living with lennie, george and candy but quickly dismisses that dream

courtoo | Student

There is four themes in the novel, there is dreams, friendship, discrimination and loneliness.

Stienbeck uses his characters to represent themes of the novel, "of mice and men" (first published 1937) Candy, Crooks, Lennie, George and Curley's wife represent the theme of loneliness. The friendship between Lennie and George forms the basis of this story. Theme of dreams is represented by Curley's Wife she dreams about being a famous actress and Lennie and George dream is to own  farm. The characters rpresent themes in this novel. 

loneliness is pretty much the maiin theme in the novel and movie. many characters are lonely, including Lennie, George, Candy and Crooks.

dmlux | Student

the theme is light versus darkness, it's an re incarnation of the garden of eden in a way as curly's wife can be percieved as the serpent and George & Lenny, Adam & Eve, in that order. In the end she is the unmaking of their dreams.

rachel-xx | Student

The main theme is lonelyness.

komal786 | Student

there are different themes in the book but another is conflict.

super1996 | Student

The main theme of mice and men are dreams and loneliness. They interlock people who are lonely have most need of dreams to help them through. Loneliness afects many of the character, and steinbecks seem to show that it is a natural and inevitable results of the the kind oflife they are forced to lead. The theme of dreams focuses on the the dreams of george, Lennie, candy, Curley's wife and crooks. it turned out that all of them has the same dream to own a piece of land except from Curley's wife, who's dream is to be a hollywood movie actress.

popan006 | Student
The theme is friendship in a hard time like the great depression when of mice and men is set.
yulia12 | Student

The theme of this book is that two man have dreams athat they always try to fallow up on!

they put there hopes above the others and safe money to make the dream come true!

hope this helps 

udonbutterfly | Student

For me the most prevelent theme Of Mice and Men has always been loneliness. It is the reason why Lenny and George are out going from job to job because there is just now one to really care for them nor about them. I think the reality of George being lonely finally crept on him when he realized that he was going to have to kill Lenny the only person that was in his life.

nisarg | Student

One of the main themes was the american dream

Many migrant workers like Lennie and George had a dream to make someplace their own place in a harsh and unforgiving world. Some, like Lennie, whole-heartedly believed in this dream and were optimistic about their chances in a harsh and cruel world. Others, like George, believed only half-heartedly in these dreams and sometimes gave up on them. Some of these migrant workers worked all of their lives simply doing jobs for the sake of working or to save up for their dreams, like Candy. In every case the “American Dream” of a perfect life with no worries and happiness all around, drove this entire movement and still pushes people. However, George uses this dream of a perfect world to instill hope into Lennie. George didn’t do this to manipulate Lennie but to shelter him. He knew that because Lennie was so naïve, he couldn’t handle the truth and harshness of the real world. George even tells Candy that he knew that they would never get their perfect little farm. Candy worked his entire life as a ranch hand never quitting and working hard. Steinbeck gives some hints that Candy, at one time, believed that he would live the American Dream. Stating this makes one wonder what the American Dream truly is then. The American Dream is motivation, a hope for a better, brighter, and bountiful future. Many accomplish this goal for their children and heir’s so that their children can have better lives that they did. George and Lennie worked hard for this dream, like a dog chasing its tail. However they did achieve one thing in this long and hard journey, true friendship.

Yojana_Thapa | Student

I personally thing that the main theme would be the American Dream. All of the character have dreams. To reach their dreams, they have obstacles. George and Lennie wants to own their own farm. Lennie wants to tend rabbits. Curley's wife wants to be an actress. Curly wants to be a boxer. e.t.c All of these characters have dreams. Another theme would be the need of friendship. Candy lost his dog due to Carlson. George has lennie, and lennie has George.

mcfox1948 | Student

There are several themes in the story.

There is the theme of friendship, loneliness, and child-like wonder and faith as opposed to skepticism.

There are deeper themes, such as democracy and capitalism, and social stratification.

djjd123 | Student

It's about lonliness and racism (how curleys wife spoke to crooks)

tembaloola | Student

One of the main themes in the novella can be taken from it's title - 'of Mice and Men' comes from the poem 'To a Mouse' by Robert Burns, in which a farmer's destruction of a nest results in him stating (in English paraphrasing) 'The best-laid plans of mice and men / Often go awry' This carries the idea that, no matter how much you forward plan, something will often go wrong. Steinbeck chose to use this line as the title to his novella after realising how closely the poem related to his work. The fact that even though George plans ahead after 'what happened' in Weed in order to protect Lennie and keep him out of trouble, Lennie still makes the same mistake which eventually results in his downfall. This idea of inescapable fate is carried throughout the novella, while also highlighting the futility of the American Dream.

nileshdomah | Student

Try these thematic statements:

Society has no tolerance for the weak.

The American Dream is impossible to accomplish.

Dreams lead to dissapointment.


Hope these help!

musicaltheatregeek | Student

There are a number of themes in "Of Mice and Men" ranging from the main themes of loneliness,dreams and violence which affect every character in the book to lesser seen themes such as social outcasts.

Violence is the primary maner that the characters use to solve their disputes. It's widely used and accepted as normal in the lives of those on the ranch. Even Lennie learns to use violence to defend himself, but it's mostly because he doesn't know how to control his strength (the puppy, death of Curley's wife)

Loneliness is another main theme in the book and it has an effect on every character. It's presented in different ways such as through segregation/racism and sexism. The name Soledad actually means our lady of loneliness in Spanish. It's also said that loneliness in the characters' lives makes them bitter and violent.

Shattered dreams is another important theme as each character has their own dream that's shattered in some way or another. Curley's wife dreams of being in the "pitchers" and this dream is shattered in her marriage to Curley and in her death. Curley's dream was to become a boxer and this dream was shattered when Lennie crushed his hand. Crooks dreamed of freedom and having a life like he had when he was a child and this dream was shattered by Curley's wife when she reminded him that his life would never change "I can get you strung up on a tree so easy it aint even funny."

 The theme of social outcasts is a minor theme in the novel, but it affects many of the characters. Crooks is an outcast, because of his race. Candy and Lennie are outcasts, because of their disabilities and Curley's wife is an outcast, because of Curley's jealousy and her gender. She refers to Lennie, Candy, Crooks and maybe herself as the "weak ones".

There are other themes such as animals, injustice and power too. Hope this helps. 

umi6683 | Student
  1. Main theme: we must live for today; we can't know what the future will bring.
  2. Secondary theme: conflict, the American Dream, loneliness, friendship, strenght / weakness and power, woman, loyalties and sacrifices, racism.
agent21 | Student

The thems in of mice and men are all quite diffirent firstly there is the theme of lonliness which is quite evident in the novle it is also a recuring theme.The theme of companionship is also quite common as the writer try to portray the theme of companionship throught the characters thoughts and feelings.The last theme which i think is also a key theme is the theme of the American dream the  American dream is quite popolur as all the charecters share the desire to live a better life and find something better which is each persons dream.although it seems quite impossible the charecters pin their hopes on their dreams as this was the only think they had to look forward to in this great depration during the 1930s.

jcirruzzo | Student

One of the themes is love.  The love is between Lennie and George's friendship, the show that they are like family and they stick by each other.

zumba96 | Student

I would say friendship,loneliness, and the American Dream. George and Lenny try to live the American Dream but they are with each other through their loneliest times and in the end George actually does a selfless act of love for Lenny, but that ends up killing him

perfume | Student

The theme is the importance of friendship and how rich and poor people have same dreams all over the world.

ik9744 | Student

Idealism vs. Reality, Alienation and Loneliness, Race and Racism, Class Conflict, Friendship, and Mental Disabilities are some of the themes for Of Mice and Men.

egb1870 | Student

While there is rarely just one theme in a piece of literature, one of the overarching themes in Of Mice and Men is the destruction of the American Dream, highlighting the futility of having dreams in the first place. Every character in the novel that reveals they have a dream of bettering their life summarily has that dream destroyed before the novel's end. George and Lennie, the main characters, regularly discuss their dream of saving enough money to own their own farm and "live off the fatta the land." They often discuss this dream during times of stress as a way to remain hopeful; the very idea of a farm that is all their own motivates them to push forward. While the idea of owning their own land during The Great Depression seemed laughable at the beginning of the novel, the characters begin to really believe that they will be able to succeed as the story progresses. However, after Lennie kills Curley's wife and George kills Lennie, it becomes clear that their dream will never come to fruition; the dream of the farm was a shared one between George and Lennie, and Lennie's death has forever tainted it.

Curley's wife is another character who never was able to accomplish her goals. She is perhaps more trapped than the other characters in the novel, except while their shackles are made of poverty, like Lennie and George, or race, like Crooks', she is stuck in a loveless marriage with a cruel man, on a farm where most people blatantly dislike her. She tells Lennie that she could have been an actress, and even says "Maybe I will yet." Her unhappy marriage has not killed her dream; in fact, it seems to have revived it. However, like the other characters in the novel, she never accomplishes her dream. Lennie kills her before she gets the chance.

Knowing that the story takes places during The Great Depression, and that Steinbeck himself lived through The Great Depression, helps the readers understand that Steinbeck was deconstructing the American ideal of "the self-made man" that the American Dream is built upon as a response to the poverty, rampant unemployment, and death that occurred during The Great Depression.