In what ways does Steinbeck warn us about the extremely destructive nature of mankind in Of Mice and Men?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The two characters who end the novel might be a good insight into this.  Carlson and Curley are destructive in their own right.  Curley, the little guy always looking for a fight, and Carlson, who represents' Yeats' idea of "the worst are filled with passionate intensity," are both representations of how destructive individuals can be.  The incident with Candy's dog reflects how there is a destruction intrinsic to man.  Carlson being insistent on putting the dog down and creating a defense for it, while the dog's owner looks on for someone, anyone, to stop it.  When Steinbeck describes "the silence" between the time Carlson takes the dog out of the living quarters and the time he shoots it dead, there is a level of destruction completely apparent within human beings.  While Carlson and Curley represent destruction in its most malevolent form, there might be a statement about how human beings destroy in the form of Lennie, himself.  Lennie, whose heart is pure and whose childlike nature is above reproach, is incapable of doing anything with his hands except demonstrating brute force.  He kills the animals he pets with his hands, and kills Curley's wife by touching her hair and then crushing her, breaking her neck.  In the end, the destruction that is wantonly apparent in Curley and Carlson is a significant element to the destruction that is within mankind.  Yet, the unintended destruction that is also evident in Lennie is also a part of what Steinbeck suggests means to be human.