Why does Of Mice and Men begin and end in the same place?
John Steinbeck's novel, Of Mice and Men, begins and ends at the edge of the Salinas River.
In the opening of the novel, George and Lennie are resting by the river banks. George is discussing with Lennie the rules which need to be followed when they arrive at the new ranch. Lennie's "misbehavior" caused the men to flee their last job. George tells Lennie that if he gets into any trouble that he (Lennie) needs to return to the river's edge so George can find him.
The end of the novel, therefore, is set at the edge of the Salinas River. Lennie has accidentally killed Curley's wife and, remembering George's words, returns to the river's edge.
In both the beginning and the end of the novel, the day is coming to a close. The sun is beginning to set and nature is active. A snake appears, a heron plucks it off of the water's edge. Contrastingly, the snake at the opening of the novel survives. In the end, the heron swallows the snake.
The importance of this imagery, seen in both the opening and closing of the novel, foreshadows Lennie's death. The snake, unaware of the threat (of the heron), slithers out among the leaves. Lennie, like the snake, is unaware of what is to happen. Lennie is killed by George, putting both men back where the story began.
The final scene returns to the opening setting of the “jade pool”. The pastoral calm is still noticeable, but the action of heron, “swallowed the little snake”, hints at the violence in nature. Moreover, the silence of the original setting is disturbed by the “gust” of wind and the noise of the leaves. The appearance of the “gigantic
Rabbit” relates with Lennie’s fear for the future. Steinbeck uses the rabbit as a symbol of a time of peace in quiet and natural surroundings. This device is used to give the reader an insight not only into what Lennie thinks, but also how he thinks.
By ending the novel where it began, Steinbeck brings the action of the book in a full circle; consequently giving a feeling of completeness to the story. Additionally, by his use of cyclic patterns, the reader is left with the feeling that the characters are forever doomed to wander from farm to farm, endlessly repeating the hopeless cycle of their lives.