Introduction to Of Mice and Men

John Steinbeck’s novella Of Mice and Men was published in 1937 and is considered Steinbeck’s first major achievement as an author. Steinbeck later adapted the novella into a play, and it has since seen multiple film adaptations. Steinbeck borrowed the novella’s title from Robert Burns’s poem “To a Mouse,” which contains the line “The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men, / Gang aft agley,” meaning "the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry." Set over the course of three days on a ranch in Northern California’s Salinas Valley during the Great Depression, Of Mice and Men focuses on the lives of George Milton and Lennie Small, two friends and migrant workers who dream of one day owning their own piece of land. The novella explores themes of human interaction, dependence, and the damaging effects of isolation. It was inspired, in part, by Steinbeck’s own experience of working alongside migrant ranch workers during the summers of his teenage years.

A Brief Biography of John Steinbeck

John Steinbeck (1902–1968) was born in Salinas, California, the setting for his popular novella Of Mice and Men. Although he spent a few years at Stanford University, he found that academic life didn't suit him. He decided to become a writer, working first as a journalist and later finding great success as a novelist. Steinbeck penned twenty-seven novels, three collections of short stories, and numerous essays between 1929 and his death in 1968. He's best known for The Grapes of Wrath, a Depression-era novel that follows the migratory experiences of the Joad family, who travel from the ravaged Oklahoma Dust Bowl to the “Promised Land” of California. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1962 “for his realistic as well as imaginative writings, distinguished by a sympathetic humor and a keen social perception.” Privately, however, he feared that the prize usually spelled the end of a writer’s career. Committed to diversity in his writing, Steinbeck also wrote the semiautobiographical novel East of Eden, the comical Tortilla Flat, the travelogue Travels With Charley, and the nonfiction work Log From the Sea of Cortez.

Frequently Asked Questions about Of Mice and Men

Of Mice and Men

Curley's wife lets Lennie touch her hair to see how soft it is. This moment is preceded by the two talking about their love of soft things, such as furry animals and velvet. Lennie brought this up...

Latest answer posted September 10, 2020, 11:19 am (UTC)

2 educator answers

Of Mice and Men

Lennie is an intellectually disabled man, who is massive and extremely strong. Lennie also has an affinity for petting soft things, and his ultimate dream is to one day own numerous rabbits....

Latest answer posted November 30, 2020, 4:09 pm (UTC)

6 educator answers

Of Mice and Men

Lennie is one of the major characters in John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men. He has some unspecified type of intellectual disability, so he relies heavily on George to help him navigate certain...

Latest answer posted September 10, 2020, 11:44 am (UTC)

5 educator answers

Of Mice and Men

Lennie's death in Of Mice and Men is one of the most haunting and heartbreaking scenes in all of literature. In short, George kills his best friend to spare him from a worse fate. After Lennie...

Latest answer posted September 10, 2020, 11:16 am (UTC)

9 educator answers

Of Mice and Men

In the story, Candy is an old swamper with one hand and is relatively useless on the ranch. Candy understands that he is extremely vulnerable on the hostile ranch and desperately fears being fired...

Latest answer posted September 10, 2020, 1:35 pm (UTC)

2 educator answers

Of Mice and Men

After Lennie accidentally kills Curley's wife, he remembers what George told him to do if he got into trouble and flees to their designated meeting spot. As he waits for George to arrive, he fears...

Latest answer posted September 10, 2020, 11:22 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

Of Mice and Men

In the story, Lennie is depicted as a large, innocent man with some sort of intellectual disability. He travels throughout the western United States with his close friend George looking for work....

Latest answer posted September 10, 2020, 4:33 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

Of Mice and Men

The title Of Mice and Men has a lofty, epic quality which initially appears at odds with the humble people Steinbeck describes. It is based on the lines in "To a Mouse" by Robert Burns: The best...

Latest answer posted December 7, 2020, 5:10 pm (UTC)

10 educator answers

Of Mice and Men

In chapter 5, Lennie is upset at himself for accidentally killing the puppy Slim gave him, aware that George will not be happy with him when he finds out. While Lennie is in the barn, he begins to...

Latest answer posted September 10, 2020, 1:16 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

Of Mice and Men

John Steinbeck never tells his readers the specific ages of George and Lennie. Though both men are likely a similar age since they grew up together, the reader is given the impression throughout...

Latest answer posted September 10, 2020, 7:02 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

Of Mice and Men

Lennie is a man who, in many ways, still has the mind of a child. He struggles to process the world around him, and his cognitive challenges make him an easy target for verbal abuse. However,...

Latest answer posted September 10, 2020, 7:40 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

Of Mice and Men

It is Slim who gives Lennie the puppy, though George first mentions the idea of getting Lennie a puppy earlier. Lennie is fascinated by soft things like mice and enjoys petting them. Unfortunately,...

Latest answer posted September 10, 2020, 11:35 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

Of Mice and Men

George and Lennie have known one another since boyhood. George tells people that they are cousins, but it is not true—it is just a simpler explanation than the real story. In reality, they grew up...

Latest answer posted September 10, 2020, 12:21 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

Of Mice and Men

Lennie's murder of the unfortunate puppy showcases his love of soft things and his inability to know his own strength and perceive when he is hurting or smothering a living creature. This...

Latest answer posted September 10, 2020, 11:21 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

Of Mice and Men

Lennie is innocent in that he's naive about the ways of the world. This is largely due to his intellectual disability, which makes it difficult for him to understand other people or anticipate the...

Latest answer posted September 10, 2020, 11:20 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

Of Mice and Men

George turns away from Candy after discovering the corpse of Curley's wife and realizing that Lennie killed her. He knows that Lennie did not intend to harm the woman and tries to explain this to...

Latest answer posted September 10, 2020, 1:45 pm (UTC)

2 educator answers

Of Mice and Men

When analyzing how George feels in the aftermath of Lennie's death, it's important to consider both Lennie's significance in George's life and the loss George experiences once Lennie is gone. In...

Latest answer posted September 10, 2020, 2:47 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

Of Mice and Men

After the body of Curley's wife is discovered, Curley gathers the ranch hands, determined to hunt down Lennie and kill him in revenge: When you see ‘um, don’t give ‘im no chance. Shoot for his...

Latest answer posted September 10, 2020, 11:31 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

Of Mice and Men

Although it's now been over eighty years since Of Mice and Men was first published, it has lost none of its ability to stir up controversy—even today, it remains one of the most frequently...

Latest answer posted September 10, 2020, 11:44 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

Of Mice and Men

First, it's important to recognize that no specific diagnosis is ever given to Lennie in the text itself. From George's descriptions and Lennie's interactions with others, however, readers can...

Latest answer posted September 10, 2020, 11:34 am (UTC)

1 educator answer
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Summary