Last Updated on July 29, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 451
Steinbeck's brief, ironic idyll of the American dream gone awry contains considerable food for thought. The grandeur of the West and the aspirations of everyday people evoke strong feelings of sympathy for the novel's protagonists; it should not be surprising if readers react strongly to Steinbeck's bleak portrait of their failure. Readers may be torn between sympathy for Lennie and the legitimate need of authorities to take steps to punish him in some way for his crime; they may also have mixed reactions to George's behavior in protecting his friend and partner when he knows that, at some point, Lennie will need help which George cannot provide.
1. Like many novelists, Steinbeck chooses for his title a phrase from another literary work, in this case the Scottish poet Robert Burns's "To a Mouse." How does this allusion help add depth to the author's portrait of his Western drifters?
2. Throughout Of Mice and Men, Steinbeck weaves a pattern of animal imagery into his descriptions of characters. Why does he do so? What does this technique reveal about character and theme?
3. Steinbeck presents Curley's wife as a vixen and a temptress, the stereotypical femme fatale. Is this portrait convincing? Does the novelist depend too much on readers' blind acceptance of her shallow motivations and her blatant display of sexuality?
4. Some critics have suggested that, in his depiction of George and Lennie's friendship, Steinbeck is presenting an acceptable portrait of love between two men. Do you agree? Is their relationship a healthy one?
5. One of the most poignant scenes in the novel is the murder of Candy's dog by Carlson. Why does Steinbeck include this scene in the novel?
6. Though George wants to keep his plans about owning a ranch secret, both Crooks and Candy learn of the scheme, and both want to become part of it. Why? What does this tell you about the significance of George's plan?
7. Compare the characters Slim and Curley. In what ways are they similar? How does Steinbeck use them to suggest opposing forces in human nature?
8. In a brief novel such as this one, economy of detail is important: the author must make good use of everything he includes in the story. Select several passages in which Steinbeck demonstrates his ability to say a great deal about his characters or to foreshadow events to come. Discuss ways such details enrich your understanding of the story.
9. What role does Crooks play in the novel? What is the significance of his being black?
10. The first four paragraphs of chapter 6 describe a heron fishing in a pool in the Salinas River. Why do you think Steinbeck includes this scene? Why does he place it at the beginning of the final chapter?
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