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Ideas for Group Discussions

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

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...

(The entire section is 451 words.)