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Of Mice and Men

Literature Presentation
by

Ivan Ballestas

on 20 April 2010

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Transcript of Of Mice and Men

Symbols Main Characters Plot Setting
Of Mice and Men opens with a physical description of the topography of the Central Valley of California. "A few miles south of Soledad," the Salinas river winds through an idyllic scene of yellow sands, golden foothills, and deer that come to the shore to drink at night. It is in this setting that we first meet Steinbeck's two protagonists, George Milton and Lennie Small. George is "small and quick, dark of face, with restless eyes and sharp, strong features." Lennie is "his opposite, a huge man, shapeless of face, with large, pale eyes, with wide, sloping shoulders." They have just come from the town of Weed in Northern California where Lennie had gotten into some sort of trouble, forcing them to flee south. There they are now looking for new work on a ranch. As.....



George Candy Lenny Curly
A small, quick-witted man who travels with his sidekick named, Lennie. Although he frequently gets him into trouble.






Slim - A highly skilled mule driver and the acknowledged “prince” of the ranch, Slim is the only character who seems to be at peace with himself. The other characters often look to Slim for advice. For instance, only after Slim agrees that Candy should put his decrepit dog out of its misery does the old man agree to let Carlson shoot it. A quiet, insightful man, Slim alone understands the nature of the bond between George and Lennie, and comforts George at the novel’s tragic ending.
Secondary Characters

Of Mice and Men The action of the novel occurs over the course of three days. Steinbeck created the novel's two main characters, George Milton and Lennie Small, to portray victims of forces beyond their control. George and Lennie are two migrant agricultural workers on a California ranch who share a dream of owning their own farm someday. They take jobs at a ranch where their hopes are at first raised but then destroyed by a tragic accident. The men on the ranch travel by themselves and have no real connections to each other.  Curley's wife spends her days wandering about the ranch, searching for someone with whom she can share her dreams.  Crooks is segregated from the others, as he is not allowed to live in the bunkhouse with the others because he is black.
Candy and Crooks join George and Lennie in their quest for the American dream, when they try to become a part of the plan to buy a house on a small piece of land.  They all seem to understand from the outset, though, that they will never realize this dream.
Finally, every one of the major characters is a victim.  The ranch hands are victims of the boss's instructions and wishes.  Curley's wife is a victim of a patriarchal society.  Crooks is a victim of racism.
1930's
Crash of The Stock Market
South of Soledad, California Protagonist Antagonist Of Mice and Men is a John Steinbeck novel set in the 1930s telling the story of migrant ranch workers and their dreams. The story focuses on two main characters, Lennie and George, who travel together. Lennie is a large, strong, mentally challenged man, while his friend, George, is small-framed, quick and intelligent. The name of the novel "Of Mice and Men" comes from a famous poem written by Robert Burns called "To a Mouse" which summarizes very well what happens in the story. Slim Curly's Wife A large, lumbering, childlike migrant worker. Due to his mild mental disability, Lennie completely depends upon George, his friend and traveling companion, for guidance and protection. The two men share a vision of a farm that they will own together, a vision that Lennie believes in wholeheartedly. Gentle and kind, Lennie nevertheless does not understand his own strength. His love of petting soft things, such as small animals, dresses, and people’s hair, leads to disaster. Candy - An aging ranch handyman, Candy lost his hand in an accident and worries about his future on the ranch. Fearing that his age is making him useless, he seizes on George’s description of the farm he and Lennie will have, offering his life’s savings if he can join George and Lennie in owning the land. The fate of Candy’s ancient dog, which Carlson shoots in the back of the head in an alleged act of mercy, foreshadows the manner of Lennie’s death. Curley - The boss’s son, Curley wears high-heeled boots to distinguish himself from the field hands. Rumored to be a champion prizefighter, he is a confrontational, mean-spirited, and aggressive young man who seeks to compensate for his small stature by picking fights with larger men. Recently married, Curley is plagued with jealous suspicions and is extremely possessive of his flirtatious young wife. Curley’s wife - The only female character in the novel, Curley’s wife is never given a name and is only mentioned in reference to her husband. The men on the farm refer to her as a “tramp,” a “tart,” and a “looloo.” Dressed in fancy, feathered red shoes, she represents the temptation of female sexuality in a male-dominated world. Steinbeck depicts Curley’s wife not as a villain, but rather as a victim. Like the ranch-hands, she is desperately lonely and has broken dreams of a better life. Lennie - A large, lumbering, childlike migrant worker. Due to his mild mental disability, Lennie completely depends upon George, his friend and traveling companion, for guidance and protection. The two men share a vision of a farm that they will own together, a vision that Lennie believes in wholeheartedly. Gentle and kind, Lennie nevertheless does not understand his own strength. His love of petting soft things, such as small animals, dresses, and people’s hair, leads to disaster. Crooks
Carlson
The Boss
Aunt Clara
Whit George and Lennie’s Farm
The farm that George constantly describes to Lennie—those few acres of land on which they will grow their own food and tend their own livestock—is one of the most powerful symbols in the book. It seduces not only the other characters but also the reader, who, like the men, wants to believe in the possibility of the free, idyllic life it promises. Candy is immediately drawn in by the dream, and even the cynical Crooks hopes that Lennie and George will let him live there too. A paradise for men who want to be masters of their own lives, the farm represents the possibility of freedom, self-reliance, and protection from the cruelties of the world.
Lennie’s Puppy
Lennie’s puppy is one of several symbols that represent the victory of the strong over the weak. Lennie kills the puppy accidentally, as he has killed many mice before, by virtue of his failure to recognize his own strength. Although no other character can match Lennie’s physical strength, the huge Lennie will soon meet a fate similar to that of his small puppy. Like an innocent animal, Lennie is unaware of the vicious, predatory powers that surround him.
Candy’s Dog
In the world Of Mice and Men describes, Candy’s dog represents the fate awaiting anyone who has outlived his or her purpose. Once a fine sheepdog, useful on the ranch, Candy’s mutt is now debilitated by age. Candy’s sentimental attachment to the animal—his plea that Carlson let the dog live for no other reason than that Candy raised it from a puppy—means nothing at all on the ranch. Although Carlson promises to kill the dog painlessly, his insistence that the old animal must die supports a cruel natural law that the strong will dispose of the weak. Candy internalizes this lesson, for he fears that he himself is nearing an age when he will no longer be useful at the ranch, and therefore no longer welcome.
Review: What are symbols? Symbols are objects, characters, figures, and colors used to represent abstract ideas or concepts. Themes & Motifs The Predatory Nature of Human Existence
Of Mice and Men teaches a grim lesson about the nature of human existence. Nearly all of the characters, including George, Lennie, Candy, Crooks, and Curley’s wife, admit, at one time or another, to having a profound sense of loneliness and isolation. Each desires the comfort of a friend, but will settle for the attentive ear of a stranger. Curley’s wife admits to Candy, Crooks, and Lennie that she is unhappily married, and Crooks tells Lennie that life is no good without a companion to turn to in times of confusion and need. The characters are rendered helpless by their isolation, and yet, even at their weakest, they seek to destroy those who are even weaker than they. Perhaps the most powerful example of this cruel tendency is when Crooks criticizes Lennie’s dream of the farm and his dependence on George. Having just admitted his own vulnerabilities—he is a black man with a crooked back who longs for companionship—Crooks zeroes in on Lennie’s own weaknesses.
Fraternity and the Idealized Male Friendship
One of the reasons that the tragic end of George and Lennie’s friendship has such a profound impact is that one senses that the friends have, by the end of the novel, lost a dream larger than themselves. The farm on which George and Lennie plan to live—a place that no one ever reaches—has a magnetic quality, as Crooks points out. After hearing a description of only a few sentences, Candy is completely drawn in by its magic. Crooks has witnessed countless men fall under the same silly spell, and still he cannot help but ask Lennie if he can have a patch of garden to hoe there. The men in Of Mice and Men desire to come together in a way that would allow them to be like brothers to one another. That is, they want to live with one another’s best interests in mind, to protect each other, and to know that there is someone in the world dedicated to protecting them. Given the harsh, lonely conditions under which these men live, it should come as no surprise that they idealize friendships between men in such a way
The Impossibility of the American Dream
Most of the characters in Of Mice and Men admit, at one point or another, to dreaming of a different life. Before her death, Curley’s wife confesses her desire to be a movie star. Crooks, bitter as he is, allows himself the pleasant fantasy of hoeing a patch of garden on Lennie’s farm one day, and Candy latches on desperately to George’s vision of owning a couple of acres.
The Corrupting Power of Women
The portrayal of women in Of Mice and Men is limited and unflattering. We learn early on that Lennie and George are on the run from the previous ranch where they worked, due to encountering trouble there with a woman. Misunderstanding Lennie’s love of soft things, a woman accused him of rape for touching her dress. George berates Lennie for his behavior, but is convinced that women are always the cause of such trouble. Their enticing sexuality, he believes, tempts men to behave in ways they would otherwise not.
Loneliness and Companionship
Many of the characters admit to suffering from profound loneliness. George sets the tone for these confessions early in the novel when he reminds Lennie that the life of a ranch-hand is among the loneliest of lives. Men like George who migrate from farm to farm rarely have anyone to look to for companionship and protection. As the story develops, Candy, Crooks, and Curley’s wife all confess their deep loneliness. The fact that they admit to complete strangers their fear of being cast off shows their desperation. In a world without friends to confide in, strangers will have to do. Each of these characters searches for a friend, someone to help them measure the world, as Crooks says. In the end, however, companionship of his kind seems unattainable. For George, the hope of such companionship dies with Lennie, and true to his original estimation, he will go through life alone.
Strength and Weakness
Steinbeck explores different types of strength and weakness throughout the novel. The first, and most obvious, is physical strength. As the novel opens, Steinbeck shows how Lennie possesses physical strength beyond his control, as when he cannot help killing the mice. Great physical strength is, like money, quite valuable to men in George and Lennie’s circumstances. Curley, as a symbol of authority on the ranch and a champion boxer, makes this clear immediately by using his brutish strength and violent temper to intimidate the men and his wife.
By Ivan Ballestas
i_ballestas@yahoo.com
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