How does the setting of Of Mice and Men influence the book's thematic development? In answering, consider the connection between the novel's setting and the characters' vocations. Also, how does Steinbeck signal the importance of setting in his choice of place names?
Though the novel is more famous for its characters than its setting, Of Mice and Men could not have been set elsewhere than in the rural Salinas valley of California. The problems of the novel are intimately tied to the rhythms and frustrations of the itinerant worker's life. Shifting from ranch to ranch, from one menial job to another, the Californian itinerant worker risked a life of meaningless labor - of pure, cynical ...view middle of the document...
Describe the ways in which the novel is like a play. Why did Steinbeck choose to put his work together in this way?
Each chapter of the novel takes place in a single location, aside from a short walk at the beginning of Chapter One. Thus the novel is structured, much like a play, into "scenes." The locations of these scenes are treated much like the space of a stage - characters enter and exit frequently, give speeches and move the plot forward. The narrator, meanwhile, is minimally intrusive. This "dramatic" form of writing allows the novel to progress rapidly and portentously, building symbolic density and narrative tension without becoming too heavy-handed. It also, by the way, allowed Of Mice and Men to be adapted for the stage almost immediately after its publication.
Of Mice and Men is often studied as an example of "foreshadowing" in literature. How does Steinbeck foreshadow the pivotal events of the book? What does this effect do for the tone of the book?
Nearly every word and image in the novel is carefully chosen to guide the reader to the accidental killing of Curley's wife and the mercy killing of Lennie. The gun used to shoot Candy's decrepit dog is later used by George to shoot Lennie; the many small animals that Lennie crushes out of love foreshadow his panicked killings of his puppy and, moments later, Curley's wife; and the event that drove George and Lennie out of Weed (Lennie's false accusation of rape) parallels the scene in the barn between him and Curley's wife. This dense layering of related plot elements gives the plot an element of inevitability - as though fate has preordained the tragic events of the book.
Several of the characters in Of Mice and Men display physical and mental impairments. Identify and describe these characters. How do these impairments influence or reflect these characters' roles in the novel?
Of Mice and Men is a novel about impairments, both literal and symbolic. Most of the men in the novel are impaired in some fundamental way, most often in terms of their loneliness and isolation. In the case of several characters, this symbolic impairment becomes expressed literally through their damaged bodies. Crooks and Candy are hunch-backed and lame; Curley's hand is crushed (an injury which reflects on his damaged masculinity in general). The most conspicuously impaired person in the novel, Lennie, is impaired in an altogether different way. Bodily, he is the most able man in the novel, but mentally, he is incompatible with social life. Thus the different nature of his disability reflects and emphasizes his inability to survive in the lonely, desolate environment of the itinerant worker.
Consider Curley's wife. Is she a sympathetic or an unsympathetic character? Would you characterize Steinbeck's portrayal of her as fair, or do you detect misogyny in his depiction?
Curley's wife, the only major character who is not given an individual name, is indeed an...