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of mice and men by john steinbeck
Protagonist: The protagonist of the story is George. He is the kind-hearted ranch hand who is
concerned about his friend Lennie and watches out for him.
Antagonist: The antagonist of the story is George's trying to care for the handicapped Lennie.
Because he has a giant's body and a child's mind, Lennie accidentally kills Curley's wife; at the
same time he kills the dream of owning a farm that has kept George and Lennie positive about
Climax: The climax occurs when Lennie accidentally kills Curley's wife. George knows that he
can no longer save Lennie, for Curley will want revenge.
Outcome: Of Mice and Men ends in tragedy. George feels compelled to mercifully kill his
friend and companion, Lennie, in order to save him from a brutal death. The death of Lennie also
marks the death of the beautiful dream they have been nurturing.
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The dominant mood of the story is that of expectation. This mood is developed through the
dreams of the major characters. The other mood that prevails is premonitory, of impending
doom. There are also other moods evoked through the actions of the characters reflecting sorrow,
pity, and brutality. The novel ends on a tragic note. The mood at the end is definitely one of
depression and frustration.
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One evening, two men, on their way to a ranch, stop at a stream near the Salinas River. George,
who is short and dark, leads the way. The person following him is Lennie, a giant of a man with
huge arms. During their conversation by the stream, George repeatedly asks Lennie to keep his
mouth shut on the ranch, suggesting that Lennie has some kind of problem. After supper and
before going to sleep, the two of them talk about their dream to own a piece of land.
The next day, George and Lennie travel to the ranch to start work. They are given two beds in
the bunkhouse. Then Old Candy introduces them to almost everybody on the ranch. They meet
the boss and the boss's son Curley, who is quite rude. They also meet Curley's wife when she
comes looking for her husband. She wears heavy make-up and possesses a flirtatious attitude.
George warns Lennie to behave his best around Curley and his wife. He also suggests that they
should meet by the pool if anything unfortunate happens to either of them on the ranch.
George and Lennie are assigned to work with Slim, who is sensible and 'civilized' and talks with
authority. George finds Slim an understanding confidante, and a bond forms between the two of
OF MICE AND MEN
KEY LITERARY ELEMENTS
This book is set in two places. It starts beside a stream, close to the Salinas River, a few miles
South of Soledad. It then moves to a ranch, where the major part of the story is set. At the end of
the novel, the setting comes back to where it started.
George and Lennie are introduced by the stream. They are on their way to a near-by ranch. The
surrounding land is thick in vegetation and has its own wild life. Men frequent it, as there are ash
piles made by many fires and the limbs of the sycamore tree have been smoothed by the many
men who have sat on it.
The ranch, where the major part of the story takes place, appears isolated and lonely. It includes
a ranch house, a bunkhouse where the ranch workers live, a barn, and a harness-room off the
Table of Contents
George - the protagonist and main character of the book. He is a caring, compassionate, and
understanding human being who dreams of owning his own piece of land.
Lennie - the obedient friend of George. He has a child's mind and a giant's body. It is these
contrasting qualities that cause him problems.
Old Candy - one of the lonely ranch workers. He is a cripple, working as a 'Swamper'.
Crooks - a black ranch hand. He is sensible and neat, with a mind of his own. He is a lonely
character, who is discriminated against, due to his race.
Slim - a ranch worker with leadership qualities. He commands respect from all on the ranch.
Curley - the boss's son who is a light weight boxer. He picks fights with everybody on the ranch.
Curley's wife - the only woman on the ranch. She is very flirtatious.
Carlson - a brutal man. He objects to Candy keeping his old dog.
Whit - a ranch worker. He is sent to town to fetch the Sheriff after Curley's wife is murdered.
The Boss - a 'mice fella' (in Candy's words). He is more concerned about his work on the ranch
The major theme of the book, Of Mice and Men, is that a dream, no matter how impossible to
obtain, can forge friendship and give meaning to life. George and Lennie dream of owning a
little farm of ten acres, with a windmill, a little shack, an orchard, and animals. The dream keeps
them going and lightens the load of their work. It also solidifies their friendship.
One of the minor themes is the tragedy of mental retardation. Lennie never intends to harm
anything, neither the puppy nor Curley's wife. He is simply too slow to realize his own strength.
His retardation is the cause of his downfall and death, in spite of George's trying to help him stay
out of trouble.
The pain of loneliness is another theme of the book. All the main characters, including George,
Lennie, Candy, Crooks, Curley's wife, and Slim, express the sadness caused by their feelings of
loneliness. The craving for company and the longing for sharing real emotions make these
characters very human.
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Born on February 27, 1902, in Salinas, California, John Ernest Steinbeck was the third of four
children. Though poor, Steinbeck had a normal childhood and attended public school, graduating
from Salinas High School in 1919. As a student, he had an inclination towards reading and
writing, which was encouraged by his mother, a schoolteacher herself. He was a frequent
contributor to the school magazine.
Steinbeck studied at Stanford University from 1920 to1925. Although he intended to become a
marine biologist, he never completed a degree. The courses that attracted his attention most were
zoology, English, and classical literature. While at Stanford, he wrote frequently and was often
published in the college newspaper. After leaving the University, he worked at a variety of jobs.
He went to New York, determined to become a writer. Between 1925 and 1927, he attempted to
earn a living as a reporter and a free-lance writer, but was unsuccessful. Disappointed, he left
New York and returned to the West Coast, where he met his first wife, Carol.
Steinbeck's first novel, Cup of Gold (1929), is based on the life of Sir Henry Morgan, a famous
English pirate of the sixteen hundreds. His next work, The Pastures of Heaven (1932), is a
collection of stories about the people on a farm community near Salinas. In this work, Steinbeck
focuses on the struggle between human beings and nature. These first two books received scant
attention. Finally in 1933, Steinbeck achieved success with his short story "The Red Pony."
Steinbeck's next novel, Tortilla Flat (1935), dealt with the migrant workers and poor farmers. In
Dubious Battle (1936) realistically portrays the labor strife in California during the nineteen
thirties. This novel also sets forth Steinbeck's concept of "group humanity" through the character
George is the protagonist and one of the two main characters in Of Mice and Men. A
compassionate, kind, responsible, patient, and understanding man, he faithfully watches out for
Lennie, his retarded friend and constant companion. When Lennie gets into trouble, George
always helps him find a solution or get away. George is also shown to be a thinking person. He
knows he must discipline Lennie in order to help him, and he is often seen telling Lennie what he
has done wrong and what he must do to improve. He is also a planner, telling Lennie where he
should go if there is trouble on the ranch. He also works hard to make the dream of owing a ten-
acre farm become a reality. Unlike the other ranch hands that squander their money on women
and drink, George refuses to spend a dime frivolously, saving everything to make the dream
come true. He wants to buy the farm so that he and Lennie can live there, free from problems and
constraints caused by society.
Sometimes George is portrayed as an angry man, for he gets frustrated with Lennie's slowness.
Although he scolds and even screams at him, he is never intentionally mean or cruel. Several
times George thinks about what he could do if Lennie were not around, but they are just idle
thoughts. George is legally free to desert
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