The Survival Game in Harsh Conditions: Of Mice and Men

The Survival Game in Harsh Issues: Of Mice and Men

Wee, sleeket, cowrin, tim’rous beastie, …

… However, Mousie, thou art no thy lane

The best laid plans o’ mice an’ males

An’ lea’e us nought but sorrow an’ pain

Still thou art blest, compar ‘d wi’ me!

The title of Steinbeck’s novel, drawn from the poem composed by Robert Burns in 1785, leads us directly to what happens to the two primary characters of the novel: no matter how hard they attempt their plans to reach an effective ending, they always stop working to end up being true.

Clinging to each other in their solitude and alienation, George and his simple-minded pal Lennie dream, as drifters will, of a location to call their own. But after they concern work on a ranch in the Salinas Valley their hopes, like “the very best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men,” begin to go awry.

Of Mice and Guy is set in the farmland of the Salinas valley, where John Steinbeck was born. Steinbeck’s dad owned land in the area, and as a young man Steinbeck had actually worked assisting in the farm. The ranch in the story is near Soledad, which is south-east of Salinas on the Salinas river.

Two migrant workers, George and Lennie, lead their way to a California farm where they need to start a brand-new work. Lennie has a mild psychological special needs and is absolutely based on his friend for protection and guidance. He enjoys petting soft things, and usually carries little animals such as mice or rats. But he is not familiar with his own strength and the animals undoubtedly end up dead in his hands. The two guys imagine buying their own piece of land and living on it, but before they can satisfy their dream they have to gather enough money working.

At the farm they fulfill other migrant workers, such as Candy and his ancient pet dog, Curley, the boss’ son, and his spouse, Slim, Crooks and Carlson, who ultimately kills Candy’s pet, an occasion that becomes a premonition of Lennie’s awful final.

Candy and Scoundrels will attempt to join George and Lennie in their pursue of the dreamt land, however everything will quickly end when Lennie eliminates Curley’s other half inadvertently. When the other males find her, they discover what has actually occurred and congregate a lynch celebration, and George is forced to help them. He has no other option but to shoot his good friend prior to the other men find him.

By the time that Of Mice and Men was released, almost half of America’s grain was gathered by migrant farm employees, like George and Lennie, our significant characters here. Huge varieties of males travelled the countryside in between the 1880s and the early 1930s, gathering wheat. They made $2.50 or $3.00 a day, in addition to food and very basic accommodation, as we can see in the bunkhouse of the farm were they are residing in the book.

During this time, when unemployment was a really serious problem in the United States, firms were established under the New Offer to send farm workers where they were needed. This is shown also in Of Mice and Guy, when George and Lennie have work cards from Murray and Ready’s, one of these firms.

The Great Anxiety started in October 1929, when the stock exchange in the United States fell rapidly. Countless financiers lost large sums of cash and many lost whatever. The crash led the nation into what was called the Great Depression.

The following duration is considered the longest and worst duration of high unemployment and low business activity in modern-day times. Banks, shops, and factories were closed and left millions of Americans jobless, homeless, and broke. Lots of people came to depend on the federal government or charity to provide them with food and other necessities.

The Depression became a worldwide organisation failure of the 1930s that affected almost all nations. It caused a sharp decline in world trade, because each nation attempted to safeguard their own markets and items by raising tariffs on imported goods.

In Germany, poor economic conditions caused the increase to power of the dictator Adolf Hitler. The Japanese attacked China, developing industries and mines in Manchuria. Japan claimed this economic development would ease the anxiety. This militarism of the Germans and Japanese ultimately resulted in World War II (1939-1945).

The Impossibility of The American Dream

Of Mice and Guy is a book of beat hope and the fight of the severe truth to the American Dream, understood as the possibility to enhance one’s life, no matter what your social or affordable status is. George and Lennie are bad homeless migrant workers, destined a life of roaming around and exhausting work.

Their desires might not appear so unknown to any other American: a location of their own, the opportunity to work for themselves and gather what they seed, with no one to take anything from them or provide orders. George and Lennie desperately believe that they are different from other employees who take a trip from cattle ranch to ranch because, unlike the others, they have a future and, most important of all, they have each other.

But characters like Crooks and Curley’s wife work as reminders that George and Lennie are not various from anyone who wants something of his or her own. What makes their dreams usually American is that they long for unspoiled joy and the liberty that allows them to follow their own desires. Their journey, which awakens George to the impossibility of such a dream, shows that the bitter Crooks is right: “No one never ever gets to heaven, and no one gets no land. It’s simply in their head.” (page 74)

Most of the characters want to alter their lives in some way, however none are capable of doing so; they all have dreams, and it is only the dream that differs from person to person.

Curley’s wife, for example, has already seen her dream of becoming an actress come and go, and now must live a life of empty hope in her unfulfilling marital relationship to Curley, the only way out she might lastly find. Even Slim, in spite of his obvious knowledge and confidence, has absolutely nothing that he can call his own, and is also destined roaming around, as a migrant employee, till the end of his days.

The start of the Great Depression was the end of the American Dream for the American society as a whole, however the idea persisted in the person’s mind for a long period of time. Thousands of people made their method to California to leave from their farmlands in the mid-West. A few of them dreamt of their own land, like George and Lennie, and lots of others dreamt of a much better life in the recently brand-new motion picture star world, like Curley’s better half.

George and Lennie travelling together is a crucial element in the unique, the feature that makes them distinct compared to the loneliness that surrounds them: the isolation of the cattle ranch worker, that of the outcast black guy, that of the subjected female and that of the old cripple. Even Slim is surprised when he recognizes their companionship: “Amusing how you an’ him string together. (…) Hardly none of the men ever travel together.” (page 39)

Ever since the very first scene of the book, when George and Lennie are going to the brand-new ranch, the reader is left it clear about their very special bond: in a conversation that will end up being recurring and recurrent the whole time the book, in a really comparable manner in which the never-ending discussion of Vladimir and Estragon in Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot (1956) never ever reaches a last conclusion, George and Lennie introduce the reader to their dream, their own land and an independent life together.

They wish to remain together in a way that would allow them to be like siblings: to protect each other, to have the idealised certainty that there is somebody in this world that takes care of them. This is a gorgeous image, filled with hope, and it is not surprising that Sweet and Criminals are immediately drawn in to it.

However could this be called relationship? Is it friendship and friendship when it is a desire based upon the necessity of avoiding loneliness? I would definitely state that Lennie would call George a pal, but George would be more reluctant to call Lennie the same. He tells Slim that “‘course Lennie’s a God damn nuisance most of the time, but you get used to goin’ around with a person an’ you can’t get rid of him.” (page 41)

They grew up together, when Lennie’s auntie died he guaranteed to look after him and, in a manner, I pick up that George admires Lennie’s faithfulness towards him, and this develops a bond and a responsibility that is sometimes as strong, if it is not more, as friendship. And in spite of his inconvenience, George is also protective, client and proud when it pertains to Lennie.

Yet, George is also aware of the reality that life would be easier without Lennie, and whenever Lennie enters into difficulty, George wishes for independence, a tension that is not resolved until completion of the unique, when staying with Lennie makes it impossible for George to make it through. The final scene is an effective fight of feelings, a tragic action that George sees himself required to commit for his own survival and in contradiction with his own sensations for Lennie.

Certainly, in killing Lennie, George removes a danger to his own life, as Lennie is always entering difficulty and threatening both his own and George’s life. The tragedy is that George is required to shoot the buddy that made him different from the other lonesome workers and metaphorically he is forced to admit that his dream has gone awry.

His future, from that minute on, is isolation, the life of the homeless cattle ranch employee. Slim’s convenience at the end, “Never you mind, (…) a person got to sometimes. (…) You hadda, George.” (page 107), assists the reader comprehend that George has needed to surrender his dreams in order to endure, but does not make it easier for both George and the reader to accept it and feel comfy with it. The last conclusion appears to be that the world is too severe a location to sustain a relationship such as that of George and Lennie’s.

Nameless and flirtatious, Curley’s better half is perceived by Candy to be the cause of whatever that went wrong in the farm when, taking a look at her still warm corpse, he states to her: “Ever’body knowed you ‘d mess things up. You wasn’t no great. You ain’t no good now, you poor tart” (page 95). And he is only echoing the general male sensation towards women in the book.

She is referred to as being “a tramp”, “a rat-trap”, “a bitch” (page 32), “a looloo (…) She got the eye goin’ all the time on everybody”, “a prison bait all set on the trigger” (page 51) and as a “lousy tart” (page 95), to name a few niceties that the males speak about her. She is, clearly, the factor for Curley’s insecurity and bad character, and eventually she will be the key element that triggers Lennie’s death.

However Curley’s better half, being the primary female character and the one that apparently causes all the trouble, is not the only female character represented in the book. The portrayal of women in Of Mice and Guy is, apart from limited, uncomplimentary. George and Lennie have to get away from the previous ranch where they worked due to the fact that Lennie had some difficulty with a lady.

Misunderstanding Lennie’s objectives, a female implicated him of rape for touching her gown. George is upset with Lennie, however he deeply believes that ladies are always the reason for such problems, and they tempt males sexually to make them act in methods they would not otherwise.

This is why he continuously advises Lennie never ever, under no situation, to have any contact with Curley’s better half. George has no desire for a female companion or wife, and all the females he permits himself to have contact with are the females at the “flophouse”, the whorehouse that the males see as soon as in the book.

The only voice that ladies are given in the book is that of Curley’s wife (she is provided voice however never a name): speaking to Lennie, she discusses to him her dissatisfaction with her marriage to a guy that she does not like, her uninteresting life at the farm and her own dream for a much better life, that of a Hollywood movie star. However, although Steinbeck finally offers a considerate view of Curley’s other half by allowing her to voice her unhappiness, females in general have no place in this author’s idealised vision of a world structured around male relationship and friendship.

These are a few of the most essential key symbols utilized by Steinbeck, although there are some others that I can not handle here due to absence of space.

The farm that George is constantly describing, with the aid and interest of his pal Lennie, is one of the most essential symbols in the book. These couple of acres of land that will supply the 2 men with all the essential for living represent the paradise of men who want to feel and be totally free, masters of their own fate.

This is all related to the misconception of the private property, which seduces the 2 characters in addition to those who can hear their creativity wander complimentary, like Candy and Scoundrels, who also plead with George and Lennie to let them live there too. The farm represents, after all, the possibility of freedom, self-reliance and security from the ruthlessness of the world.

The deaths of the pup and the mice represent the triumph of the strong over the weak. Lennie kills the puppy accidentally, as he has actually eliminated lots of mice before, stopping working to acknowledge his own strength. These deaths are likewise a prelude of the last death, that of Curley’s better half, that will ultimately lead to Lennie’s death and literally the death of his and George’s dream.

Although no other character in the book can fight versus Lennie’s physical strength, he will likewise fulfill a similar fate to that of the mice and his young puppy: like an innocent animal, Lennie will be killed by the predatory life that surrounds him.

This old “dragfooted sheepdog, gray of muzzle, and with pale, blind old eyes” (page 24) has a double function in the story: on the one hand it is a metaphor for what George will need to do to Lennie, who shows to be a problem to George and to himself, therefore the best and most sensible solution is to have actually it/him killed.

On the other hand, the old pet dog represents the fate of anyone who has actually outlived his or her function: it was when a great sheepdog, really helpful to its owner and the cattle ranch, now absolutely ineffective. Therefore, it needs to be eliminated. Sweet is emotionally connected to the canine, like George is to Lennie, but in the end he has no other alternative however to see him killed.

Again, this supports a natural but at the same time cruel law: the strong will pick the weak’s fate, the more youthful on the older ones. In this sense, Steinbeck depicts American society as one that deals with what it considers not beneficial any more.

Four of the characters in Of Mice and Men are in one method or another handicapped: Candy is missing out on a hand, Crooks has an uneven spine, Curley’s hand is mangled throughout the course of the unique, and Lennie is mentally sluggish, which is a sort of psychological handicap. Like the characters’ dreams go awry, their bodies show flaw; nature devotes errors in her creatures, and whatever the cause is, these physical defects take place regardless of the individual’s desire to be various, much like their dreams are unfulfilled no matter how hard they try.

George very frequently plays the card video game called The Solitaire, which suggests “alone” and which needs only one person. It is extremely intriguing since, on the one hand, he never ever asks Lennie to play cards with him, nor any other of the men that reside in the bunk with him, and because, on the other hand, this game represents the solitude of the characters in the novel, and specially it means George’s privacy; he specifies in different minutes of the story that he would handle far better without the burden of his good friend Lennie. After all, his consistent playing of The Solitaire foreshadows his ultimate choice of becoming a singular male.

Of Mice and Guy is a representative book, both in Steinbeck’s work and in the literature of the America of the Great Anxiety. It portrays the severe conditions of those migrant workers who had to bear terrible life conditions in order to pursue their dreams, dreams that in most cases never went true due to the difficulties of their times.

Hard work, solitude, death or physical and psychological concerns are all masterly handled in these few pages, and every analysis of the different elements of the novel offer light to a world of possibilities that help the reader understand a really severe period of America’s history.

Bibliography

“Steinbeck: The California Books”, Western Washington University. 15 May 2004.

Jones, Howard Mumford and Ludwig, Richard M. 1972.

Guide to American Literature and its Backgrounds since 1890.

Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. Lankford, John E. (ed.), Reimers, David M. (ed.). 1970.

Essays on American Social History. New York City: Holt, Rinehart and Winston. Rafroidi, Patrick. 1963.

Steinbeck. Barcelona: Fontanella. Shakespeare, Margaret. 1983.

California: Land of Many Dreams. New York: Crescent D.L. Steinbeck, John. 1986.

Of Mice and Male. Cannery Row. New York City: Penguin Books Ltd. Watt, F.W. 1962.

Steinbeck. Edinburgh: Oliver and Boyd.

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