OF MICE & MEN PREVIEW
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Section 1 Unit 4: George pacifies Lennie by telling him about their dream to buy land and live out the concept of the American Dream.
Point: Lennie asks if George would like him to leave and uses childlike manipulation as a means to gauge George’s feelings.
Evidence: If you don’t want me I can go off in the hills an’ find a cave. I can go away any time. (P31/L)
Explanation: Lennie understands that he is incapable of looking after himself and depends on the depth of his friendship with George. When George offers Lennie a mouse as a way of making amends after their disagreement, Lennie senses that he has won the higher status in the argument and plays on it to good effect, ‘He sensed his advantage.’
Themes: Lennie & Friendship
Point: George provides Lennie with a reason why it would be unwise for him to travel alone and why he needs constant protection:
Evidence: Jesus Christ somebody’d shoot you for a coyote if you was by yourself. (P31/G)
Explanation: This quotation is ironic because George, left with no real alternative, kills Lennie at the end of the novel. It could be argued that the shooting is an act of love because George is left with a stark choice. Either he allows the men from the ranch to shoot Lennie or watch him languish in an extremely harsh prison environment where Lennie would stand no chance of survival.
Themes: George, Lennie & Friendship
Point: George describes the loneliness of migrant workers who were forced to move from job to job in order to earn a living.
Evidence: Guys like us who work on ranches are the loneliest guys on the earth. They got no family. They don’t belong no place.
Explanation: After the Wall Street Crash of 1929 there was a prolonged period of economic collapse resulting in mass unemployment. People were forced to move west to California to find jobs, which were often based on short-term contracts. George describes a predicament faced by many men who endured a harsh and lonely existence in their attempt to earn a living in order to survive.
Themes: George, Lennie, Loneliness, Historical Context.
Point: George describes the unique friendship he enjoys with Lennie and the dream they share of owning land, which sets them apart from other migrant workers:
Evidence: With us it ain’t like that. We got a future. We got somebody to talk to that gives a damn. (P32/G)
Explanation: Once again the reader sees that George is reliant on Lennie for his future wellbeing as much as Lennie is reliant on him. Ironically, the men at the ranch are suspicious of the friendship between George and Lennie because it is so unusual to see people travelling together during this period of American history. However George and Lennie do not sense the same level of loneliness as the other characters in the novel and their dreams makes their harsh life more tolerable.
Themes: George, Lennie, Friendship
Point: George describes the dream of owning a small plot of land with Lennie and being self-sufficient. He tells Lennie:
Evidence: We’re going to have a little house and a couple of acres an’ a cow and some pigs. (P32/G)
Explanation: This utopian dream of owning land reflects the American Dream where anything is possible with hard work and self-belief. However, this is little more than a fairy story and unlikely to come true, since the men are living hand to mouth with little extra money to save in order to make a down payment on the land. Lennie’s reaction to owning the land is extremely childlike and he constantly tells George that they are going to, ‘Live off the fatta the land.’
Themes: Dreams, George and Lennie
Point: Once again Lennie exemplifies a naïve enthusiasm with regard to the dream of owning land with George and asks him to:
Evidence: Tell about what we’re going to have in the garden and ‘bout the rabbits in the cages an’ about rain in winter ( P32/L)
Explanation: Living close to nature is seen as a utopian solution to Lennie and George’s problems and their inherent sense of isolation and social displacement. However, in reality, nature as described by Steinbeck, is just as difficult, cruel and predatory as the human environment in the bunkhouse.
In the full version of these revision notes, points made about character development, thematic content and historical context are colour-coded for ease of reference.