John Steinbeck's timeless novel, Of Mice and Men, is a piece of literature that many teens encounter in high school. It explores the story of two migrant workers during the Great Depression. What are the central themes of the novel?
Of Mice and Men is about deathShow moreShow less
Death is a key part of the story from the beginning of the book. Death and violence affects every character.
The theme of death follows Lennie throughout the novel and culminates in his death at the hands of his best friend, George. George calmly talks to Lennie about the farm that they will own in the future, distracting him from the angry mob closing in on them, and from the gun George holds in his hand. Lennie's last words are about how excited he is to tend the rabbits on his and George's future farm, but the audience already knows that this dream will never come to pass.
Lennie's death is heavily foreshadowed in previous parts of the novel. Slim, another character in the novel, suggests that some creatures are too weak to cope in this world. He asserts that drowning his dog's newborn puppies was a kindness because his dog was unable to feed them. Lennie is similarly innocent, vulnerable, and unable to cope with the world alone, and so the idea that killing him could be a kindness is planted in the reader's mind. This foreshadowing is amplified when Carlson kills Candy's old dog, and Candy tells George that he regrets not killing the dog himself. This is the biggest clue that George will be the one to kill Lennie.
Although George is technically Lennie's killer, he is also Lennie's saviour, because he protects his friend from a more horrific death. Lennie's death is a sure thing from the moment he accidentally kills Curley's wife, but George makes sure Lennie cannot be lynched by Curley and his mob of men. In this instance, George murdering Lennie is a kindness.
Lennie's death is symbolic of the death of the American dream. Neither Lennie nor George ever get to the farm they always talked about. The novel begins with dreams of wanting something more, but in the end, Lennie's dreams are killed along with him.
Lennie's death is not central to the plot as it takes place right at the end of the novel. Instead, the novel is much more focused on George - his actions, thoughts, and dreams. This is because George represents the American idealist, a man trying to make a better life for himself. George is the protagonist, while Lennie is his companion.