Of Mice and Men
A trip about the desperate longing of men for some kind of home - roots they can believe in, land they can care for - and the painful search for self.
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Of Mice and Men
Did you know that you can define any word in the novel or the accompanying questions? Simply select the word and choose the "Define" feature. Is there a word on this page that you need to define?
Soledad is a small agricultural city in the Salinas Valley in California. Steinbeck grew up in this area and set many of his famous novels there. Steinbeck chose the city of Soledad as the setting for Of Mice and Men because "soledad" is Spanish for solitude, which is a major theme in the novel. (This annotation contains an image)
Based on this interaction, it seems that
John Steinbeck was a major American author and Nobel Prize winner. He based Of Mice and Men on his own experiences working as a laborer in California in the 1920s. Of Mice and Men is ranked #6 on the American Library Association's list of most often banned books because it includes racist language. (This annotation contains an image)
What does George instruct Lennie to do when they get to the ranch?
George and Lennie make their living as traveling ranch hands during the Great Depression. It is hard work with very little pay and no stability. (This annotation contains an image)
The title Of Mice and Men came from the 1785 poem "To a Mouse" by Robert Burns containing the lines "The best laid schemes of mice and men/ Often go awry." The novel is full of animal imagery. Watch the video below to learn more about imagery and look for examples of animal imagery as you read the novel. (This annotation contains a video)
What do you think is at the heart of Lennie's fixation with petting soft things? Do you see this as a harmless fixation or something that could get him into trouble?
Friendship is one of the main themes of the novel. George often rails against Lennie like this, although he has taken on the role of Lenny's protector. George knows that Lennie isn't capable of taking care of himself and he feels great responsibility for Lennie. As you will discover, most of the other characters think that this is strange. (This annotation contains an image)
What is the narration of this novel?
A bindle is a sack tied to the end of a stick that was used to carry possessions while traveling. People like George and Lennie who carried around bindles while moving from one place to another for work were called bindlestiffs, tramps, or hobos. (This annotation contains an image)
George's and Lenny's new accommodations could best be described as
The racist language in the novel reflects how people working on a ranch would have talked in the 1930s, and has been the subject of much controversy surrounding this book. As you will discover, Crooks, the crippled black stablehand, is an educated and misunderstood character. Steinbeck shows the reader how racism has effected Crooks and led to his isolation.
The new boss doesn't believe that George could have pure intentions in his relationship with Lennie, so George makes up that Lennie is his cousin. How does this interaction speak to the novel's themes of friendship and solitude?
Candy's old dog is symbolic of what happens to a man once he is no longer useful in this society. Watch the video below to watch more about symbolism. (This annotation contains a video)
Which of the following best describes Curley's tone towards Lennie?
"Got the eye" is a way of saying that she flirts with other men.
What is Lennie's attitude towards Curley?
Here is this scene in one of the movie versions of the novel. Watch the short clip and answer the question on the following page. (This annotation contains a video)
After watching the video of the scene that you have just read, do you have a different view of the characters or setting? Is there anything in the movie scene that you would change to more closely reflect the book?
Steinbeck is foreshadowing that something bad will happen with Lennie's fear of the new ranch and his desire to get out of there. Watch the video below to learn more about foreshadowing. (This annotation contains a video)
Steinbeck uses third person narration in this novel, but he never goes inside the minds of any of the characters. Instead, his descriptions of the characters show us what kind of person they are. The reader now knows that Slim is good because Steinbeck said his voice "was very gentle."
What does Lenny want George to ask Carlson for?
Horseshoes and cards were predominantly the ways that the men entertained them selves on the ranch. On weekends they would go into town to drink or visit a brothel.
Why does Slim think that George and Lennie traveling together is odd?
This conversation goes along with the theme of loneliness in the novel. George fears that without Lennie, he would become hardened like the other ranch hands.
What happened in Weed? Do you think Lennie is to blame for his actions?
Lennie has the mind of a child, but he also has more strength than he knows how to control. While Lennie means well, this has already proven to be a dangerous combination.
Why does Carlson want to kill Candy's dog?
As mentioned earlier, Candy's dog is a symbol for what happens to people in this society when they are no longer useful. Although Candy is obviously heartbroken, he doesn't protest much, and this is because Candy, being old and having only one hand, he is worried that he will soon have the same fate as his dog. (This annotation contains an image)
Even though the narrator doesn't tell the reader that Candy is feeling _____________ right now, the reader knows from clues in Candy's body language.
Curley's wife is a major source of conflict in the novel. Watch the video below to learn more about conflict in literature. (This annotation contains a video)
Even though the reader has never seen Curley and his wife together, Steinbeck gives us a good idea about what their relationship is like. How would you best describe their marriage? Cite examples from the text.
Despite Lennie's strength and imposing stature, he is afraid of conflict and violence.
Lennie always asks George to describe the farm they will own to him and it sounds like ___________.
All of a sudden, it looks like their dream might actually come true!
What is Lennie's reaction to Curley picking a fight with him?
Here is this scene acted out for the 1939 version of the film. Watch the video below and answer the question on the following page. (This annotation contains a video)
After watching scenes from both the 1992 (earlier in the text) and 1939 movie versions of the novel, which version do you relate to more and why?
Crooks the stablehand lives all alone because he is the only black worker on the ranch. He isn't allowed to socialize with the other men in the bunkhouse. The isolation and the prejudicial treatment he's received over the years have made him bitter.
"You're crazy as a wedge" is an example of
"Took a powder" was a slang way of saying to leave town suddenly.
Which of the novel's themes does the highlighted paragraph touch upon?
Although Crooks wants to act like he's put out, he's secretly thrilled to have the company. His life is so solitary that having two visitors is a special treat for him.
Which of the following best describes Curley's wife's tone here?
You might have noticed by now that Steinbeck has not given Curley's wife a name. While there has been a large amount of debate over why, the answer is still unknown. Some people believe that the omission was rooted in sexism, although there is no other evidence of this, and Steinbeck has written strong females in many of his other novels. The most likely explanation is that is how she would have been referred to on the ranch. Also since they have only been married for two weeks, the ranch hands might not know her name.
Curley's wife threatens to have Crooks lynched. How does Crooks react? How does this interaction make you feel?
After the incident with Curley's wife, Crooks has been reminded of his place on the ranch and tells Candy he would't want to come work for them. Really, Crooks longs for a chance like that, but he has been so beaten down by racism and loneliness that he won't allow himself to get his hopes up about a better life.
How did the puppy die?
Like the male characters-- including Crooks, whom she would rather not have anything in common with-- Curley's wife feels the isolation on the ranch.
What is notable in this conversation between Lennie and Curley's wife?
Lennie, in a state of panic, accidentally kills Curley's wife. The incident is similar to what occurred in Weed, when his fear caused him to grip the girl's dress tighter. However, this time he was stroking her hair, so his grip was on her head and neck.
"Then gradually time awakened again and moved sluggishly on" is an example of
With Lennie gone, George can no longer hold onto his dream, even though it is still within his reach.
What do you think will happen to Lennie now?
Steinbeck paints a pleasant scene to contrast starkly with what will soon occur at the same location. This lovely pond scene will soon be marred with violence, much in the same way that Lennie only wants to be peaceful, yet violence and death seem to find him with his combination of innocence and physical strength. (This annotation contains an image)
What is happening in this scene?
Steinbeck keeps interrupting George and Lennie's dialog with shouts of the search party as they get closer, which builds tension and suspense in the story.
What do you think is going through George's mind right now? Cite evidence from the text.
George killed Lennie to save him from a an even worse fate. Of all the men, Slim is the only one who understands this.