Of Mice and Men

John Steinbeck

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Of Mice and Men | Discussion Questions 11 - 20

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In Chapter 2 in Of Mice and Men, what symbols does Steinbeck further develop, and how does he develop them?

Steinbeck further develops the symbol of the pool as a safe haven for George and Lennie. In Chapter 1, George tells Lennie to hide near the pool if he gets in trouble. After Curley gets annoyed at Lennie in Chapter 2, George warns his friend about Curley. George then reminds Lennie, "You remember where we slep' last night? Down by the river?" Lennie says that he remembers: "I go there an' hide in the brush." As the likelihood that problems will develop increases, the importance of the pool as a place of safety also increases. In addition, Steinbeck expands the symbol of vulnerable soft animals to include puppies. When Slim says that his dog had puppies, Lennie becomes excited. George knows that Lennie would like a puppy and agrees to ask Slim to give one to his friend. However, like the mice, the puppies are animals that Lennie could accidentally harm.

In Of Mice and Men, how are the characters of Curley and Slim similar and different?

Both Curley and Slim have a lot of influence at the ranch. For Curley, this influence comes from being the boss's son. In contrast, Slim has earned his influence by being a highly skilled jerkline skinner: "His authority was so great that his word was taken on any subject." Curley is of small stature and, partly in consequence, is very insecure; he uses his proficiency at boxing to prove how manly he is. In contrast, Slim is very confident and does not feel the need to prove how strong or brave he is. In fact, Slim's confidence allows him to be understanding and compassionate toward others. Because of this understanding, George readily tells Slim about Lennie's problems at his previous job. Curley shows no compassion for the problems of others. In the novel's last chapter, Slim understands why George shot Lennie and is compassionate toward him. Slim consoles George by saying, "Never you mind. ... A guy got to sometimes."

In Chapter 3 in Of Mice and Men, how does Steinbeck show that George values friendship?

George can be cold and hard toward those around him, but he is a man who needs friends and is disarmed by someone who behaves in a sincerely friendly manner. For example, Slim's friendly and kind attitude induces George to readily talk to him about how he and Lennie got together and even to confess to Slim how Lennie got into trouble at the ranch near Weed. In that same conversation, George tells how he once told Lennie to jump in a river and how Lennie did and just about drowned. Instead of being angry, Lennie thanked him for saving his life. George was won over by that friendly gratitude and never teased Lennie again. From then on he appreciated the value of Lennie's friendship. George knows that living alone and friendless can have a negative affect on migrant workers. George says, "That ain't no good. ... After a long time they get mean."

How does the scene involving Candy's dog in Chapter 3 in Of Mice and Men parallel what George must do to Lennie at the end of the book?

The fate of Candy's dog parallels in many ways the role and fate of Lennie. Candy's dog doesn't mean to disrupt ranch life; it causes problems by just being what it is—old and stinky. Similarly, Lennie does not mean to cause problems but does so by just being who he is. Candy's dog provides friendship for Candy, similar to Lennie's friendship with George. However, friendship is not valued at the ranch. As a result, Carlson is allowed to shoot Candy's dog in what is seen as an act of mercy. In the same way, George's shooting of Lennie is seen as a mercy killing. Thus, when Carlson kills Candy's dog, Steinbeck is symbolically foreshadowing Lennie's death.

What is both unusual and dramatically ironic about George's choice to stay at the ranch after Lennie crushes Curley's hand in Chapter 3 in Of Mice and Men?

George and Lennie normally move on once Lennie does something that can get the two men into trouble. It's unusual for the protective and cautious George to stay in what is obviously a dangerous situation. Curley is the boss's son and a mean-spirited man who will surely seek revenge. The irony of George's choice is that it's a choice for freedom, as what he hopes to do is to finally save the money needed to settle down in a place of their own. At the same time, it's a choice leading to entrapment. The two men cannot break free of the system, and by seeking freedom, they lose it forever.

Why does Steinbeck use suspended action in the killing of the dog in Chapter 3 in Of Mice and Men?

Steinbeck's use of suspended action in the killing of Candy's dog creates an atmosphere of tension that remains throughout the book. After Carlson takes the dog out of the bunkhouse to shoot it, Candy, George, Slim, and other workers wait in silence for a long time until a shot is heard. This silence is broken up by dialogue, such as Slim telling Candy that he can have a pup and Whit offering to play euchre with George. After each piece of dialogue, Steinbeck states, "The silence fell on the room again." By breaking up the silence, the author prolongs the waiting and builds the suspense. At one point, Whit even says, "What the hell's takin' him so long?" By establishing such thick tension at this point in the book, Steinbeck can more easily create a feeling of dread and regret in readers as the characters become more fully revealed.

What do the two flashbacks in Chapters 3 and 4 in Of Mice and Men help readers understand about the characters of George, Lennie, and Crooks, respectively?

Steinbeck uses a flashback in Chapter 3 when George talks about how he and Lennie became friends. By relating this information, the characters of George and Lennie are significantly filled out. The reader learns that Lennie was taken care of by his Aunt Clara until she died and finds out that George is not a relative of Lennie. Instead, George is a friend who comes to deeply value his relationship with Lennie. Through the flashback, the bond between George and Lennie is more fully understood. Steinbeck also uses flashback in Chapter 4 with the African American Crooks. This character has a talk with Lennie, during which Crooks says, "White kids come to play at our place ... sometimes I went to play with them." As a result, Crooks grew up thinking that he was the social equal of white people, a misconception that Crooks learned about as an adult. This flashback provides insight into the cause of Crooks's bitterness and anger.

In Chapter 3 in Of Mice and Men, what is revealed about Curley's attitude and the reasons for it, and how does his attitude get him into trouble?

Curley has a cocky attitude toward the workers and often picks fights with bigger men. Candy seems to resent this, saying that Curley can't lose with these fights. If Curley wins people congratulate him for fighting a big man. If he loses people criticize the big man for picking on a smaller man. Also Candy eagerly tells the gossip about Curley keeping a glove on his left hand filled with Vaseline to keep his hand soft for his wife. Candy's dislike of Curley's attitude seems to be shared by other men. Later Whit sarcastically says that Curley spends half of his time looking for his wife and "the rest of the time she's lookin' for him." In Chapter 3 when Slim makes Curley look foolish, the workers' bad feelings toward Curley erupts. Carlson accuses Curley of being a coward, and Candy mocks him for keeping a "glove fulla vaseline." In desperation Curley looks for a scapegoat and picks on Lennie, a bad decision that results in him getting his hand crushed. In all respects Curley's cocky attitude gets him into trouble rather than proves him in any way superior.

In Of Mice and Men, why did Steinbeck not give Curley's wife a name?

By not giving Curley's wife a name Steinbeck stresses how she is viewed as an outsider or a nonperson at the ranch. She does not fit in with life at the ranch. She wants affection and because her husband isn't providing it, she flirts with the men in an attempt to get it. This approach causes problems with the men and, in a way, makes it more difficult for her to get the attention she craves. She comments that men are friendly to her one on one, but "just let two of the guys get together an' you won't talk." Also throughout her life Curley's wife has been praised in the male-dominated society for her attractiveness. By not giving her a name the author suggests that Curley's wife is just a sex object. Indeed Curley's wife has come to believe that her appearance is her main attribute. She talks about how she almost got work as an actress in theater and movies.

In Of Mice and Men, how are Crooks and Candy similar as outsiders yet different because of the reasons they don't fit in?

Crooks and Candy both work steadily at the ranch yet do not fit into the regular dynamics among the workers. As an African American, Crooks endures racial discrimination at the ranch. He is not allowed to socialize with the white workers except for an occasional game of horseshoes. This rejection has made Crooks angry and bitter, and as a result he isolates himself from white people. If whites don't want anything to do with him as a person, then he doesn't want to have anything to do with them. Crooks does not allow people in his room except for Slim and the boss. When Lennie wants to come into his room, Crooks says, "I ain't wanted in the bunk house, and you ain't wanted in my room." Candy is an outsider because he is old and partly disabled. Because of this he is seen as being useless at the ranch, except for keeping up the bunkhouse. Candy says, "As soon as I can't swamp out no bunk houses they'll put me on the county."

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