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Of Mice and Men

John Steinbeck

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Of Mice and Men | Discussion Questions 31 - 40


How is the theme of entrapment apparent in Chapter 6 in Of Mice and Men?

Steinbeck shows that George has limited options concerning how to deal with Lennie. The lynch mob is chasing Lennie, and if they catch him, George knows the mob will submit Lennie to horrible taunts and violence. George wants to spare Lennie this torture. He could attempt to convince the mob to arrest Lennie instead, but even if this approach works, Lennie would suffer another cruel situation in prison. The remaining option is for George to shoot Lennie as humanely as possible. Social conditions and the volatile dynamics at the ranch have placed George and Lennie in a trap, and George decides the kindest choice is to kill his friend. Slim understands at the end and tells George, "You hadda, George. I swear you hadda."

How does the theme of the dream develop in Of Mice and Men?

George and Lennie dream of buying a small farm, which would free them from the dictates of bosses and the uncertainties of life as migrant workers. In Chapter 1, George says, "When it rains in the winter, we'll just say the hell with goin' to work." At the beginning of the story, George knows that this goal is really a pipe dream. In Chapter 3, after Candy offers a partial payment on the farm, the narrator states, "This thing they had never really believed in was coming true." With Candy's offer, the dream changes to an achievable goal. George says that if he and Lennie work a month without spending anything they'd have 100 dollars. With Candy's contribution, the total would be 450 dollars. George says, "I bet we could swing her for that." Circumstances, though, lead to the destruction of this dream. In the final chapter George uses the dream as a vision of heaven. George tells Lennie, "Ain't gonna be no more trouble. Nobody gonna hurt nobody nor steal from 'em." George describes this dream to distract and enrapture Lennie as he shoots his friend.

How does Steinbeck use situational irony in Chapter 6 in Of Mice and Men?

Throughout the story, Steinbeck uses the pool as a symbol of a safe haven for George and Lennie, a place where they will be protected from troubles. George often reminds Lennie that if he gets in trouble he should hide near the pool. Lennie repeats these instructions to himself so he won't forget them. He knows that George and he might need a safe place. George tells Lennie, "if you jus' happen to get in trouble like you always done before." As feared, Lennie does get in trouble at the ranch and goes to the pool to hide. In this supposedly safe haven, George kills Lennie. The place of safety turns into a place of death. This twist is situationally ironic because something happens that is the opposite of what is expected.

In Chapter 6 in Of Mice and Men, how does Steinbeck reveal that Lennie knows he has done something wrong, even though Lennie did not mean to do it?

Steinbeck has Lennie imagine Aunt Clara and a huge bunny. Each of these specters scolds Lennie. Aunt Clara reminds Lennie that she often told him to obey George but that "you don't never take no care. You do bad things." Lennie knows that Aunt Clara's accusation is true and is mortified by guilt. The large bunny also accuses Lennie, saying, "You ain't fit to lick the boots of no rabbit." Lennie desperately tries to argue with the rabbit. The author uses the imaginings of Aunt Clara and the big rabbit because they are childlike. Aunt Clara scolds Lennie as if he were a boy. Lennie's cute bunnies turn into an angry, monster bunny, similar to how children can imagine a boogeyman coming to get them.

What is the effect of George's deliberate preparations before shooting Lennie in Chapter 6 in Of Mice and Men?

Steinbeck increases the suspense by describing each stage in George's preparation to shoot Lennie. George tells Lennie to remove his hat and to look across the river. Then George removes the gun, looks at the back of Lennie's head, and raises the gun. After this, George describes his and Lennie's dream farm. All of these elements build on one another, increasing the suspense. Also, Steinbeck intersperses descriptions of the approaching lynch mob: "There were crashing footsteps in the brush now." The reader knows that George has less and less time to kill Lennie, which also increases the suspense. The suspense builds until it reaches an apex with George shooting Lennie.

In Of Mice and Men, what is the answer to the last question of the novel: "Now what the hell ya suppose is eatin' them two guys?"

George and Slim both know that George's killing of Lennie was the most humane way to deal with a tragic situation. However, George was Lennie's close friend, and killing him was probably the worst thing George has ever had to do. Slim realizes this as well and tells George that he had to shoot Lennie. Both men know that social conditions gave George no other humane option. In Chapter 5, Slim says that arresting Lennie would "put him in a cage. That ain't no good." George agrees with this. George and Slim also know that Lennie had no malicious motives—Slim has said, "He ain't mean." So George and Slim both know George has killed someone who was innocent by any reasonable and fair assessment and did not deserve to be executed. Yet all of these elements are psychologically destroying, or "eatin' them two guys."

How is the novel Of Mice and Men similar to a stage play?

Like a stage play, the novel Of Mice and Men has a limited number of locations. These include the pool, the bunkhouse, the barn, and Crooks's room, which is attached to the barn. Also like a stage play, long scenes take place at each location, during which many characters enter and exit. For example, in Chapter 2 the supporting characters of Candy, the boss, Curley, Curley's wife, and Slim all at various times enter and exit. Each of these characters is introduced and developed during the scene. In many novels, the author uses a large number of locations and characters are introduced in different locations. For example, in Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath, locations change as the Joad family travels to California. Along the way, many characters are introduced. Also like a stage play, the scenes in Of Mice and Men are dominated by dialogue, which is used to develop characters and advance the plot. The words of the narrator are like stage directions that explain what is happening outside the scene (offstage), establish the setting, and describe what characters may be doing, such as gesturing, smiling, or picking up a gun.

In Of Mice and Men, how and why does Steinbeck use a circular structure?

The novel opens by the pool and ends in the same location, representing a circular structure. The author uses this device to enhance the feeling of inevitability in the story. Because of various circumstances George and Lennie are headed down a fateful path toward a tragic outcome. The author's use of foreshadowing further develops this inevitability. Readers have the sense that the story has come full circle, ending at a place when it is expected to end. George often reminds Lennie to hide by the pool if he gets in trouble. The reader, therefore, expects that trouble will happen and George and Lennie will end up back at the pool. When this happens, the author conveys a sense of inevitability. The story ends where it is predetermined to end.

In Chapter 6 in Of Mice and Men, how does Steinbeck create pathos or pity and sadness during the description of Lennie's death?

Steinbeck creates pathos when George describes the dream farm to Lennie while preparing to shoot him. Lennie is completely unaware of George's intent; he thinks that George is describing a real place where they will go and be happy. The reader, of course, realizes that George is describing the dream farm to calm Lennie and to make his final moments as pleasant and peaceful as possible. In reality, the dream of the farm is broken, and George knows it and the reader knows it. This situation creates a strong sense of sadness and sympathy for both George and Lennie as they suffer a tragic end.

In Of Mice and Men, how is Steinbeck's depiction of migrant workers similar to and different from his depiction of these workers in The Grapes of Wrath?

In both Of Mice and Men and The Grapes of Wrath, Steinbeck paints a sympathetic portrait of migrant workers. In Of Mice and Men, the author shows migrant workers as lonely people who face constant hardships. Crooks laments in Chapter 4, "A guy needs somebody—to be near him." In The Grapes of Wrath,migrant workers suffer because they have been torn away from their homes and deal with abusive bosses. The migrants in both Of Mice and Men and The Grapes of Wrath are also searching for a home. For Lennie and George, the home is their dream farm, with "a vegetable patch and a rabbit hutch." For the Joad family, home is a place in California, where a person can "reach out anywhere and pick an orange." Both of these dreams are unfulfilled. Steinbeck focuses tightly on Lennie and George in Of Mice and Men and their experiences on a ranch. However, in The Grapes of Wrath, Steinbeck has a broader focus. He delves into the reasons why migrants are dealt with so harshly, which includes exposing how large landowners and banks exploit migrants.

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