Of Mice and Men

John Steinbeck

Get the eBook on Amazon to study offline.

Buy on Amazon Study Guide
Cite This Study Guide

How to Cite This Study Guide

quotation mark graphic


Course Hero. "Of Mice and Men Study Guide." Course Hero. 10 Aug. 2016. Web. 27 Sep. 2023. <https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Of-Mice-and-Men/>.

In text

(Course Hero)



Course Hero. (2016, August 10). Of Mice and Men Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved September 27, 2023, from https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Of-Mice-and-Men/

In text

(Course Hero, 2016)



Course Hero. "Of Mice and Men Study Guide." August 10, 2016. Accessed September 27, 2023. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Of-Mice-and-Men/.


Course Hero, "Of Mice and Men Study Guide," August 10, 2016, accessed September 27, 2023, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Of-Mice-and-Men/.


Learn about symbols in John Steinbeck's novel Of Mice and Men with Course Hero's video study guide.

Of Mice and Men | Symbols


The Pool

Situated in a tranquil area of the Salinas River, the pool represents a safe haven for George and Lennie. In Chapter 1, they camp at the pool. George tells Lennie to come there if he gets in trouble. He tells Lennie, "I want you to come right here an' hide in the brush." For George and Lennie, the pool is a place that they hope will protect them from the troubles of reality. The pool, however, ends up being the place where Lennie is killed by his close friend. Even so, the pool does provide a peaceful atmosphere for Lennie when he is killed, and compared to the cruel alternative awaiting him at the hands of a lynch mob, Lennie does find some sort of peace. George's instructions to Lennie to use the pool as a hideaway if needed foreshadow the trouble that will happen later in the novel.

Vulnerable Soft Animals

Steinbeck uses vulnerable soft animals, including mice, rabbits, and puppies, to illustrate the dramatic irony (where the audience is aware of something that the character is not) that loving, gentle Lennie is capable of brute force even while remaining oblivious to the fact that he is causing harm. Lennie is a person who does not know his own strength. When he accidentally kills a puppy in Chapter 5, Lennie is truly surprised and upset. He says to the dead puppy, "You ain't so little as mice. I didn't bounce you hard." For Lennie, there is a fine line between affection and death. He could be gently playing with an animal one moment and inadvertently kill it the next. Additionally, Steinbeck uses the killing of these animals by Lennie to foreshadow the death of Curley's wife later in that same chapter.

Death of Candy's Dog

Steinbeck uses the death of Candy's dog in Chapter 3 to foreshadow and symbolically represent Lennie's death. Candy's dog has been a faithful companion for Candy for many years. So, too, has Lennie been a companion for George. Candy's dog is an innocent creature that does not intend harm but nonetheless disrupts life at the ranch. The same is true for Lennie. Candy's dog is killed, supposedly for the animal's own benefit. Carlson states that the dog has "got no teeth. ... He's all stiff with rheumatism." Similarly, George kills Lennie for Lennie's benefit. If Lennie were to be caught by the lynch mob, then Curley would probably taunt and torture Lennie before killing him. Because of this, Slim says to George, "You hadda, George. I swear you hadda."

The death of the dog also symbolizes the fate of all the wandering bindlestiffs—most immediately, Candy. They all fill a useful purpose in the life of the ranch, until they get old or are injured and can no longer work. They may not be shot like Candy's dog, but they are discarded and put on "the county" to survive the best they can.

Cite This Study Guide

information icon Have study documents to share about Of Mice and Men? Upload them to earn free Course Hero access!