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Of Mice And Men Theme Essays

[i]My teacher gave me an essay question which is 'Explain an important theme in the text and how it was shown through characters.'

I have written an essay however I would like to get some feedback before I submit it as it may need some tweaking as English is not my best subject however I feel it is very important and therefore I need to try my best at it.

In John Steinbeck's novel "Of Mice and Men" an important theme is the impossibility of attaining the American dream. Many characters are caught up within this theme, this in the end is seen to be an illusion. For example George, Lennie and Candy all have the dream is to own their own piece of land to work and live independently on. This dream is destroyed by Lennie's death due to his ignorance and mental weakness, which he cannot control. Another example is Crooks who dreams for equality. He was promised equality within Lennie and George's dream, on the farm however racism and others attitudes towards him destroy his want for fulfilling this dream.

George and Lennie's dream was of their ideal life which was to live on a farm and to be their own bosses with no rules or restrictions unlike they have now working on ranches. However Lennie's dream also includes that of rabbits, "I remember about the rabbits, George",

 which he talks about constantly, "To hell with the rabbits. That's all you can ever remember is them rabbits." Steinbeck chose to show Lennie's desire for the rabbits as it strengthened the vision of the dream within ourselves, the readers, as it tugged on the childish part of ourselves. Reminding us of what it was like when we were young, ignorant and naïve. Although the two characters have contrasting personalities they share a common goal, to "live off the fatta the lan'", in many ways, Lennie completes George. They need each other in their lives not only to attain their dream but for company, "guy like us that live on ranches are the loneliest guys in the world...", as his despair at the end of the novel shows, George ultimately needs Lennie's innocence and child-like dreams just as much as Lennie depends on George's experience and protection. This dream is however only an illusion as it will never be able to be attained due to the harsh times that George and Lennie live in, this is during the Great Depression in the 1930's. The dream seems to be a sanctuary from cruel world they live in and both George and Lennie find sanctuary in it, this can be shown by how Steinbeck writes George telling Lennie the story of the dream before he goes to sleep, to give him peace of mind that tomorrow will be a better day, this is showing how much George cares for Lennie, although in the end he has to kill him. The killing can be seen as compassion due to the fact he is 'saving' Lennie from a painful death by the hands of Curley die to the fact Lennie accidentally killed his wife, however it is also seen as a reinforcement of the theme that the American Dream is an illusion as by his death Lennie is the closest to the dream as he is picturing it when he dies. As well as this George ends back where he started, no closer to the dream as he was in the beginning. Lennie was both an asset to George and he also held him back. By his death George could no longer attain the dream because he only had one source of income. However Lennie also held him back due to his mental weakness and him making them need to move due to things happening such as in Weed, George knew this by the line "If I was alone I could live so easily". This reinforces the fact that the dream with never be able to be attained as no matter what George does with Lennie he will not be able to reach the dream of owning his own land.

The dream that George and Lennie constantly talk about appeals to both Candy and Crooks who are restricted to working under the farm under the debilitating conditions of disability and racism. The two men want to join the dream desperately and Candy offers his life's savings, Crooks his free service, in order to be apart of the dream. However as soon as he offers his sharing of the dream, Crooks revokes it due to his realisation that he will never be able to reach the dream because of his race and others attitudes toward him and the dream. Crooks is shown as a bitter man however for a moment he allows himself to imagine the fantasy of tending a patch of garden on Lennie's farm one day. However the journey in Steinbeck writes George and Lennie taking, which in the end leaves Lennie dead tragically proves Crooks right; that a dream like theirs has no place in a world in which they live, one with hardship, poverty and injustice which reinforces Steinbeck's message of the impossibility of reaching the dream. This awakens George and Crooks to the impossibility of this dream. However Candy was the opposite of Crooks, he was positive the dream was going to happen, "I'd make a will an' leave my share to you guys in case I kick off, 'cause I ain't got no relatives or nothing..." and even told off the other ranch hands for not believing in it. In the end though when Lennie dies Candy will no longer offer his part in the dream because of the lack of Lennie's investment. This ends the dream for all of the men however it impacts Candy a lot due to his age and the fact that all his life he worked as a ranch hand and never really prospered. His regret for his life is shown in the quote "When they can me here I wisht somebody'd shoot me".

The dream was seen from the beginning to be destined to fail. This was seen by both Crooks and George who represent the reason part of us whereas Lennie and Candy's 'false hope' represent the more animalistic parts of us. George showed that he knew the dream was going to fail by the quote "I think I knowed from the very first. I think I knowed we'd never do her", however he still pursued the dream in the glimmer of hope for a better life, as did Crooks for a while. Steinbeck was trying to get across that no matter how hard you tried, just as Lennie and George did, the American Dream was simply just a dream. George and Lennie went in a complete circle and never achieved anything, shown by how Steinbeck paralleled the beginning and ending scenes. They both started out as having dreams they were hoping to achieve and by the end the dream was still as unattainable as at the beginning It did not matter how hard they worked, or how many other people were included in the dream, they were never going to be able to reach their goal of owning their own land and would just end up how they started.

Overall in John Steinbeck's novel "Of Mice and Men" an important theme is the unattainibility of the American dream. Within George and Lennie's dream of owning their own land other characters lie. For example Candy and Crooks who hope to make better lives for themselves and to relieve them of the things that are weighing them down such as race and disability. However in the end all of the characters ending up where they started, with a dream but being no closer towards it. Thus proving Steinbeck's purpose of showing the American Dream being and illusion.

Hi Hannah,

I just read your essay on regarding the fallibility of the American dream and I have a few points which I feel are important to mention. Firstly, one thing about the essay that stood out to me was your structuring of it, which I thought was very good. By this I mean, you were successful in being able to position specific points mentioned in the introduction within the main body paragraphs, which is generally something that most students fail to do as they tend to digress into meaningless jargon that does not relate to the title question. This was what I picked up on a general level and is not to say that there aren't points within the essay where you have gone off into unnecessary talk, because there are occasional glimpses. Furthermore, I think IF you do tend to digress from the subject matter momentarily, in the future, perhaps try to link the extra material in an insightful way to the actual title question as this could gain you extra AO3 marks which could ultimately take you up a grade.

I did pick up on a few spelling errors and mistake in punctuation and grammar which I think need tending to if you have an extra 5 minutes to read over it. RE-reading your essay will help you tremendously in the future just so you can be absolutely sure that there are no silly errors or potentially significant ones that might give the examiner the wrong idea.

Overall, I feel that this essay has the potential to be a VERY strong one ( B/A/perhaps A* ) if you are willing to correct some clear silly errors and take some time to build up reinforced contexual knowledge.

Thanks for the submission and keep striving for greatness!

All the best,


The following analytical paper topics are designed to test your understanding of this novel as a whole and to analyze important themes and literary devices. Following each question is a sample outline to help you get started.

  • Topic #1
    Loneliness is a dominant theme in Of Mice and Men. Most of the characters are lonely and searching for someone who can serve as a companion or just as an audience. Discuss the examples of character loneliness, the efforts of the characters in search of companionship, and their varying degrees of success.

    I. Thesis statement: In his novel Of Mice and Men, Steinbeck depicts the essential loneliness of California ranch life in the 1930s. He illustrates how people are driven to find companionship.

    II. Absence of character names
    A. The Boss
    B. Curley’s wife

    III. George and Lennie
    A. Consider each other family
    B. Lennie described as a kind of pet
    C. George’s philosophy about workers who travel alone
    D. The Godlike Slim as George’s audience

    IV. Candy
    A. Candy’s attachment to his dog
    B. The death of his dog
    C. His request to join George and Lennie
    D. His need to share his thoughts with Lennie

    V. Crooks
    A. Isolated by his skin color
    B. His eagerness for company
    C. His desire to share the dream of the farm

    VI. Curley’s wife
    A. Flirting with the workers
    B. Talking to Crooks, Candy, and Lennie in the barn
    C. Persuading Lennie to listen to her

    VII. The hope and power when people have companions
    A. George and Lennie
    B. Candy
    C. Crooks

    VIII. The misery of each when companionship is removed
    A. Crooks
    B. Candy
    C. George

  • Topic #2

    The novel Of Mice and Men is written using the same structure as a drama, and meets many of the criteria for a tragedy. Examine the novel as a play. What conventions of drama does it already have? Does it fit the definition of a tragedy?

    I. Thesis statement: Steinbeck designed his novel Of Mice and Men as a drama, more specifically, a tragedy.

    II. The novel can be divided into three acts of two chapters (scenes)
    A. First act introduces characters and background
    B. Second act develops conflicts
    C. Third act brings resolution

    III. Settings are simple for staging

    IV. Most of the novel can be transferred into either dialogue or stage directions
    A. Each chapter opens with extensive detail to setting
    B. Characters are described primarily in physical terms

    V. The novel fits the definition of tragedy
    A. The protagonist is an extraordinary person who meets with misery
    B. The story celebrates courage in the face of defeat
    C. The plot ends in an unhappy catastrophe that could not be avoided

  • Topic #3

    There are many realistic and naturalistic details in Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men.
    Discuss how Steinbeck is sympathetic and dispassionate about life through the presentation of realism and naturalism.

    I. Thesis Statement: Steinbeck displays a sympathetic and a dispassionate attitude toward man’s and nature’s condition through the use of realistic and naturalistic details.

    II. Realism—things as they are
    A. Setting of chapter one
    1. Water
    2. Animals
    3. Plants
    4. People
    B. Description of the bunk house
    C. Dialect and slang of the characters
    D. Dress and habits of the characters
    E. Death as a natural part of life

    III. Naturalism—fate at work
    A. Animal imagery to describe people
    1. Lennie
    2. Curley’s wife
    B. Lower class characters
    C. Place names
    1. Soledad
    2. Weed
    D. Foreshadowing
    1. Light and dark
    2. Dead mouse and pup
    3. Lennie’s desire to leave the ranch
    4. Candy’s crippled dog
    5. Solitaire card game
    E. Symbolism in the last chapter
    1. Heron and snake
    2. Gust of wind
    3. Slim’s comment

  • Topic #4

    The story of George and Lennie lends itself to issues found in the question: Am I my brother’s keeper? Does man have an obligation to take care of his fellow man, and what is the price that must be paid if the answer is “yes” or if the answer is “no”?

    I. Thesis Statement: Steinbeck shows that there is a great price to be paid for not being sensitive to the needs of others as well as for taking care of others.

    II. The vulnerable ones
    A. Lennie
    B. Candy
    C. Crooks

    III. The heartless ones
    A. The boss
    B. Curley
    C. Curley’s wife

    IV. The insensitive one—Carlson

    V. The sensitive ones
    A. Slim
    B. George

  • Topic #5

    The American Dream is for every man to have a place of his own, to work and earn a position of respect, to become whatever his will and determination and hard work can make him. In Of Mice and Men the land becomes a talisman, a hope of better things. Discuss the American Dream as presented in the novel.

    I. Thesis Statement: For the characters in this novel, the American Dream remains an unfulfilled dream.

    II. The dream
    A. Owning a home
    B. Enjoying freedom to choose
    1. Activities
    2. Companions
    C. Living off the fat of the land
    D. Not having to work so hard
    E. Having security in old age or sickness

    III. The dream’s unrealistic aspects
    A. Too good to be true
    B. A pipe dream for bindle stiffs
    C. Lack of money

    IV. George and Lennie’s attitude toward the dream
    A. Was a comfort in time of trouble
    B. Did not really believe in the dream

    V. Crooks’s attitude toward the dream
    A. His belief
    B. His disappointment

    VI. Candy’s attitude toward the dream
    A. His belief
    B. His money
    C. His disappointment at the end

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