Themes in of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
There are many themes in Of mice and men by John Steinbeck. There is the theme of brotherhood and friendship. Lennie and George against all odds are close friends, brothers in a way. They take care of each other in different ways. George takes care of Lennie and tries to keep him out of trouble which is a very difficult task but one which he takes on nonetheless. Without him Lennie has noone and probably wouldn’t last long, even if he went and lived in a cave. And George does get something from Lennie – he gets companionship their friendship is what sets them apart from the other guys that works on ranches. An’ why? Because… because I got you to look after me, and you got me to look after you, and that’s why”. Without their friendship there would be no book. You get to read a lot about how George and Lennie interact with each other. Segregation is also in the book. There is the obvious one: Crooks the negro stable buck is set apart from the others because he is black, he isn’t even allowed to sleep in the same bunkhouse as the other ranch workers. But others in the story are set apart from the group as a whole. Curley’s wife is ignored by everyone, the only woman on the ranch and she has noone to talk to.
There is a lot of prejudice towards the two aforementioned characters. Other characters whom people feel prejudice against are Lennie, for his disability and Candy, who like his dog is getting old and will soon have outlived his usefulness. Another theme present is the one of innocence. Lennie has the mind of a small child, he is very innocent and naive. He doesn’t realise what he’s doing most of the time. How can he be guilty of a crime when he hasn’t done anything harmful on purpose? He doesn’t know his own strength. He doesn’t know much at all. One thing he does know is that George looks out for him and he is very loyal towards him.
In the outsider’s chapter he gets very agitated when Crooks implies that something might have happened to George in town. It’s interesting that he is so loyal to George but that he can’t remember his Aunt Clara, someone actually related to him by blood and that took care of him for some time. There is a fair amount of violence in the book. Some of it is intentional, Curley trying to pick a fight with Lennie, the ranch hands going after Lennie at the end of the novel all intent on causing pain and/or killing him. The one who causes the most pain and most death though is Lennie but he barely realises it.
He shatters Curley’s hand, kills all the animals he acquires and also Curley’s wife. However loneliness is definitely the biggest theme in the book because everyone in the story suffers from it. The farm hands going from ranch to ranch by themselves George talks about their loneliness already in the first chapter, Curley’s wife trapped on a ranch with a bunch of men who won’t talk to her because they risk getting into trouble with Curley, Crooks who is cast out by everyone, Candy is alone after they shoot his dog who was the only constant companion in his life. All these characters admit that they are lonely.
The only people that aren’t alone are George and Lennie so it is quite sad that he has to shoot Lennie, which might be the best for Lennie at the time but from then on George joins the ranks of lonely ranch hands travelling on their own. Except he has known companionship so he will always know what he’s missing; the other guys have never had anyone they were that close to so they don’t understand his pain after he shots Lennie. This is obvious in the last sentence uttered by Carlson watching George and Slim walk away together. “Now what the hell ya suppose is eatin’ them two guys? ”