Of Mice and Men: the Isolation of the Migrant Worker

In hopes of improving essay editing, an Of Mice and Men summary has been provided:

Published in 1937, John Steinbeck’s highly acclaimed novelette/play Of Mice and Men details the tragic and brutally naturalistic story of two migrant workers, George Milton and Lennie Small, as they find themselves caught up in the unforgiving and bitter wind of the Depression era. Inspired by his own days as a bindlestiff in the 20’s, Steinbeck sought to capture the hopelessness and the isolation that characterized such migrant workers of the time as they moved from one place to another, always hungry for more work and food.

The story begins with George chastising Lennie for causing the two of them trouble in Weed, California where Lennie, George’s simple-minded and mentally handicapped companion, had touched a woman’s blouse out of curiosity and had inadvertently made him and George the near-victims of a lynch mob. George, however, forgives Lennie and tells him about the farm they will one day share and George is overjoyed by the concept of tending the rabbits. Together, the two form a rare bond in a listless world – a theme rampant throughout the rest of the story. As George tells Lennie, “Guys like us, that work on ranches, are the loneliest guys in the world. They got no family. They don’t belong no place. . . . With us it ain’t like that. We got a future. We got somebody to talk to that gives a damn about us.”

When they arrive at their next ranch job, George and Lennie meet a handful of characters such as the wise Slim, the old and handicapped Candy, the racially divided and discriminated Crooks, the hot-headed son of the ranch owner Curley, and Curley’s promiscuous wife. George warns Lennie to behave despite his simple-mindedness or else he will not get to tend the rabbits. Together in the bunkhouse, the boys become weary of Candy’s ancient dog and, despite his reluctance, persuade him to allow the boys to put it out of its misery in exchange for one of Slim’s new pups (one of which is also given to Lennie). Candy then relents in misery, feeling that he should have been the one to do it. The conversation turns again to the farm and the dream suddenly becomes palpable when Candy offers to put in his part of the cost. Curley appears, furious over his wife’s debauchery, and takes it out on Lennie. After getting permission from George, Lennie crushes Curley’s hand with little effort. Later, while George and the boys go out on the town one night, Lennie meets Crooks, a negro man who suffers Lennie until he finds that, like himself, Lennie has been segregated against because of forces outside of his control.

After accidentally killing his pup, Lennie finds sympathy in Curley’s wife. In this moment of sympathy, the theme of loneliness and hopeless dreams pervades even her as she tells her own tragic story of her unwanted marriage and failure to become an actress. She does not sense danger in Lennie and in this tragic mistake allows him to satisfy his love of petting soft things by touching her hair. When his strength becomes too much, she tries to scream and, much like the mouse and the pup, he accidentally kills her and then runs from the ranch. A lynch mob is formed by Curley and the gang while George is forced to ponder a final solution for Lennie’s mistake.

The last chapter brings Lennie back to the safe haven George had told him to return to in case of any mishap. Stark imagery of a heron devouring an unsuspecting snake presents an ominous symbol for the fate of the troubled Lennie. Lennie fears he will no longer be able to tend to the rabbits and in his mental anguish is rebuked by hallucinations of his aunt and a large rabbit. When George finally appears, a scene very similar to the beginning is replayed: Lennie under the criticism of George, George forgiving him, and the retelling of the farm to satisfy Lennie’s fantasies. Only this time, George has Carlson’s gun pointed to the back of the head of the unknowing Lennie. George has come to the horrid realization that such an idea of owning a farm in the time he and Lennie are living is utterly hopeless and he knows that he and Lennie must part so that he will no longer find himself attached to such high aspirations. Reminiscent of Candy’s regret over not having put down his own dog, George knows that he must be the one to do it and not Curley. In the bitter end of the story, Slim is the only one to understand George’s pain; his feelings ultimately confuse the others, because in this tragic conclusion to Of Mice and Men, the idealization of friendship and hopes of bettering one’s lot in the time and life of the migrant worker is fruitless and unobtainable, and in the killing of Lennie, George removes himself from an elevated state to that of one like every other migrant worker, where no real bond exists and life is riddled with cheap thrills simply to get by day by day. To end this Of Mice and Men summary and to use an important quote so that it may aid in essay editing, it is crucial to recall Crooks earlier words to Lennie which thus burn bleakly and relentlessly at the end of the story: “Ever’body wants a little piece of lan’… Nobody never gets to heaven, and nobody gets no land.”

John Grant is a professional book reviewer for several websites and UK papers.