University of California
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
The theme in John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men is portrayed throughout imagery and symbolism towards the beginning and end of the book. The following theme can be roughly translated through the organization of the textual events, the imagery projected throughout the beginning and end of the main plot; and how the two contrast. The theme demonstrated in the beginning of the novel is represented by a peaceful and coexistent environment, where imagery that is presented seems to flow very smoothly. Throughout the book the tone changes from tranquil to tense and creates a very dark and malevolent feel at the end of the novel. What once was a peaceful river bank with stunning animals and plants has now been transformed into a realistic feeding ground. The theme, in a blunt statement, is that something so innocent is able to be converted into a darker setting and overall feel very quickly.
This theme can be shown through imagery in a very clear manner. A quote from the first excerpt of the text is “On the sand banks the rabbits sat quietly as little, sculptured stones.” This quote is a good representation of how the rabbits are in an undisturbed environment. A quote that strongly contrasts the previous quote stated is “A silent head and the beak lanced down and plucked it out by the head, and the beak swallowed the little snake while its tale waved frantically.” this statement represents how the imagery went from an undisturbed and gentle feeling to a jagged and violent vibe.
The second excerpt from the novel Of Mice and Men maintains a strong melancholy feel. This feeling is translated in the beginning of the story you get a very welcoming feel, as if you were in a serene haven. The animals are out and about, feeding and prancing, giving this sanctuary a very safe feel. When the descriptive section ends and Lenny walks through the river and into the so called haven, the animals run away, and the sun seems to get darker. This is very symbolic because Lenny always seems to have a violent vibe radiating from him at all times. This was the first time Lenny and George entered the sanctuary but the second time they had, the setting had seemed to change. The animals had become less domestic like and had shifted into more wild and natural personalities.
The organization of the text also plays a very big part in the symbolism seen in the novel Of Mice and Men. The evident way that Steinbeck had intended to present was a condescending and foreshadowing effect, along with a bit of irony. The foreshadowing comes to play in the very beginning of the book when Lenny walks to the serene river bank and everything scurries for cover. Lenny presents this foreshadowing effect onto himself. He projects a kid like vibe therefore creating an innocent personality by fault. Towards the start of the novel he is completely unaware of what effect he has on the people around him and his surroundings; but when the book comes to a close it is clear that he is more aware of his mistakes. Still searching for acceptance and refuge in George for the mistake he had made, he seeks shelter in the sanctuary he had once associated safety with. This is where the biggest situational irony occurs. George, having followed Lenny, comes back to the river bank as well to end his life instead of plan out the rest of it like before. This is an example of how the beginning and end of the book clash in tone, mood, and theme as well.
Having stated the reasons for the beginning and end of this novel to have very different themes it is clear that the reasoning for this was purposeful. John Steinbeck uses many different themes to express his views on friendship and loyalty. It is very evident that a personal experience with his own life may have influenced his writing of this novel.