Of Mice & Men


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Of Mice & Men by Mind Map: Of Mice & Men

1. Characterization

1.1. Lennie--introduced in a series of animal references, not displayed as particularly intelligent, "cloudy eyes", easily frightened despite initially domineering demeanor

1.1.1. Lennie's naivety can also be interpreted as innocence--similar to how Scout was the protagonist of TKAM, this shows us the core of humans which Steinbeck prepares to unravel

1.1.2. juxtaposition of inward/outward appearance--emphasizes the unexpected aspects of human nature?

1.1.3. How does fear play into this idea of Lennie representing the core of humanity? Can Lennie really fit into this idea if he's unable to do much else other than kill? How much does it matter that Lennie's acts of destruction are always intentional? Is Lennie good or bad? Or is he just a radical example of Steinbeck's ideals? One half of a whole? Can Lennie be "good/bad" if Steinbeck's point was to write a book centered around morally grey characters? I don't think so. Steinbeck didn't want us to turn the issue into a distinctly divided, neatly labelled one. It's meant to be messy and hard to define.

1.2. George--described as small, sharp, almost painfully aware of his surroundings, control freak

1.2.1. Need to be in control but is unable to pull off his lofty goals. A clear connection to the title of the book and highlights a theme of needing to go with the current. Is this why George doesn't drink from the river? Because he's unable to relinquish control? Lennie is too trusting and George too wary--two sides of a coin? How does the seemingly stagnant water of the river fit into this? Shows that even when nothing seems to be happening, we have to trust the current?

2. Hand Motif

2.1. Hands=building=man-made=plans

2.2. Lennie's hands close around the dress, around Curley's wife because he's scared. He tries to keep himself grounded, maybe? An overcompensation for loss of control or merely a need for comfort?

2.3. Lennie wants to pet the mouse and the puppy, nothing more. He wants to offer them...comfort? Or does he want to receive comfort? Or is this his way of connecting with reality?

2.3.1. He loves the animals but he kills them?? Just as he kills Curley's wife. This may show the lack of difference between mice and men but what is Steinbeck's message?? Is this just meant to show us that even the most simplistic plans can go awry? To emphasize the need for an adaptability that Lennie isn't able to grasp?

2.4. Death of mice = death of puppy = death of Curley's wife = death of Lennie = spiritual death of George as he realizes his plan-based life has gone awry?

3. Cycles

3.1. cycle of life, of history

3.1.1. like in Ceremony, or the Awakening

3.1.2. Emphasized by the deaths of animals, Curley's wife, Lennie--more specifically, Steinbeck seems to like to focus on the inevitability of cycles

3.1.3. Works with the idea of Steinbeck trying to highlight the core human trait of destruction (predatory tendencies?), showing how, despite all the planning we may try to do, it's impossible to "advance" from our intrinsic nature How does this work with the American Dream, then? Is the Dream just our attempts to fool ourselves, a fruitless grasp at what we perceive to be sophistication, evolution? If so, then is Steinbeck suggesting that it's not plausible for humanity to evolve morally? Or is he trying to show us the flaws in the way we try to handle the inevitable? Can we adapt, in Steinbeck's eyes? In this seemingly hopeless book that showcases the failure of trying to control the uncontrollable, is there an underlying promotion to find a different way rather than just giving up?

4. Salinas River

4.1. When they encounter it, there's a green algae on top. Is this good or bad? Seemingly stagnant, but how does this work?

4.2. George doesn't want to drink it because it's stagnant water--interesting how this works; he doesn't want to stop moving until he reaches his idyllic destination (the ranch) but when he does reach it and stop moving, tragedy ensues.

4.2.1. Foreshadowing? Was George aware that something would probably happen when they reached the ranch? Was he prepared to stop running, had he had enough after their first escape?

4.3. Lennie submerges himself, drinking too much too fast. Disregarding comfort in his excitement. What does this say about his character?

4.3.1. What about when Lennie crossed the river to retrieve the dead mouse? Is this like when Gatsby stood in the water, reaching out to Daisy? Is Lennie not truly submerged, then? Is he actually choosing to ignore the current to hold onto the past, before the pursuit of the American Dream corrupted society? Is this the moment when we're supposed to realize Lennie's naivety is really just him unable/unwilling to adapt to a twisted lifestyle crafted by selfish ideals? Is his inability to adapt a good or bad thing in this case?

4.3.2. If water is time/reality, and Lennie is submerged, does that work when Lennie is unable to adapt, to survive amidst the corruption found in modern people?

5. Perception of Strength

5.1. Lennie is described as strong, so strong that he can kill almost any living creature with ease. But we see him as mentally weak? What does this say about strength?

5.1.1. Could Lennie be both physically and mentally strong? He is scared and destructive, yes, but he isn't corrupt. He is one character who hasn't let society twist him into something new. Strength in vulnerability--could this mean that Steinbeck is saying there's a strength in lack of adaptability, depending on what one is trying to adapt to? Then again, we can't ignore the fact that Lennie is in fact dead. Things didn't turn out well for him--but maybe this was just another example of Lennie's strength? He was scared but he didn't change? The problem with this is the suggestion that Lennie consciously refused to stray from his morals. We're led to believe that he wasn't "bright" enough to realize the supposed tragedy of his actions, so how do we then propose that he is the epitome of strength? Is it possible that Steinbeck is trying to suggest that a certain level of blindness is necessary? To maintain innocence, anyways. But is innocence considered strength, then? I'm inclined to say no. Back to the similarity to TKAM, did Lennie grow up like Scout or Jem? History repeated itself, he accidentally killed and ruined his dreams--it doesn't seem like he grew.

5.1.2. Literal Strength vs Metaphysical