Essays on East of Eden
Essays on The Pearl

Critical evaluation

The main theme of ‘Of Mice and Men’ by John Steinbeck is fate . The techniques he uses such as the title , repetition , echoes and symbolism are very successful in putting across his very pessimistic views on this theme .

The two main characters , George and Lennie , share a dream . George dreams of a piece of land of his own . Independence . A couple of acres , a cow and some pigs . Lennie dreams of tending rabbits . With the title ‘Of Mice and Men’ , Steinbeck is telling you that this dream whilst on the verge of realization , will be destroyed by fate .

It relates to Robert Burns’ poem ‘To a Mouse’ . Burns and Steinbeck share the same pessimistic views on fate . In ‘To a Mouse’ Burns shows that he believes that just as your dreams are about to come true , ‘The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men ,’ fate will always strike , ‘ gang aft agley ‘. The last two lines ,’ An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain , for promis’d joy! ‘, show that Burns believes that you’re worse off after your dreams have been crushed than you were before

In the story , almost anyone could be the mouse although the most obvious is George .

I think this is a very well chosen title for this short story as if you know the poem you know more or less what is going to happen .

Steinbeck’s technique of repetition is effective in that it builds up to the climax of the tragedy . The mouse Lennie had was dead . He had killed it unintentionally when petting it . This situation is repeated further on in the story when Lennie is given a pup by Slim . Lennie had been playing with it and had hit the puppy for biting him . You know that an incident like this is going to be the downfall of George and Lennie .

The episode in Weed also hints on future tragedy . Lennie sees a girl wearing a beautiful red dress and , child-like as he is , he wants to touch it . He grabs the dress and the girl lets out a loud scream . He panics and all he can think of to do is hold on .He holds on until George arrives on the scene just in time and hits him on the head with a gatepost .

The introduction of Curley’s wife adds another piece to the puzzle . Her description when she was standing at the doorway with her ‘rouged lips’ , ‘ hair hung in little rolled clusters’ and ‘cotton house clusters’ shows that she will be the one who destroys George and Lennie’s dream . This technique is simple but very effective .

George had told Candy of his dream and Candy wanted in on it . Candy had the money to purchase the land required from compensation received after his arm had been cut off by machinery . This moved them to the verge of achieving their dream .

In my view the most successful technique in illustrating John Steinbeck’s view of fate is the symbolism in the last chapter . ‘A watersnake glided smoothly up the pool , twisting its periscope head from side to side , and it swam the length of the pool and came to the legs of a motionless heron that stood in the shallows . A silent head and beak lanced down and plucked it out by the head , and the beak swallowed the little snake while its tail waved frantically ‘. The heron , motionless and waiting , represents fate while the watersnake , helpless and unaware , is its victim .

Steinbeck’s view on fate is illustrated again by the word choice . Words like lanced , plucked and waiting suggest that Steinbeck believes that fate striking is almost medical ; sure and precise .

The watersnake could represent almost anyone in the novel although it is most likely that it represents George . The heron represents fate , but also Lennie as he was the one who was always going to destroy George’s dream .

In conclusion I consider the main theme to be fate . I consider the symbolism of the watersnake and the heron to be the most successful technique in putting across Steinbeck’s pessimistic views on the subject .