Of Mice and Men - Essay Questions
- Besides being a place to live, how does the little piece of land that George and Lennie want to own represent freedom to them? Even though they have the freedom to work where they choose, do you think that they are really free? Explain.
- How does Steinbeck construct loneliness in the story? Despite living in close proximity, all of the characters seem to be lonely. Do you think that loneliness is caused by socially imposed barriers, personal choice, or both? Explain.
- Why did Crooks say that he did not want to join Candy, George, and Lennie after all? What is Steinbeck saying about the constraints of race during the time period of the story?
- Considering the fate of Crooks, Candy, Lennie, and Curley's wife, what statement do you think the novel makes about those who are considered outcasts by society?
- Had the unfortunate murder of Curley's wife's not occurred, do you think it would be possible for George and Lennie to attain their goals? What does the killing of Lennie and Curley's wife ultimately imply about the American Dream in the novel?
- Though Curley's wife's death was purely accidental, can it be considered a mercy killing, like George's killing of Lennie, or Carlson's killing of Candy's dog? What might Curley's wife's life have been like had she lived?
1. George and Lennie are obviously committed to each other, yet they often criticize each other or threaten to leave. Examine the negative aspects of this relationship, and then consider why they stay together in spite of all of this. Contrast the language of each, their threats and complaints, with what they really feel. What is it that so strongly binds these two together?
2. Write a character profile of Lennie and George. In addition to describing their physical characteristics, focus on their personalities, their hopes, and their dreams. How is each character different, and how do they complement each other?
1. It seems very unusual for two people in this work, which presents the reader a real slice of life, to have established companions. Consider the pairs presented in this chapter: George and Lennie, Curley and his wife, Candy and his dog. Discuss the relationships involved in the various pairings. What is the basis for each relationship? What are the positive and negative aspects of each?
2. Steinbeck paints a picture of life on the ranch through his characterization, giving the reader important information about them. Compile a list of characters presented by Steinbeck in this chapter and describe the qualities of each. What do the details tell you about each of them? What, in your opinion, does each character represent and why?
1. Trace the parallels that are developed between Candy and his dog and George and his companion. Consider the amount of time they have spent together, the way they view the limitations of their companions, the way they defend their companions, and any other points of similarity you see.
2. George and Lennie’s plan to buy a ranch in the first chapter is nothing more than an unattainable dream. How does it become a more concrete plan in the second chapter, and what is the role that Candy plays in taking this dream closer to reality?
1. Several characters have suggested a need to have a companion or just a person who will listen. What evidence is given here that this is a strong desire of many of the characters? Consider, too, the effect that having a companion gives to Candy and Crooks as they confront Curley’s wife.
2. Crooks, Lennie, Candy, and Curley’s wife are lonely people with specific needs. Compare the four characters and discuss what they need and want to end their respective feelings of loneliness.
1. After Candy has brought George to the barn to show him Curley’s wife, George leaves and Candy cries. What is the true source of Candy’s sadness and why? Compare the killing of Curley’s wife to the night Candy’s old dog was shot and killed by Carlson.
2. Death is the beginning and the culminating event in the chapter, but the killing of Curley’s wife is regarded with a lack of emotion by the characters, even less than the killing of the puppy or the shooting of Candy’s dog earlier in the book. Why do you think this is so? Why is the moral issue of her murder, the question of right and wrong, never really an issue when Curley’s wife’s body is discovered by the men?
1. When George shoots Lennie, is this a sign of the strength of his love or the weakness of his love for Lennie? Has he finally followed through on the threat to abandon Lennie? Why does he shoot Lennie in the middle of their imagining the farm one last time?
2. Murder is a crime, in some states punishable by death. By all definitions, George plans and carries out the murder of his best friend. But there seems to be no concern for taking a human life. Why do you think this is so? When, if anytime, do you think it would be justified?