• Of Mice and Men

John Steinbeck

  • Literature Notes
  • Of Mice and Men at a Glance
  • Book Summary
  • About Of Mice and Men
  • Character List
  • Summary and Analysis
  • Character Analysis
  • George Milton
  • Lennie Small
  • Curley's Wife
  • Character Map
  • John Steinbeck Biography
  • Critical Essays
  • Major Themes
  • Major Symbols
  • Structure of the Novel
  • Full Glossary
  • Essay Questions
  • Practice Projects
  • Cite this Literature Note

John Steinbeck 's Of Mice and Men is a parable about what it means to be human. Steinbeck's story of George and Lennie 's ambition of owning their own ranch, and the obstacles that stand in the way of that ambition, reveal the nature of dreams, dignity, loneliness, and sacrifice. Ultimately, Lennie, the mentally handicapped giant who makes George's dream of owning his own ranch worthwhile, ironically becomes the greatest obstacle to achieving that dream.

Written by: John Steinbeck

Type of Work: novel

Genres: parable; Great Depression

First Published: 1937

Setting: a ranch

Main Characters : George Milton ; Lennie Small ; Candy ; Curley ; Curley's wife ; Slim ; Crooks

Major Thematic Topics : nature of dreams; barriers; powerlessness; fate; Christian influences; classical influences; natural influences; loss of paradise; my brother's keeper; ephemeral nature of life

Motifs: nature; loneliness; animalism versus humanity

Major Symbols : characters; locations; animal imagery; George's card game; hands

The three most important aspects of Of Mice and Men :

  • Of Mice and Men takes place during America's Great Depression , which lasted from the Stock Market Crash of October 1929 until 12 years later when World War II began. One result of the Depression was a lack of steady jobs, which resulted in an increase in the number of itinerant workers. For the most part, these itinerant workers were men who traveled from town to town seeking short-term employment.
  • Of Mice and Men is one of the only published novels written from an obscure point of view called the objective third-person. In contrast to the omniscient third-person perspective, from which the author, and thus the reader, can read the minds of all the characters, the objective point of view doesn't allow readers direct access to any of the characters' thoughts and feelings. We can deduce those thoughts and feelings only by means of what the characters do and say. Though unusual for a novel, this approach is typical of plays and film, which helps explain why Of Mice and Men was easily adapted for the Broadway stage and as a Hollywood movie.
  • The novel 's title comes from a poem by the Scottish poet Robert Burns called "To a Mouse." Originally written in a Scottish dialect, the poem contains lines that translates as "The best-laid schemes Of Mice and Men often go awry." This is appropriate, in that Of Mice and Men contains Lenny and George's scheme that goes tragically awry — that is, off track.

Next Book Summary

Themes and Analysis

Of mice and men, by john steinbeck.

‘Of Mice and Men’ by John Steinbeck is an illustrious tale tied around the ordeals of the working class. The book brings to life themes that become even more vivid and powerful as the story progresses.

About the Book

Victor Onuorah

Article written by Victor Onuorah

Degree in Journalism from University of Nigeria, Nsukka.

‘ Of Mice and Men ’ is one book that parades characters who represent the most vulnerable group in society. The extractable themes in the book are the results of the harshness of life these characters live while they struggle to survive. Some of the most eye-catching themes found in the book include those around chattered dreams, fear and loneliness, Fugitive, friendship, and brotherhood.

The story ‘Of Mice and Men ’ opens with its two principal characters, George and Lennie , moving desperately away from Weed to as far as the Soledad area. Weed is the place they used to work but had to leave to save their lives after Lennie stirred up trouble for an apparent sexual assault on a woman.

Although John Steinbeck makes it immediately clear to readers that their migration is spurred by the job offer they received at a ranch in Soledad, there’s no doubt, however, that the main reason they’re leaving is to avoid being caught by an unknown lynch party hot on their trail.

Fear and Loneliness

With the exception of the boss who owns the ranch, it’s hard to find one more character throughout the book who isn’t consumed by fear or gets sunk in by the feeling of loneliness, or both.

Lennie is a perfect exemplification of both, and this reality becomes very hard for readers to accept, given his size and the excelling expectations one would place on him at first sight. Of the many instances leading to the two friends losing their jobs, Lennie’s fears and inability to curb his strength contributed greatly to the outcome.

Even though Lennie has a companion in George, he’s easily singled out as one of the loneliest characters in the book, and his fondness for stroking soft animals and things gives more credence to the fact.

Shattered Dreams

John Steinbeck’s characters have dreams, each on their own, but none ever get to live them out. The high point of a dream brutally shattered in ‘ Of Mice and Men ’ comes to climax at the scene where old Candy is standing over the lifeless body of Curley’s wife, saying;

You God damn tramp… You done it, di’nt you? I s’pose you’re glad. Ever’body knowed you’d mess things up…

Here, one notices old Candy rendering expletives on Curley’s wife, who is lying on the barn floor, partly covered by hay, dead. He blames her for being killed by Lennie, the result of which destroys his dream of someday washing dishes and hoeing the garden on George’s dream farm, which will never materialize again because she’s dead.

While alive, Curley’s wife also dreamed of becoming a movie star and once admitted that her marriage to Curley shattered that dream.

Friendship and Brotherhood

It’s safe to say that George’s friendship with Lennie goes well beyond just being friends to as far as brothers. Their close bond is considered weird and unusual by the men at the ranch, but the reader easily understands this when George tells Slim he and Lennie have been so from childhood.

Also, the men at the ranch share a sort of bond comparable to a brotherly connection, and we see them from time to time protecting each other’s interests and rallying around support for the team.

Key Moments in Of Mice and Men

  • George and Lennie hurry through the brush near the river called Salinas after alighting a bus untimely.
  • George aims to chide Lennie for hiding a dead mouse in his pocket and makes him throw it away.
  • Lennie threatens to leave George and go live in a cave alone, but George begs and talks him out of it by retelling him their shared dream of owning a ranch.
  • George and Lennie get to the ranch and are received by Candy, who tells them the boss is angry they’re a day late.
  • They meet the boss, who interviews them and assigns them to Slim.
  • They meet the other look laborers, including the boss’s son Curley, his wife, Slim, Carlson, Crooks, and Whit.
  • Carlson takes permission and shoots Candy’s dog after they all agree that killing it would be a kinder, more honorable way to put the old, smelly dog out of misery.
  • Candy declares interest in George and Lennie’s dream of owning a farm and pledges financial support to the cause.
  • A fight sets in at the bunkhouse, and Lennie crushes Curley’s hand after the latter attacks him for smiling at jokes about him.
  • Lennie and Candy visit Crook’s in his room and have conversations while the other men are out to a nearby brothel.
  • Crooks is told about George’s dream farm, and he declares his interest.
  • Curley’s wife interrupts the men but is snubbed by them, and she threatens to have Crooks lynched. She leaves the room angrily afterward when George and the other men who went out start to trickle in.
  • George is angry that Lennie told Crooks about their plan, but Crooks immediately says he’s no longer interested in a plan so dumb and unrealistic.
  • Lennie is alone in the barn mourning over his dead puppy, which he mistakenly struggled with hard strokes. Curley’s wife enters, finds out, and tries to console him.
  • Lennie mistakenly kills Curley’s wife by breaking her neck after she offers him her hair to stroke because Lennie admitted to liking the texture of soft things.
  • Lennie runs away and hides in the brush where he and George agreed to meet if things go awful.
  • Candy finds Curley’s wife’s body partly covered by hay and tells the others. Curley, angry and enraged, gather a lynch party and goes out to look for Lennie.
  • Lennie daydreams and sees aunt Clara standing before him with a giant rabbit.
  • George disappears from the lynch party and goes straight to meet Lennie at their rendezvous.
  • George kills Lennie with Carlson’s gun, putting a bullet in the back of his head at point-blank.

Style and Tone

The style of John Steinbeck’s book ‘ Of Mice and Men ’ is both descriptive and commentatory, with Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie ‘s ‘Half of a Yellow Sun ‘ the only close comparison on these fronts. Steinbeck instilled a dialogue-type conversation throughout the book because his real intention goes beyond the book just serving as a mere novella as he also intended for it to be actable on stage.

The tone is literal, straightforward, and somewhat arcane, which makes it a perfect reflection of the characters whose lives have heavily been disrupted by the Greatest Depression.

Figurative Languages

John Steinbeck’s ‘ Of Mice and Men ’ is flooded with figurative language, and this doesn’t come unexpectedly to the readers, given that it’s part of the characteristics of descriptive writing. Some of the most prevalent figurative languages employed are highlighted.

He was … the prince of the ranch.

In the above ‘ Of Mice and Men ‘ Quote , Steinbeck deploys this metaphorical expression as part of an attempt to offer a neat description of Slim and the degree of his relevance among all the other men on the ranch. Slim is very clearly the complete package; strong, a leader, empathetic, and the best at his job. Others revere him and take his words as law.

…she’s a rat trap if I ever seen one.

Most of the men consider Curley’s wife a threat to their job, possibly even their lives, and often times they avoid her, with George even dishing out a strict warning to Lennie to stay off of her.


The shades climbed up the hills towards the top.

This excerpt is taken from the third paragraph of chapter one. Steinbeck does everything he could- including using that figure of speech – to set the introductory mood of the book before ushering in his characters.

On the sand banks the rabbits sat as quietly as little gray, sculptured stones.

Steinbeck describes a momentary peace and tranquillity of life for plants and animals in the brush, but this is short-lived as George and Lennie soon knock about this axis, causing an offset to their being. Other figurative languages therein the book includes – idioms, epigram, and onomatopoeia, among others.

Analysis of Symbols

The dream farm.

George and Lennie talk about the dream farm for the most part of the book starting from chapter one. The two friends have this dream of co-owning a small farm where George grows vegetation and Lennie resigns to the pleasure of rearing rabbits.

The dream is found to be contagious and wanted by the men at the ranch, with Crooks and Candy particularly showing interest because it offers them the chance to become free, independent, and self-sufficient.

The dream is representative of the elusive American dream, and just like how the American dream doesn’t get to be attained by everyone, the dream about the farm eluded all of them.

Candy’s Old Dog

In the book, Candy’s dog is killed for being weak, old, and smelly. This goes to represent the repercussion of being weak in the times in which ‘Of Mice and Men’ was written .

The Dead Mouse

In ‘ Of Mice and Men ’ George discovers that Lennie is hiding a dead mouse in his pocket and throws it away to the other side of the swamp. Before that happens, we see Lennie’s reluctance to give away the dead animal which he had mistakenly killed by severe stroking.

With the dead mouse, there is a symbolism of false hope, and Lennie is too focused on clinging to it. However, George throwing it away marks the end of all hope for their goal, just like when he kills Lennie at the end with a gunshot to the head.

What is the major theme of Steinbeck’s ‘Of Mice and Men’ ?

Although having only a few pages, the book explores several important themes – with the most frontal being themes of friends and loneliness, and those contrasting between dreams and realities.

Why is Steinbeck fascinated with Salinas Valley?

Steinbeck was not only born in Salinas Valley in California , but he also spent his childhood there. This explains why he often used the place as the primary setting for several of his books.

Where was John Steinbeck born?

John Steinbeck was born in Salinas, California on February 27, 1902.

How well-off was Steinbeck’s family?

Steinbeck’s family was not that rich. His father did all kinds of low-paying jobs – including owning a grain store and working for a county treasury.

Did Steinbeck have a happy childhood?

Although Steinbeck himself agreed it was tough growing up and not having several of his childhood needs to be met, overall, the writer attested to the fact that he had a happy and worthwhile childhood and this is mostly because he grew up in the midst of three lovely sisters.

Victor Onuorah

About Victor Onuorah

Victor is as much a prolific writer as he is an avid reader. With a degree in Journalism, he goes around scouring literary storehouses and archives; picking up, dusting the dirt off, and leaving clean even the most crooked pieces of literature all with the skill of analysis.

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Of Mice and Men

By john steinbeck, of mice and men essay questions.

How does the setting of Of Mice and Men influence the book's thematic development? In answering, consider the connection between the novel's setting and the characters' vocations. Also, how does Steinbeck signal the importance of setting in his choice of place names?

Though the novel is more famous for its characters than its setting, Of Mice and Men could not have been set elsewhere than in the rural Salinas valley of California. The problems of the novel are intimately tied to the rhythms and frustrations of the itinerant worker's life. Shifting from ranch to ranch, from one menial job to another, the Californian itinerant worker risked a life of meaningless labor - of pure, cynical sustenance. George and Lennie, with their dream of acquiring a farm, represent an attempt to stand against such perpetual loneliness. Even the name of the city near which the novel is set - Soledad, which is Spanish for "solitude" - resonates with this theme of loneliness.

The title, Of Mice and Men , is an allusion to a Robert Burns poem. How is this allusion meaningful in the novel? Consider some similarities and differences between Burns and Steinbeck's works.

Robert Burns' poem, "To a Mouse," is the source of the famous quotation: "The best laid schemes o' Mice an' Men / Gang aft agley" ("often go awry"). And, indeed, Of Mice and Men features two men with a scheme - to escape their lives of menial, temporary employment - that goes awry. Beyond this simple plot similarity, the two works both consider the relationship between the human and animal worlds. Burns poem, in which a field worker offers philosophical reflections after upsetting a mouse's nest, mirrors Steinbeck's work, in which Lennie unintentionally destroys the lives of small, furry animals (including, at the novel's opening, a mouse, which is a clear wink at the Burns poem).

Of Mice and Men is highly "dramatic" - that is, similar to a drama or play - in its structure and action. Describe the ways in which the novel is like a play. Why did Steinbeck choose to put his work together in this way?

Each chapter of the novel takes place in a single location, aside from a short walk at the beginning of Chapter One. Thus the novel is structured, much like a play, into "scenes." The locations of these scenes are treated much like the space of a stage - characters enter and exit frequently, give speeches and move the plot forward. The narrator, meanwhile, is minimally intrusive. This "dramatic" form of writing allows the novel to progress rapidly and portentously, building symbolic density and narrative tension without becoming too heavy-handed. It also, by the way, allowed Of Mice and Men to be adapted for the stage almost immediately after its publication.

Of Mice and Men is often studied as an example of "foreshadowing" in literature. How does Steinbeck foreshadow the pivotal events of the book? What does this effect do for the tone of the book?

Nearly every word and image in the novel is carefully chosen to guide the reader to the accidental killing of Curley's wife and the mercy killing of Lennie. The gun used to shoot Candy's decrepit dog is later used by George to shoot Lennie; the many small animals that Lennie crushes out of love foreshadow his panicked killings of his puppy and, moments later, Curley's wife; and the event that drove George and Lennie out of Weed (Lennie's false accusation of rape) parallels the scene in the barn between him and Curley's wife. This dense layering of related plot elements gives the plot an element of inevitability - as though fate has preordained the tragic events of the book.

Several of the characters in Of Mice and Men display physical and mental impairments. Identify and describe these characters. How do these impairments influence or reflect these characters' roles in the novel?

Of Mice and Men is a novel about impairments, both literal and symbolic. Most of the men in the novel are impaired in some fundamental way, most often in terms of their loneliness and isolation. In the case of several characters, this symbolic impairment becomes expressed literally through their damaged bodies. Crooks and Candy are hunch-backed and lame; Curley's hand is crushed (an injury which reflects on his damaged masculinity in general). The most conspicuously impaired person in the novel, Lennie, is impaired in an altogether different way. Bodily, he is the most able man in the novel, but mentally, he is incompatible with social life. Thus the different nature of his disability reflects and emphasizes his inability to survive in the lonely, desolate environment of the itinerant worker.

Consider Curley's wife. Is she a sympathetic or an unsympathetic character? Would you characterize Steinbeck's portrayal of her as fair, or do you detect misogyny in his depiction?

Curley's wife, the only major character who is not given an individual name, is indeed an enigma. In the first chapters of the book, she is simply awful - a flirtatious, provocative "tramp," to use Candy's word for her. However, in the later part of the book we do get a glimpse at a richer inner-life as she speaks about her loneliness, her regrets, and her unhappy marriage. On the whole, however, Steinbeck's depiction of Curley's wife is quite disturbing from the perspective of a modern reader.

Discuss "the rabbits," the dream of a farm that George and Lennie share and repeat aloud. How does this story of "how things will be" function in the novel? What does it reveal about George, Lennie, and their relationship?

The story of "how things will be" comes off much like a bedtime story - an oft-repeated tale (which Lennie even has memorized, much like a child memorizes his favorite stories) that has a soothing, dream-like effect on both teller and listener. The parental nature of George and Lennie's relationship is quite clear in these passages, as George (the parent) uses the story to soothe and encourage Lennie (the child). This ritualistic recitation provides their work with meaning and purpose; by the end of the novel, though, as the tragic current of the book proves irresistible, the story takes on a poignant quality.

Of Mice and Men opens and closes in a natural setting. The chapters in between take place in various man-made settings - the bunk house, the barn, Crooks' room. Why does Steinbeck organize the novel in this way? In general, what does he propose about the relationship between man and nature?

In opening and closing his novel in nature, Steinbeck is able to connect and compare the actions of his characters with the natural world. The nature scenes comment on the events in question - George and Lennie disrupt a peaceful scene in the opening; the killing of a snake by a heron prefigures the tragedy in the final chapter. Not only does this way of structuring the novel give it a feeling of wholeness, it also reinforces Steinbeck's central point about Lennie's incompatibility with the social world. He doesn't fit in the shared spaces - the bunk house, etc. - while, in contrast, he romanticizes the natural world, repeatedly promising to live "like a bear" in a cave. Of course, Lennie is not a bear, however similar he may be to one. He can't life with men, and he can't live without them; therefore, in the end, he can't live at all.

Consider the scene in Crooks' room. How does Steinbeck characterize Crooks and the others, and how does the conversation in the chapter play out in the context of the novel as a whole?

Crooks is a proud, embittered man - a victim of racism. The scene that takes place in his room illustrates several tendencies in the novel. For one thing, Lennie is able to win Crooks over despite (or, actually, by virtue of) his opacity; this allows the reader to see Lennie's appeal as a nonjudgmental, faithful companion. Also, when Crooks rouses Lennie's anger, we see more evidence of the dangerous rage that lurks beneath Lennie's placid exterior. Finally, the appearance of Candy allows Steinbeck to stage a sort of socialist fantasy, in which the downtrodden, disabled members of the farm contemplate a mild "uprising" of sorts. The appearance of Curley's wife, though, returns these men to the direness of their social situation. Thus the chapter functions almost as a microcosm for the novel as a whole, as we move from hope to hopelessness, with Curley's wife as a catalyst for trouble.

Of Mice and Men has a controversial history. It has been repeatedly banned by school boards. Why might this book have been banned? Is such an action justified?

There are several reasons for the novel's controversial reputation. Most obviously, the novel features frank discussion of sexual matters - rape, prostitution, promiscuity - that has been targeted as possibly inappropriate for a young audience. Also, the novel ends in a morally ambiguous killing - similar to euthanasia - which has roused the ire of several anti-euthanasia advocacy groups. Though it is well-established as required reading in thousands of high school districts throughout the world, the book continues to attract controversy. The question of whether or not the book is offensive is of course a matter of personal morals; however, Steinbeck's treatment of such sensitive material has been generally celebrated for its tastefulness and honesty.

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Of Mice and Men Questions and Answers

The Question and Answer section for Of Mice and Men is a great resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.

How do the impairments the some of the characters have influence or reflect their roles in the novel?

I think many of the characters in this novella have impairments to reflect their humanity. Lennie is mentally challenged, Candy feels old and useless, Curley's wife is merely a possession and Crooks has a physical impairment as well as his...

What deal does Candy make with George?

Candy offers to use his savings to help pay for the farm, as long as he can join George and Lennie.

would a shark eat barley and why ?

Is this from Of Mice and Men?

Study Guide for Of Mice and Men

Of Mice and Men study guide contains a biography of John Steinbeck, literature essays, quiz questions, major themes, characters, and a full summary and analysis.

  • About Of Mice and Men
  • Of Mice and Men Summary
  • Of Mice and Men Video
  • Character List

Essays for Of Mice and Men

Of Mice and Men essays are academic essays for citation. These papers were written primarily by students and provide critical analysis of Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck.

  • Violence and Sadism in John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men
  • Camaraderie: Deciding an Individual's Fate
  • The Lost American Dream
  • The Missing Hand: Disconnection in Of Mice and Men
  • Themes and Style of the Writings of John Steinbeck

Lesson Plan for Of Mice and Men

  • About the Author
  • Study Objectives
  • Introduction to Of Mice and Men
  • Relationship to Other Books
  • Notes to the Teacher

Wikipedia Entries for Of Mice and Men

  • Introduction
  • Development

of mice and men setting essay

Steinbeck in the Schools Home

Short Writing Prompts

  • Students will have ongoing practice writing short papers (150-200 words, in different styles) on a variety of Of Mice and Men topics.
  • Students will learn to share their writing with others.
  • Students will gain a deeper understanding of each section of Of Mice and Men .

Even though the Of Mice and Men unit may culminate with a major scholarly paper, short writing prompts (150-200 words) should be given throughout the unit. The prompts can be both broad and specific. Students should be made to feel comfortable with these prompts, even though (time permitting) some will read them out loud. The student audience will be encouraged to respond and take notes.

NOTE TO TEACHERS: Any of the writing topics in this section can be expanded into full-length essays (word length and completion time at the discretion of teachers). These short writing prompts can also be used as discussion topics , journal entries, or as advance organizers .

Types of essays can include:

  • Scholarly. (See Critical Analysis Essay )
  • Compare/Contrast. (For example, students can compare/contrast the relationship between Lennie and George. Are they similar to brothers, parent/child, best friends, and so on?)
  • Descriptive. Students can emulate/evaluate Steinbeck’s descriptive writing. (See Sentence Fluency )
  • Narrative. Under “Procedures,” see the topics in Ongoing (before or during the reading of the novel ).
  • Argumentative. (For example, what is “mercy killing”?  Ask students to defend or condemn the practice, and argue reasons for their opinions.)
  • Evaluation. (For example, if Of Mice and Men took place today, not during the 1930s, how would life for Lennie have been different?)

Materials Needed/Preparation

  • Copies of Of Mice and Men .
  • Teachers should emphasize that each short prompt should be concise and contain specific examples from the novel.
  • Arrange time in the computer lab (if available), so students can start their assignments and teachers can assist students.
  • For unfinished assignments, students may email themselves the document or place it on a USB flash drive.

Estimated Time

Each short writing prompt can be assigned and completed in one or two homework assignments.

Provide some ideas and ask students to write about some (as much as can be covered during the unit) of these topics:

Ongoing (before or during the reading of the novel):

  • What does friendship mean to you?
  • How important is it to have a place where you belong, where there are people who know you and love you?
  • What dreams do you have? How can these dreams fail? How can they succeed?
  • Who is your favorite character in this book so far? Give your reasons for choosing him or her.
  • Why does Steinbeck tend to start each new section with narrative description?
  • Define “responsibility.” Give some examples when you have been responsible and when you have not.
  • Write journal entries from the point of view of one of the characters in the novel.
  • Which characters can you identify with or with whom you can empathize/sympathize?
  • Do you know anyone who is mentally-challenged or otherwise disabled? If so, describe your relationship with that person.
  • Is violence ever justified?
  • Are you concerned about what others think of you?
  • Write about a major conflict (during any stage of the novel).
  • In which time period does the novel take place? How can you tell? Use specific examples. Consider:  vocabulary, scenery, attitudes.

Section 1 (pp.1-16):

  • Contrast/compare the relationship between Lennie and George. Are they similar to brothers, parent/child, best friends, and so on?
  • What does the mouse in the first section tell you about Lennie? Think about why Lennie insists on carrying it around with him.
  • Examine Lennie’s use of language and thinking. At what level is he functioning?
  • What figurative language does Steinbeck use in this section and why? See Literary Terms .
  • Why is setting important to Steinbeck? Consider why he usually starts each section of the novel with a description of the setting.
  • What are the motifs already established in Section 1?
  • Discuss, and provide examples of, the literary devices Steinbeck has introduced.

Section 2 (pp. 17-37):

  • How does George try to prevent Lennie from getting into trouble?
  • Why is Curley so mean to Lennie and George upon first meeting them? What does he have against them?
  • Describe Curley’s personality. Why do you think he acts the way he does?
  • Why does George tell Lennie to remain silent when they first meet the ranch boss?
  • Why is the ranch boss so suspicious of George and Lennie?
  • Why do Curley and Curley’s wife pose a threat to George and Lennie? Why is George especially worried?

Section 3 (pp.38-65):

  • Why did Steinbeck include the scene about the killing of Candy’s dog?
  • Why does Lennie refuse to fight back when Curley attacks him?
  • Why does Curley agree to what Slim told him about how to explain his crushed hand?
  • How does Slim get George to honestly talk about his relationship with Lennie and what happened in Weed?
  • Describe Slim’s personality. Why is he so highly regarded?
  • What is Candy’s role in this section? Why is it so important that he is included?
  • What is the importance of Carlson in this section?
  • Why is Curley so quick to attack Lennie?

Section 4 (pp. 66-83):

  • On page 70, Crooks says to Lennie “‘I ain’t no southern negro…I was born right here in California.’” What does he mean by this? How was life different for African Americans in the south compared to those out west in California?
  • Possible follow-up: Do you think there is any difference today?
  • On page 70, recall the scene in Crooks’s quarters once Curley’s wife arrives (pages 76-83), focusing on what happens after the passage quoted above. What is Curley’s wife threatening to do to Crooks? How did Crooks react? Why did he react this way? What do you think about his reaction? Should he have reacted differently?
  • How did Candy react? What do you think about his reaction? Should he have reacted differently?
  • How would you have reacted if you were Crooks? If you were Candy?
  • When Lennie visits Crooks, why is Crooks so mean to Lennie? Think about why he told Lennie that George would leave him.
  • Explain what Crooks and Curley’s wife might have in common.
  • Explain why Crooks finally allowed Lennie into his segregated living quarters. Think about the role each play in the novel.

Section 5 (pp. 84-98):

  • Lennie’s puppy died. Have you ever had a pet that has died? Describe your emotional reaction.
  • Why is the death of Lennie’s puppy not described in “real time: (that is, it is described after the fact)?
  • Why does Lennie kill Curley’s wife? Do you consider this murder? Why or why not?
  • Explain what Lennie and Curley’s wife may have in common as they converse in the barn. Why would those two even talk to each other?
  • Is Curley’s wife partially responsible for her own death? Provide specific examples.

Section 6 (pp. 99-107):

  • Why does Steinbeck include the fantasy scenes of Aunt Clara and the giant rabbit at the end of the novel?
  • The novel ends where it begins. Why do you think Steinbeck did this? Would the novel be any different if Steinbeck had it end in a different place?
  • Discuss any alternatives George had to shooting Lennie. What would be the consequences?
  • What foreshadowed Lennie’s death? Students may cite brief examples from the entire novel.
  • The novel ends with Carlson saying to Curley (about Slim and George), “‘Now what the hell ya suppose is eatin’ them two guys?’” (Steinbeck 107). Explain what Carlson means.

After reading the novel:

  • What is “mercy killing”? Defend or condemn the practice, and give reasons for your opinion.
  • Who is the most important character in Of Mice and Men ?
  • Write about a major theme in the novel. Why is it important? See Plot and Theme .
  • Write about some major symbols in the novel. See Symbolism .
  • Do you think Lennie understands what he does is wrong?
  • Is Lennie a violent person?
  • What is Slim’s role in the novel? Why is he so important?
  • If Of Mice and Men took place today, not during the 1930s, how would life for Lennie have been different?
  • Lynching is often referred to as “vigilante justice” or “taking the law into your own hands.” When, if ever, is this justified? Think outside of your own life. What about in other countries, other times, other conditions?
  • What can you learn about race relations during the 1930s from Of Mice and Men ? Use specific examples.

Post Activity/Takeaways/Follow-up

  • After finishing Of Mice and Men , students should write a brief (a paragraph) summary of each of their short writing prompts. This will reinforce what they have learned throughout the course of the novel.
  • Have students write an evaluation of the project and what they have learned.
  • Make sure students keep all returned and graded short writing assignments (either electronically and/or in notebooks).
  • In small groups, students can meet and, based on their short papers, come with questions to be used for a final examination on the novel.
  • How thoroughly did the student respond to the writing prompt?  Were specific, and correct, examples from the novel used to support opinions?
  • Take into consideration the writing abilities of individual students when grading a writing assignment.

Common Core State Standards Met

  • Reading Standards for Literature 6-12
  • ~Key Ideas and Details: 1, 2, 3
  • ~Craft and Structure: 4, 5, 6
  • ~Integration of Knowledge and Ideas: 9
  • ~Range of Reading and Level of Text Complexity: 10
  • Writing Standards 6-12
  • ~Text Types and Purposes: 1, 2, 3
  • ~Production and Distribution of Writing: 4, 5, 6
  • ~Research to Build and Present Knowledge: 7, 9
  • ~Range of Writing: 10
  • Speaking and Listening Standards 6-12
  • ~Comprehension and Collaboration: 1
  • Language Standards 6-12
  • ~Conventions of Standard English: 1, 2
  • ~Knowledge of Language: 3
  • ~Vocabulary Acquisition and Use: 4, 5, 6
  • Reading Standards for Literacy in History/Social Studies 6-12
  • ~Key Ideas and Details: 1, 2
  • ~Craft and Structure: 4, 5
  • Writing Standards for Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects 6-12
  • ~Text Types and Purposes: 1, 2
  • ~Production and Distribution of Writing: 4, 5
  • ~Research to Build and Present Knowledge: 7

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Provide a structure that students of all abilities can utilize to build their analytical skills.

Critical Analysis Essay

Help develop students’ critical analysis abilities. The assignment can be modified per grade level/ability, and is a perfect introduction to scholarly papers.

Study Guides

Provide additional structure and guidance to that found in “Mining for Examples.” Students create their own study guide for the novel.

Mining for Examples

Students work collaboratively to create an in-depth study guide to understanding key scenes, quotations, and themes in Of Mice and Men.

Favorite Passages

Create a “message board” where students can post and comment upon important, entertaining, and interesting passages from Of Mice and Men.

Discussion by Section

Breakdown major events, themes, and discussion topics. This is a rich source of information to help frame an entire unit plan for Of Mice and Men.

of mice and men setting essay

Of Mice and Men

John steinbeck, ask litcharts ai: the answer to your questions.

Broken Plans Theme Icon

Broken Plans

Of Mice and Men takes its title from a line in a famous poem by the Sottish poet Robert Burns. Burns’s poem “To a Mouse, On Turning up in Her Nest with the Plough, November, 1785” contains the lines, “The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men,/ Gang aft agley.” “Gang aft agley” is a Gaelic phrase which translates to “go oft awry,” and the poem’s concern with the difficulty—and the futility—of preparing or planning…

Broken Plans Theme Icon

The American Dream

The American Dream of every individual’s right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” has been ingrained within American society since the writing of the Declaration of Independence , when the phrase made its first appearance. George and Lennie ’s dream of working hard and saving enough money to buy their own farm and “live off the fatta the lan” symbolizes the concrete ways in which the American Dream serves as an idealized goal…

The American Dream Theme Icon

Male Friendship

During the Great Depression, American society was plunged into uncertainty and chaos as jobs disappeared and the economy plummeted. Families were uprooted and scattered as people moved around the country in search of work that would allow them to survive—work that was often physically demanding in nature and necessitated grueling hours. As bunk houses on ranches like the one George and Lennie travel to in search of work filled with men—often men traveling alone, separated…

Male Friendship Theme Icon

The Weak and the Strong

Though many characters in  Of Mice and Men  long for friendship and compassion, they live in fear of each other. As  Carlson 's  unsentimental shooting of  Candy 's  dog early on in the novella makes clear, during the Great Depression the useless, old, or weak were inevitably destroyed as the strong and useful fought for survival. This constant struggle between the weak and the strong is one of the novella’s defining conflicts, and Steinbeck seeks…

The Weak and the Strong Theme Icon

Minorities, Marginalization, and Scapegoating

Of Mice and Men is set in the 1930s—a period during which women, racial minorities, and disabled individuals had few rights. The oppressive nature of the period was further compounded by the socioeconomic instability of the Great Depression. Throughout the novella, Steinbeck argues that hard times necessitate scapegoats—and that the individuals who bear the brunt of society’s frustrations, suspicions, and uncertainties are those already marginalized by the world around them.

There are several marginalized groups…

Minorities, Marginalization, and Scapegoating Theme Icon

Of Mice and Men

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47 pages • 1 hour read

A modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, SuperSummary offers high-quality Study Guides with detailed chapter summaries and analysis of major themes, characters, and more.

Chapter Summaries & Analyses

Chapters 1-2

Chapters 3-4

Chapters 5-6

Character Analysis

Symbols & Motifs

Literary Devices

Important Quotes

Essay Topics

Discussion Questions

Imagine a seventh chapter that details the events of George’s life without Lennie. What happens to George? Does he maintain any of the relationships he started at the ranch? What happens to the dream farm? Cite evidence from the text to support your outcome.

Curley’s wife is not depicted as a wholly innocent character. Is this treatment of her fair or unfair? Prepare a defense of her character and support your point of view with evidence from the novella.

Do you agree with George’s decision to take Lennie’s life into his own hands, or do you believe George should have turned Lennie into the law?

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  1. Of Mice and Men: Setting

    Of Mice and Men underlines this contrast by sandwiching the ranch setting with the first and last scenes, which are set in the beautiful natural setting of a shaded pool and provide a Garden of Eden-like purity. The ranch is a stark, harsh environment. The bunkhouse where the men live looks like a prison, with "small, square windows" and a ...

  2. Of Mice and Men Setting Analysis: [Essay Example], 662 words

    John Steinbeck's novel, Of Mice and Men, is set in the 1930s during the Great Depression in California. The setting of the novel plays a significant role in shaping the characters and their experiences. Steinbeck uses the setting to create a sense of isolation, hopelessness, and the harsh realities of life during this time period.

  3. Of Mice and Men: Full Book Analysis

    Full Book Analysis. Of Mice and Men tells the story of how George and Lennie's friendship is tested by the isolating and predatory reality of life for poor migrant workers in Depression-era America. George and Lennie are the protagonists, and their friendship is unique in the world of the novella: almost every other character notes that they ...

  4. Of Mice and Men Study Guide

    The title of Of Mice and Men is drawn from a Robert Burns poem titled "To a Mouse, on Turning up in Her Nest with the Plough, November, 1785," which features the line "The best laid schemes o' Mice an' Men, / Gang aft agley.". The poem describes its speaker's shock and regret upon realizing they have disturbed a mouse in her nest ...

  5. Of Mice and Men Sample Essay Outlines

    Essays and criticism on John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men - Sample Essay Outlines. ... A. Setting of chapter one 1. Water 2. Animals 3. Plants 4. People B. Description of the bunk house

  6. A Teachable Good Book: Of Mice and Men

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  7. Of Mice and Men Critical Essays

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  8. Of Mice and Men: Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men

    Get free homework help on Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men: book summary, chapter summary and analysis, quotes, essays, and character analysis courtesy of CliffsNotes. John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men is a parable about what it means to be human. Steinbeck's story of George and Lennie's ambition of owning their own ranch, and the obstacles that stand in the way of that ambition, reveal the nature ...

  9. Of Mice and Men Themes and Analysis

    Degree in Journalism from University of Nigeria, Nsukka. ' Of Mice and Men ' is one book that parades characters who represent the most vulnerable group in society. The extractable themes in the book are the results of the harshness of life these characters live while they struggle to survive. Some of the most eye-catching themes found in ...

  10. Of Mice and Men Essay Questions

    George and Lennie, with their dream of acquiring a farm, represent an attempt to stand against such perpetual loneliness. Even the name of the city near which the novel is set - Soledad, which is Spanish for "solitude" - resonates with this theme of loneliness. 2. The title, Of Mice and Men, is an allusion to a Robert Burns poem.

  11. Of Mice and Men: A+ Student Essay: Unfulfilled Dreams

    A+ Student Essay: Unfulfilled Dreams. In Of Mice and Men, it seems an incontrovertible law of nature that dreams should go unfulfilled. From George and Lennie's ranch to Curley's wife's stardom, the characters' most cherished aspirations repeatedly fail to materialize. However, the fact that they do dream—often long after the ...

  12. The Role of The Setting in of Mice and Men

    The first two settings that Steinbeck exposes to his readers in Of Mice and Men are the countryside and the bunkhouse at the ranch. Both of these are quite crucial to the development of the characters, as well as the progress and proper story-telling in the novel. Steinbeck starts his novella in the countryside, which is described as a very ...

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    Of Mice and Men Summary. Next. Part 1. George Milton and Lennie Small, two itinerant workers from Auburn, California, make their way across the state's harsh landscape on their way from one ranch job to another. As they close in on a job just outside the town of Soledad, they stop for the night at a pool off the Salinas River to enjoy one ...

  14. Of Mice and Men: Mini Essays

    Of Mice and Men is an extremely structured work in which each detail anticipates a plot development that follows. Almost every scene points toward the inevitable tragic ending. In the first scene, we learn that Lennie likes to stroke mice and other soft creatures, but has a tendency to kill them accidentally.

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  16. Of Mice and Men

    Overview. Even though the Of Mice and Men unit may culminate with a major scholarly paper, short writing prompts (150-200 words) should be given throughout the unit. The prompts can be both broad and specific. Students should be made to feel comfortable with these prompts, even though (time permitting) some will read them out loud.

  17. What is the setting of Of Mice and Men and its significance?

    Mice and Men, the great novel by John Steinbeck, takes place in the 1930's during The Great Depression. Knowing the exact setting for the novel is important to understand the journey Lennie and ...

  18. Of Mice and Men Themes

    Of Mice and Men takes its title from a line in a famous poem by the Sottish poet Robert Burns. Burns's poem "To a Mouse, On Turning up in Her Nest with the Plough, November, 1785" contains the lines, "The best laid schemes o' Mice an' Men,/ Gang aft agley." "Gang aft agley" is a Gaelic phrase which translates to "go oft awry," and the poem's concern with the difficulty ...

  19. Of Mice and Men Essay Topics

    Thanks for exploring this SuperSummary Study Guide of "Of Mice and Men" by John Steinbeck. A modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, SuperSummary offers high-quality Study Guides with detailed chapter summaries and analysis of major themes, characters, and more.

  20. Of Mice and Men Section 2 Summary & Analysis

    A summary of Section 2 in John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men. Learn exactly what happened in this chapter, scene, or section of Of Mice and Men and what it means. Perfect for acing essays, tests, and quizzes, as well as for writing lesson plans.

  21. PDF National 5 Critical Essay Exemplar 'Of Mice and Men'

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  22. Prejudice Essay Plan for GCSE (Of Mice and Men)

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    Of Mice and Men Full Book Summary. Two migrant workers, George and Lennie, have been let off a bus miles away from the California farm where they are due to start work. George is a small, dark man with "sharp, strong features.". Lennie, his companion, is his opposite, a giant of a man with a "shapeless" face. Overcome with thirst, the ...

  26. Of Mice and Men' Moral Ambiguity Essay

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