This essay is devoted to such prominent masterpiece as “Of Mice and Men” by John Steinbeck. A hero by definition is a person admired for certain qualities and achievements. Among these qualities are courage, bravery, and an intense care for others. These are heroic qualities because without courage, you cannot stand up for yourself or other people and what you believe is right. You must have bravery to put your beliefs into action, and you must care for others because … A hero does not become a hero because he has a cape or special powers; he is a hero because of his heroic qualities. For example, a firefighter can be looked upon as a hero because of his courage and fearlessness because of the risks he takes to save people. A soldier personifies a hero because of his pride and care for what he is fighting for.
In Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, George is a man who is clever and very ambitious. But among the problems in his way of becoming successful is his mentally challenged friend Lennie. Wherever they both set down to work, Lennie always seems to get into trouble and they have to leave to find more work. In a town called Weed where George and Lennie worked before going to the ranch, Lennie was accused of harassing a girl just because he wanted to touch her dress and wouldn’t let go. They had to flee from the town and find work elsewhere. George knows that he could find work and be much better off without Lennie, but he is faithful to his friend because he promised to take care of him.
I believe that George is a hero because of his faithfulness to Lennie no matter what kind of trouble Lennie gets into. George looks after Lennie and takes him wherever he goes. George says in chapter 1 “I could get along so easy and so nice if I didn’t have you on my tail.” George later cautions Lennie to stay away from Curley, to keep Lennie safe and out of trouble. Deep down I believe George knows that something is bound to happen that will get both himself and Lennie into hot water. Although George knows he could be better off and maybe even accomplish his goal of owning his own land and having his own things, his care for Lennie remains constant throughout the book. This is George’s most heroic quality. Even up until the turning point of the book when George chooses Lennie’s fate, he knows that killing him would be better for Lennie rather than having him suffer under speculation and accusations. Even though George sometimes gets fed up with having to always watch out for his slow friend, I think that George is glad to have someone there that depends on him as much as Lennie does. George feels important because he has someone who totally relies on him.
Lennie sees George as a hero because he is smarter, cares for him, and has dreams and goals that Lennie is sure George can accomplish. In Lennie’s eyes, George can do no wrong. Lennie depends on his friend to take care of him, console him, and try to keep him out of trouble. Lennie is almost fully dependent on George. I think that without George, Lennie would sometime meet a problem that he couldn’t solve or escape on his own, and he would eventually be in a situation resulting in a bad ending.
George becomes a hero to Candy when he lets him in on the dream and makes it real to him as well. This isn’t something that is heroic about George, but he is the only person that Candy has ever known to have goals and plans to accomplish them. George becomes a hero to Slim when he puts everything aside to save Lennie, even if it means killing him. Slim knows the story about Lennie getting into trouble in Weed, and he understands that Lennie needs constant care. Slim has a great amount of respect for George when he realizes all of the sacrifices he has had to make to take responsibility for Lennie. He later gains a greater respect for George when he takes Lennie’s fate into his own hands. I think Slim is one of the only ones throughout the book that understands George and his reasoning for killing his friend.
I disagree with Steinbeck’s comment that “only heroes are worth writing about”. If only heroes were worth writing about, there would be no Lennie, no Candy, or any other characters. If there were no other characters and just the hero, there wouldn’t be much of a story. If every person was a hero, every person would be the same and no one would be a hero at all. It takes an average character to elevate another person to a heroic status.
Of Mice and Men is a story of dreams, hard reality, and tragedy. Steinbeck’s portrayal of a hero is shown throughout the novel. Even though everyone subconsciously knows that George’s dream is an unrealistic goal, they still put everything they have into making it real. George has no supernatural powers or cape. His faithfulness, compassion, and respectable character are all qualities that make him a hero.
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The following analytical paper topics are designed to test your understanding of this novel as a whole and to analyze important themes and literary devices. Following each question is a sample outline to help you get started.
Loneliness is a dominant theme in Of Mice and Men. Most of the characters are lonely and searching for someone who can serve as a companion or just as an audience. Discuss the examples of character loneliness, the efforts of the characters in search of companionship, and their varying degrees of success.
I. Thesis statement: In his novel Of Mice and Men, Steinbeck depicts the essential loneliness of California ranch life in the 1930s. He illustrates how people are driven to find companionship.
II. Absence of character names
A. The Boss
B. Curley’s wife
III. George and Lennie
A. Consider each other family
B. Lennie described as a kind of pet
C. George’s philosophy about workers who travel alone
D. The Godlike Slim as George’s audience
A. Candy’s attachment to his dog
B. The death of his dog
C. His request to join George and Lennie
D. His need to share his thoughts with Lennie
A. Isolated by his skin color
B. His eagerness for company
C. His desire to share the dream of the farm
VI. Curley’s wife
A. Flirting with the workers
B. Talking to Crooks, Candy, and Lennie in the barn
C. Persuading Lennie to listen to her
VII. The hope and power when people have companions
A. George and Lennie
VIII. The misery of each when companionship is removed
The novel Of Mice and Men is written using the same structure as a drama, and meets many of the criteria for a tragedy. Examine the novel as a play. What conventions of drama does it already have? Does it fit the definition of a tragedy?
I. Thesis statement: Steinbeck designed his novel Of Mice and Men as a drama, more specifically, a tragedy.
II. The novel can be divided into three acts of two chapters (scenes)
A. First act introduces characters and background
B. Second act develops conflicts
C. Third act brings resolution
III. Settings are simple for staging
IV. Most of the novel can be transferred into either dialogue or stage directions
A. Each chapter opens with extensive detail to setting
B. Characters are described primarily in physical terms
V. The novel fits the definition of tragedy
A. The protagonist is an extraordinary person who meets with misery
B. The story celebrates courage in the face of defeat
C. The plot ends in an unhappy catastrophe that could not be avoided
There are many realistic and naturalistic details in Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men.
Discuss how Steinbeck is sympathetic and dispassionate about life through the presentation of realism and naturalism.
I. Thesis Statement: Steinbeck displays a sympathetic and a dispassionate attitude toward man’s and nature’s condition through the use of realistic and naturalistic details.
II. Realism—things as they are
A. Setting of chapter one
B. Description of the bunk house
C. Dialect and slang of the characters
D. Dress and habits of the characters
E. Death as a natural part of life
III. Naturalism—fate at work
A. Animal imagery to describe people
2. Curley’s wife
B. Lower class characters
C. Place names
1. Light and dark
2. Dead mouse and pup
3. Lennie’s desire to leave the ranch
4. Candy’s crippled dog
5. Solitaire card game
E. Symbolism in the last chapter
1. Heron and snake
2. Gust of wind
3. Slim’s comment
The story of George and Lennie lends itself to issues found in the question: Am I my brother’s keeper? Does man have an obligation to take care of his fellow man, and what is the price that must be paid if the answer is “yes” or if the answer is “no”?
I. Thesis Statement: Steinbeck shows that there is a great price to be paid for not being sensitive to the needs of others as well as for taking care of others.
II. The vulnerable ones
III. The heartless ones
A. The boss
C. Curley’s wife
IV. The insensitive one—Carlson
V. The sensitive ones
The American Dream is for every man to have a place of his own, to work and earn a position of respect, to become whatever his will and determination and hard work can make him. In Of Mice and Men the land becomes a talisman, a hope of better things. Discuss the American Dream as presented in the novel.
I. Thesis Statement: For the characters in this novel, the American Dream remains an unfulfilled dream.
II. The dream
A. Owning a home
B. Enjoying freedom to choose
C. Living off the fat of the land
D. Not having to work so hard
E. Having security in old age or sickness
III. The dream’s unrealistic aspects
A. Too good to be true
B. A pipe dream for bindle stiffs
C. Lack of money
IV. George and Lennie’s attitude toward the dream
A. Was a comfort in time of trouble
B. Did not really believe in the dream
V. Crooks’s attitude toward the dream
A. His belief
B. His disappointment
VI. Candy’s attitude toward the dream
A. His belief
B. His money
C. His disappointment at the end