Of Mice and Men:exploring steinbeck’s American tragedy through literature circles
DISCUSSION DIRECTOR • In the first paragraph of the novel, how does Steinbeck introduce a motif of animals? • He references rabbits here—we learn later in this section that rabbits an important part of the dream that Lenny and George have of owning their own home and “living off the land”. • The focus on animals creates a detailed setting of the Salinas River valley—the place where migrant farmers came to make a living during the Depression. Steinbeck pairs the “night tracks” of the animals with the path that the migrant “tramps” stomp over on their travels. Both the “mice and men” are on the move.
ILLUminator: • Passage: Page 2, paragraph 3 • This passage shows a contrast between the “sharp, strong” features of the smaller man, George, and his companion, Lenny, “a huge man, shapeless of face.” These characters are foils—one is described with words associated with intellectual dominance and the other as an intellectual inferior, despite his largeness. • The passage creates a kind of comparison between Lenny and an a large beast. It is appropriate because he doesn’t use forethought—drinking from stagnant water that could make him sick, for example. He acts on impulse, much like the “bear” or animal to which he is compared.
Word watcher: • On page 8, George takes beans out of his “bindle” • The bindle is a kind of pack carried by someone who generally is a migrant. The stereotype is a “hobo bag” on a stick, but the men in this novel carry a rolled up blanket in it so it would be carried on their shoulders. • The men call themselves “bindle-stiffs” –a “stiff” is an average joe or regular guy. They don’t have much, just the packs on their back.
Summarizer/Background: • Many migrant workers experienced culture clash and were unwelcome in the towns in which they arrived. People looked down on them and felt they were taking their jobs. • Many migrants lived in “ditchbank” camps—tents set up by the water. Since they lived as transients, they did not stay in one place for long—often work was seasonal.
Why “Mice and Men”? • Title origin—Robert Burns’ poem: • But, Mousie, thou art no thy lane, (not alone) • In proving foresight may be vain: • The best laid schemes o’ mice and men • Gang aft a-gley (go often askew) • An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain • For promised joy.