Tuesday, 30 July 2019

Discuss how three or more important symbols add to your understanding of Of Mice and Men Essay

In Of Mice and Men, John Steinbeck portrays messages to the reader through various techniques, including the vivid animal imagery presented throughout the novella, most notably in Chapters 1 and 6. However, his most potent form of message conveying is through his use of symbolism. Interweaving light imagery and exercising characters as symbols into the text furthers the development of integral themes and plotlines throughout the turbulent story. From the â€Å"deep and green Salinas River† to the â€Å"right hand that had held the gun†, Steinbeck’s utilization of symbols contributes to the reader’s overall appreciation of the chaotic book, highlighting recurring themes such as loneliness. As was stated in the introduction, Steinbeck employs characters as symbols. The most familiar example of this is old Candy. Candy is a significant figure in Of Mice and Men, due to the likenesses between him and George. â€Å"I ain’t much good with on’y one hand†¦that’s why they give me a job swampin,’ Candy explains to George. As a swamper, this is all Candy has left. In 1930s America, a worker who could not work to his full potential, especially during the time of the Depression, would be replaced- Candy’s ultimate fear. That’s why he wants to â€Å"cook and tend the chickens and hoe the garden some† on Lennie and George’s land. Candy can lead a safe life, not having to worry about being â€Å"canned†. Candy’s stumped wrist is a result of an accident on the ranch. Candy is a prime example of being caught in the Migrant Worker’s Cycle- moving to one job, before leaving and moving somewhere else. A link can therefore be established with George, and Lennie, who appear to have been traveling around working before the time of Of Mice and Men. This is another case of the cyclic nature of the novella, and a reflection of the American way of life in the 1930s. Another example of Candy’s symbolic nature is with his â€Å"ancient dog†. This [Candy and his dog] is the first ‘relationship’ in the novella to be broken, with the final bond, George and Lennie, being destroyed at the climax. â€Å"‘No,’ he said softly. ‘No, I couldn’ do that. I had ‘im too long,'† explains Candy in Chapter 3, referring to the idea of killing his dog. This is very similar to George who, despite knowing Lennie will only cause grief to him and those around him, does not want to hurt him, because he too has been with his companion for a long time. Candy explains that, â€Å"I been around him so much I never notice how he stinks,† while George earlier says, â€Å"but you get used to goin’ around with a guy an’ you can’t get rid of him.'†- Another likeness between the two. George has his own dog, Lennie, who follows George around, maintaining silence in conversations and growing increasingly dependent on a master. During the novella, the recurrence of loneliness, and speculating at a lonesome finale, is ever present, especially in the form of playing cards. The bunkhouse is often the scene of the games, with George the dealer. This is significant, as George frequently exclaims his desire to be alone, â€Å"If I was alone I could live so easy.† However, solitude is George’s enemy, and he is fearful at the prospect of living alone. This is projected through his card playing, â€Å"Slim sat down†¦across from George†¦He studied the solitaire hand that was upside-down to him.† Inadvertently, George has dealt a game of solitaire- a single player game, an insinuation at the conclusion of the story, when George ultimately kills his companion. A similar event arises when Candy’s dog is led by Carlson to be shot. â€Å"‘Anybody like to play a little euchre?'† asks George. The key theme of loneliness is being forced away by George, who refuses to be alone, opting to ask the group to play cards. The constant reminding of impending solitude, and its effects, enable the reader to understand and fully interpret the inevitability of what is to come. Hands play a vital role in the symbolism of Of Mice and Men. There are various references to the hands of men, building up to the climatic noting, â€Å"right hand that had held the gun.† Despite the assortment of quotes in relation to hands, each has its own meaning. George’s â€Å"right hand† is the killing hand that seals his isolation in the world. Candy’s lack of a hand, accompanied by persistent referencing to his handicap, â€Å"Candy stood in the doorway scratching his bald wrist,† provides a stark reminder of the perils of working in 1930s America, stressing the importance of staying healthy. If an illness or injury affected the work rate of a person, they were often removed from their job- a brusque feature of Capitalism. The contextual relevance expands the fluency of the text for the reader, as the framework for the 1930s American society is commonly paralleled with the novella. With regards to Curley, his â€Å"glove’s fulla Vaseline†, which he’s â€Å"keepin’ soft for his wife.† This is one of many sexual references regarding Curley’s wife, who regularly symbolizes the contextual attraction of whorehouses and prostitutes to the migrant workers. As stated above, Curley’s wife’s character is sharply familiarized with prostitutes and the brothels of the 1930s American society. Her flirtatious nature is met with an everlasting disapproval from the workers on the ranch – Candy thinks, â€Å"Curley’s married†¦a tart,† who, â€Å"got the eye,† referring to her engaging character. However, in a letter to Miss Luce, the actress who plays Curley’s wife in the play version of the text, Steinbeck explains, â€Å"She is a nice, kind girl and not a floozy.† According to Steinbeck, â€Å"she is a little starved. She knows utterly nothing about sex except the mass of misinformation girls tell one another.† From this, we can deduce that Curley’s wife isn’t a â€Å"Looloo†, and she isn’t likely to be found in â€Å"Old Susy’s Place†, but due to the fact Curley and her have not consummated their marriage, she feels an object to men â €“ â€Å"no man has considered her as anything except a girl to try to make.† Curley’s wife, Steinbeck explains, is a nice person, and knows the only way men will notice her is if she is desirable. In Of Mice and Men, Curley’s wife experiences loneliness, due to neglect from Curley, and she confesses this to Lennie, â€Å"‘Ain’t I got a right to talk to nobody?'† Since no one has tried talking to her, Curley’s wife has not proved to be anything more than a floozy, which explains the unpleasant behaviour towards her. It is interesting that, when Candy calls her a â€Å"tart†, there is a pause, as if to suggest caution. Further along in the conversation, Candy asks, â€Å"You won’t tell Curley nothing I said?† This implies that Candy is afraid Curley will learn of what he has been saying, as the ranch is the only work he’ll ever acquire, due to his old age and handicap. The threat of Curley’s wife to the workers intimidates them to the point of obeying her. Steinbeck’s pointed description of how Curley’s wife flagrantly flirts with the other workers is a repetition of the theme, which he has earlier shown, using the brothels and his showing of the women who work in them as being mere objects. It is almost as if Curley’s wife believes that the only way to get by in life is to be like those women in the brothel, and to offer herself as an object. This is the case in Chapter 4, when Crooks coldly exclaims, â€Å"You got no right comin’ in a coloured man’s room.† Curley’s wife uses her position as the boss’ son’s wife, and her contextual superiority over the Negro to threaten him, â€Å"I could get you strung up on a tree so easy it ain’t even funny.† This is threatening to Crooks, as one simple cry of ‘Rape’ will result in a lynching. Curley’s wife also knows that, despite the harmful comments made by the men on the ranch, she holds a distinct advantage over them – â€Å"Curley’s pretty handy.† – Curley could beat the worker, and get them fired, due to his position as the boss’ son. All but two of the workers fear Curley – Slim, â€Å"Slim†¦was scowling†¦Ã¢â‚¬â„¢You lay offa me,'† and Carlson – â€Å"‘I’ll kick your god-damn head off.'† Curley’s wife, therefore, can target the remainder of the men, and flirt with them, to further her position. This goes horribly wrong when she begins to pursue Lennie. Firstly, she re-establishes her coyness through Lennie’s dream, â€Å"‘Well if that’s all you want, I might get a couple rabbits myself.'† Then, in the barn house, she looks, â€Å"closely at Lennie to see whether she was impressing him,† another instance where she is trying to leave her mark on a worker. Curley’s wife seals her own fate by exclaiming, â€Å"‘Mine [Hair] is soft and fine†¦feel right here.'† This is the last ‘stage’ of Curley’s wife’s seduction – physical contact. She has seen for herself that Lennie likes to pet things, and she foolishly bids Lennie to stroke her hair, knowing full well he will. Lennie strokes too hard, and she â€Å"flops like a fish.† Steinbeck purposefully repeats this simile, as this has been used when Lennie crushes Curley’s hand. This shared simile between the married couple suggests similar characteristics between the two – most notably the volatile tempers of the two, â€Å"‘What’s the matter with me?’ she cried.† As the novella was written in 1930s America, the contextual content would be ever-present. However, coming off of the Depression, the American Dream had been damaged. This is highlighted by Curley’s wife, â€Å"I never got that letter,† referring to her failed career as an actress. â€Å"He says he was gonna put me in the movies. Says I was a natural.† This is a prime example of the American Dream – a nobody becoming a somebody. However, as with the Depression and many lives in America, this Dream was shattered – â€Å"So I married Curley,† almost as if she married him to anger her mother, â€Å"‘I always thought my ol’ lady stole it.'† Curley’s wife can be classed as the Depression itself – the ender of dreams. The Depression ended the American Dream (Curley’s wife’s dream), as well as other people’s – in Of Mice and Men, Curley’s wife also ends Lennie and George’s dream, by enticing Lennie, which led to her death, and the end of the Dream. Putting this into reality, these small symbolizations, such as Curley’s wife ending Lennie and George’s dream, enhances the understanding of the novel, as the main contextual features are evidently clear, assisted by Steinbeck’s geographical knowledge of the area – Steinbeck was raised in the California area, and he worked on a farm – the descriptions of the landscape would therefore be accurate, blurring the line between fact and fiction. One of the most effective symbols that Steinbeck employs to the novel is that of animal imagery. Throughout the novel, Lennie is likened to a bear, due to numerous references, â€Å"sloping shoulders; and he walked heavily, dragging his feet a little, the way a bear drags his paws.† The bear-like stance of Lennie suggests his ferocity and power aid him, but he is clumsy, and prone to attack, a true reflection of Lennie’s character. In the opening and final chapters in the novella, the moods are very different, yet similar. The evocative beginnings to each chapter contain repetition of â€Å"the deep green pool of the Salinas River,† whilst both being disrupted by man. The most significant part about these openings is the disposition of the disturbance – in Chapter 1, â€Å"the rabbits hurried noiselessly for cover, â€Å"whilst in Chapter 6, Lennie’s intrusion is â€Å"as silent as a creeping bear moves,† yet another reference to his bear-like stature. However, the most potent form of animal imagery is when it is used in a prefigurative sense. In Chapter 1, â€Å"A stilted heron laboured up into the air and pounded down-river.† In Chapter 6, the heron reappears, â€Å"A silent head and beak lanced down and plucked it out by the head, and†¦swallowed the little snake.† This is a foreshadowing of the events to follow, where George shoots Lennie in the back of the head. Steinbeck’s manipulation of his short story permits him to substitute ordinary characters and plots with complex, contextual symbolism. This is used to great effect, and enhances the reader’s understanding of the text, which allows a broader knowledge of both the book and the milieu in which it was written.

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