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Mice and Men You have finished reading Of Mice and Men and now know what happens to Lennie and George. People often regard the ending of the book as surprising and unfair, but, really, from the beginning, Steinbeck has been foreshadowing this tragic ending by giving us clues to tell us how he, as the writer, felt about Lennie’s demise. He does this primarily in two ways: through the title of the novella and through the symbolism of Candy’s dog. The title We have talked about how there are lots of contrasts in this book, and the title is no exception. Steinbeck has divided up the characters into those who are like animals but are perceived as worthwhile beings by society and those who society sees as worthless animals but are actually compassionate human beings, and we see this idea reflected to an extent in the title. The title itself, though, comes from the poem “To a Mouse” by a Scottish guy named Robert Burns. Here is the poem: Wee, sleekit, cowrin, tim'rous beastie, O, what a panic's in thy breastie! Thou need na start awa sae hasty Wi bickering brattle! I wad be laith to rin an' chase thee, Wi' murdering pattle.

Thou saw the fields laid bare an' waste, An' weary winter comin fast, An' cozie here, beneath the blast, Thou thought to dwell, Till crash! the cruel coulter past Out thro' thy cell.

I'm truly sorry man's dominion Has broken Nature's social union, An' justifies that ill opinion Which makes thee startle At me, thy poor, earth born companion An' fellow mortal!

That wee bit heap o' leaves an' stibble, Has cost thee monie a weary nibble! Now thou's turned out, for a' thy trouble, But house or hald, To thole the winter's sleety dribble, An' cranreuch cauld.

I doubt na, whyles, but thou may thieve; What then? poor beastie, thou maun live! A daimen icker in a thrave 'S a sma' request; I'll get a blessin wi' the lave, An' never miss't.

But Mousie, thou art no thy lane, In proving foresight may be vain: The best laid schemes o' mice an' men Gang aft agley, An' lea'e us nought but grief an' pain, For promis'd joy!

Thy wee-bit housie, too, in ruin! It's silly wa's the win's are strewin! An' naething, now, to big a new ane, O' foggage green! An' bleak December's win's ensuin, Baith snell an' keen!

Still thou are blest, compared wi' me! The present only toucheth thee: But och! I backward cast my e'e, On prospects drear! An' forward, tho' I canna see, I guess an' fear


A little hard to follow, wasn’t it? Here it is again: Small, sleek, cowering, timorous beast, O, what a panic is in your breast! You need not start away so hasty With hurrying scamper! I would be loath to run and chase you, With murdering plough-staff.

You saw the fields laid bare and wasted, And weary winter coming fast, And cozy here, beneath the blast, You thought to dwell, Till crash! the cruel plough past Out through your cell.

I'm truly sorry man's dominion Has broken Nature's social union, And justifies that ill opinion Which makes thee startle At me, thy poor, earth born companion And fellow mortal!

That small bit heap of leaves and stubble, Has cost you many a weary nibble! Now you are turned out, for all your trouble, Without house or holding, To endure the winter's sleety dribble, And hoar-frost cold.

I doubt not, sometimes, but you may steal; What then? Poor beast, you must live! An odd ear in twenty-four sheaves Is a small request; I will get a blessing with what is left, And never miss it.

But Mouse, you are not alone, In proving foresight may be vain: The best laid schemes of mice and men Go often askew, And leaves us nothing but grief and pain, For promised joy!

Your small house, too, in ruin! It's feeble walls the winds are scattering! And nothing now, to build a new one, Of coarse grass green! And bleak December's winds coming, Both bitter and keen!

Still you are blest, compared with me! The present only touches you: But oh! I backward cast my eye, On prospects dreary! And forward, though I cannot see, I guess and fear!

There are two main ways the poem’s meaning contributed to the meaning of the novel: 1. Suffering- the poet explains that the mouse and the man have one thing in common, and that is the fact that they both suffer. Suffering and pain are inevitable in life. At some point in time, every creature will suffer, be he mouse or man. Additionally, no matter how much we prepare for our lives, we cannot control the circumstances around us, and the plans we made to bring us joy might simply bring us pain instead. 2. The mouse and the man- The poet writes that the primary difference between the mouse and the man is that the mouse is luckier than the man because, while he will suffer in the course of his life, the mouse will not think about the past nor will he worry about the present. He will suffer in the moment, but that is all. The man, however, will also suffer in his life, but he will always remember the suffering and will worry about the future. He is blessed with the mental capacity to remember and to function in society, which is a gift the mouse does not have, but because of


the same gift, he will always have more suffering and sorrow in his life. In the novel, obviously, Lennie is the meek and slow mouse, and the man is George who is smarter than Lennie and able to function in the world. Candy’s dog You correctly identified that Candy’s dog represents, in a sense, Candy himself: the dog is no longer good for anything, much like Candy, and when Carlson takes Candy’s dog away to shoot, Candy realizes that that is how the world treats those whom it does not need. He doesn’t really think he will get taken out back and shot, but instead understands he will simply be dismissed, devalued, and forgotten by the rest of the world. However, Candy’s dog is important for another character as well. Candy’s dog is smelly, old, and miserable, but Candy loves him nonetheless because he is his companion. He doesn’t want to shoot the dog because he loves it, but Carlson insists it’s the humane thing to do, explaining that Candy “ain’t bein’ kind to him keepin’ him alive” and the dog “jus’ suffers hisself all the time,” thus it would be the fair thing to do to put him out of his misery and end his suffering. Carlson says that he would shoot the dog right in the back of the head and “he’d never know what him [and he] wouldn’t feel nothing.” Candy, as you know, allows him to do just that, regretting only that he hadn’t shot the dog himself. Fast forward to the last chapter in the book. Lennie has just killed Curley’s wife and has run away. George then finds him and kills him. Where does he shoot his friend? In the back of the head. Why does he shoot him? He knows that Lennie will end up suffering and probably dead anyway, and he believes Lennie would prefer if George was the one who killed him, rather than Curley, so he, like Candy, elects to end his companion’s suffering then and there. He, as Candy realized too late, knows that it would be worse if he allowed someone else to do it for him.

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http://www.houstonchristian.org/data/files/gallery/ClassFileGallery/OMAM_To_a_MouseLennie_End_of_Book_Notes.doc

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