Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck is a captivating and eye opening novel.
It centers around two unlikely best friends, George and Lennie, who have to endure the cruelties of living in America during the Great Depression. The unlikely pair has only one thing on their mind: to own a little plot of land that they can call their own. This simple idea will turn out to be an unattainable dream when Lennie’s mild mental disability and the pair’s social class will get in the way. Steinbeck’s use of symbolism throughout the novel expresses the theme of powerlessness of the working class during the Great Depression. Throughout Of Mice and Men Steinbeck uses symbols to express the volatility of life in the 1930s. Often times one of the main characters, George, is seen playing cards by himself, “George shuffled the cards and laid out his solitaire hand.
He used a deliberate, thoughtful, slowness” (Steinbeck 55). George’s game of solitaire symbolizes his and Lennie’s life working in the fields. The game of solitaire is usually based heavily on luck, which is similar to the pair’s lives working in the field. George and Lennie never truly have complete control over their jobs and lives, just like how “In card games there is no pattern to the cards’ random appearance; their sequence is solely a matter of chance.
This randomness can be seen when, “George tries to control Lennie’s activities and movements on the ranch”, but “he cannot prevent Lennie’s tragic meeting with Curley’s wife in the barn”( Shurgot 1). It is George and Lennie’s unluckiness that causes the incident in Weed and then in Soledad because George was not with Lennie at the time of the incidents. Their unluckiness withholds them from reaching their goals.The Great Depression also decreased the amount of power George and Lennie had over their own lives. In the late 1920s, the stock market crashed, sending the United States into an economic depression.
Many people were losing their jobs, and the people who had jobs were getting paid the bare minimum. It was nearly impossible for poor people to make a change in their life during this time period. The poor just kept on getting poorer.
The low paying jobs caused prices to drop significantly, especially in the real estate business. “‘How much they want for a place like that?’… ‘Well-I could get it for six hundred bucks” (Steinbeck 59). George and Lennie’s lives are greatly affected by the Depression.
The Depression stops them from being able to climb the social ladder and achieve their dream of owning their own property. Steinbeck also expresses his thoughts on the Depression through George and Lennie, he shows “his hatred of middle-class acquisitiveness and ambition” (Dickstein 1) by creating a tragic ending for George and Lennie.Steinbeck’s portrayal of George and Lennie illustrates the hardships of life during Great Depression. Symbols are used to explain the unpredictable lives of workers and how their fate lies in the hands of luck. George and Lennie’s story represent millions of working class people during the Depression. Their story shows that not everyone can have a happy ending and that the Great Depression severely lowered their chances of ever achieving their dreams.