Symbolism in « Of Mice and Men » (Spoiler alert… DUH)

Of Mice and Men is a novella written by author John Steinbeck. Published in 1937, it tells the story of George Milton and Lennie Small, two displaced migrant ranch workers, who move from place to place in California in search of new job opportunities during the Great Depression in the United States.

Symbolism in this book is everywhere, on every page and around every corner. I would just like to point out all of the wonderful double meanings of some of the things you may have missed when you read the book in grade 10 english class.

The Rabbits

Throughout the story, Lenny often times asks George to tell him about the rabbits. George then will go on to tell Lenny about how he will get to tend to the rabbits and stroke them. This is evidently symbloic of how Lenny sees his future, and rabbits symbolize his hopes and dreams.

Candy’s Dog

This novel makes it known that strength is a major theme throughout its running. Which is why I find it weird that we find such a dog– lame, weak, smelly and and decrepit– This is symbolic of weakness. He dies via mercy killing, this symbolizes how society treats the weak old and frail.

Carlson’s Pistol

Carlson’s Luger is used to kill Candy’s dog and then, eventually, Lenny. It is a symbol of power and strength. As a part of the theme of strength and overcoming weakness, the gun overpowers the weak ones.

Crook’s Glasses

Crook’s glasses are gold rimmed, they symbolize his intelligence and mental capabilities, in a world that cares more about braun than brain.

Lenny’s Puppy

Lenny is a strong daft brute, too strong in fact. He doesn’t know his own strength, this is demonstrated in how he kills all the mice and his puppy. As a part of the theme of strength overpowering weakness, this puppy is innocence and weakness and Lenny’s power and strength ‘defeats’ it, whether that is intentional or not.

Curley’s Wife

High-heeled shoes on a ranch are not ideal, nor are the feathers that she sports. They symbolize her femininity and vanity, her shoes symbolize her need for attention, The fact that they are red symbolize danger, evidenced by her death.

9 réflexions au sujet de “Symbolism in « Of Mice and Men » (Spoiler alert… DUH)”

  1. Hi Jake,

    I found your blog post super useful, because although I read Of Mice and Men only a year ago, I somehow seem to have forgotten all about these interesting symbols. Personally, I really enjoyed your description of Curley’s Wife – specifically how her shoes acted as a statement of « her femininity and vanity ». I’m curious to know if among these symbols, there’s one which you believe to be more significant to the characters or plot? Or if not, is there one that you personally prefer?


    1. In my opinion, all of the symbolisms in of mice and men are equally important to the story. The symbolism plays perfectly into the readers hand if they chose to read the book again, the symbolism becomes apparent to the reader immediately, which is why one reads a book a second time. The symbolism in the novel is not obvious when you are reading it the first time over making it so much more amazing when you realize what that actually meant.

  2. Sup Jakey,
    You’ve written an interesting article that’s deepened my understanding of this already deep novel. In this blog, you talk a lot about the theme of the strong versus the weak which I actually didn’t really pick up on during my first reading. With that theme being so prevalent, how do you think the setting of the Dust Bowl amplifies the theme in the story?

  3. I remembered seriously loving Of Mice and Men last year! It was a great book and I can’t believe I never thought of some of the symbols you mentioned. My favourite was the one about Candy’s dog. Since its kinda symbolizes the weak and when Carlson shot it, that represented how the strong overpowered the weak in some sad case. It could also kind represent how much time Candy he has left on the farm. I mean I do remember him mentioning how old he is, how he’s no longer useful and how he’s only around cause he got hurt there.

  4. Hi Jake,
    Of Mice and Men is known for its amount of symbolism throughout the novel. Thar is one of the many reasons why I enjoyed reading it so much. How do you think symbolism adds value to a story? Also, how do you think the novel would be received if there wasn’t any symbolism present?

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