How Can Us As Humans Apply Themes from Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men in Our Own Lives?

All throughout John Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men” published in 1937, there are themes and life lessons being taught. But the question that I will be answering is, can we take, comprehend and understand those themes and apply them to our own everyday lives. The most predominant themes in the book are friendship, inequality and struggle. I believe that we can apply those 3 themes to better ourselves as people. In Steve Newman's article about “Of Mice and Men” written on Medium, he quotes Steinbeck saying “In the second place the novel’s ability to describe scene and people in detail would not only make for a better visual picture to the reader, but would be of value to director, stage designer, and actor, for these latter would know more about the set and characters.” He also says “For Steinbeck the writer this was important because it gave the reader, actor and director, an insight into the writer’s thought processes, ensuring, or trying to ensure, that the writer’s intentions with regard character, setting, emotions, conflict and mood are not hijacked by directorial flights of fancy once it has left the reader’s hands and hits the rehearsal room.” This to me shows that he’s not just trying to write a book for his joy, or for money, but that he is trying to teach his readers something, and I believe he teaches through the themes in his novel.

In the book inequality is shown in many different ways. Probably the most common was the shaming and disrespecting of Curley’s wife. She is the only woman on the ranch so she gets treated unequally because she’s a woman and because they think she flirts with all the men on the ranch. Lennie also gets treated unequally because of his mental disability. And finally, the only black man on the ranch, Crooks, lives in a barn and is treated unequally because of his race. “Crooks, the Negro stable buck, had his bunk in the harness
room; a little shed that leaned off the wall of the barn. On one side
of the little room there was a square four-paned window, and on
the other, a narrow plank door leading into the barn.” (67, Steinbeck) That quote from the book is describing Crooks living conditions, and as you can tell they are less then optimal. Especially as of late inequality has been a huge topic of discussion in the United States between the Black Lives Matter campaign, female inequality and even with immigrants and other races. We can use this theme from Steinbeck to remember that people can’t control their gender and race and use that to treat everyone equal.

Next is friendship, friendship is probably most popular theme that people get from the book and I think that there are many different types of friendship shown throughout the story. The first type of friendship is Lennie and George’s true friendship. George befriends Lennie regardless of his mental disabilities and is not using him for anything. That to me is a true friendship. The first time I read the New York Times article named Friendship in an Age of Economics written by Todd May, this sentence really caught my attention, it says “But I will not forget that he visited me on that day, and sat there for I know not how long, while my humanity was in the care of a morphine drip.” (Par. 1, May) Although this doesn’t give any resemblance whatsoever of George and Lennie in the story, it does however show true friendship. And even when life was at George’s lowest right before he was about to kill Lennie he was still trying to sooth him. “We’ll have a cow,” said George. “An’ we’ll have maybe a pig an’ chickens . . . . an’ down the flat we’ll have a . . . . little piece alfalfa-” (105, Steinbeck)

The next type of friendship is entrepreneurial friendship. May describes entrepreneurial friendships as “Entrepreneurial relationships have, in some sense, always been with us. Using people for one’s ends is not a novel practice. It has gained momentum, however, as the reduction of governmental support has diminished social solidarity and the rise of finance capitalism has stressed investment over production.” Although Lennie and George start out as true friends at the beginning of the story I believe that Lennie shifts to an entrepreneurial friend to George. The only reason he was still friends with him was because he was trying to get them both their dream. It was no longer about just being his friend, he just wanted to get himself off of the ranch. Back to Todd May’s article, We can apply this to our lives in the fact that you may have different types of friendships, so even though you may not be able to control what type of friendships you have with certain people you can still make the best out of those friendships.

And finally, the last theme, struggle, is also strongly prominent in the novel. From start to end there is at least someone struggling all throughout the book. There’s obviously George and Lennie who struggle all throughout the book with money and Lennie’s disabilities, Curley’s Wife dealing which slut shaming, sexism, Crooks dealing with racism. And towards the end of the novel with Lennie suffocating Curley’s wife on accident and George shooting Lennie there are so many different forms of struggle throughout “Of Mice and Men”. So we apply the theme of struggle in our own lives because everyone is going to struggle in life, life isn’t perfect. So we can take the struggle, get over it, and make it into a positive.

Overall, I think John Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men” has many different themes that everyone that reads the book should look for. They can be used in your normal everyday life and are great life lessons, and I only mentioned a few. So if you ever choose to read the book I recommend you don’t just read the book, but you actually think about the words your reading, and get something positive out of it even though it doesn’t end positively.



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