This was my second time reading Of Mice and Men and just as it had been the first time, I found the book to be emotional moving, more so than many others that I have read. The parallels between the beginning part of the book and the end of the book create such a dramatic climax that really draws in the reader. The tragedy is magnified due to it taking place in the same place Lenie and George had drawn up hope and plans for the future. The differences in these two scenes really illustrate the theme of the loss of innocence that is prevalent throughout the book and ultimately embodies the death of Lenie. When George and Lenie first happen upon the river they disturb the wildlife which quickly flees from their presence. Lenie’s second trip to this place was not as disrupting to the wild life and his approach is even compared to that of a creeping bear. It was almost as if the events that had unfolded in the book had caused a change in the way Lennie was received by the wild. Perhaps his inability to escape his simple primal wants made him more wild and animal like than human. Just as the water snake swam helplessly to its death at the beak of a heron, Lenie’s need for soft, warm comfort led to his death.
Seeing as how this reading is assigned in a class on domestication I really struggled to find themes and meanings involving domestication within the story. To begin, I noted the effect George and Lenie’s presence had on the wildlife surrounding the river. This led me to believe that a possible theme incorporating domestication of this book may be the negative effects humans have on animals. The way Lenie stroked animals until the point of death certainly could represent the negative outcome excessive human control has on animals. In the part of the book where Crooks, Candy, Lenie and Curley’s wife are present in Crooks room, the way in which Curley’s wife reduces Crooks to nothing, and his defensive mechanism of retreating within himself really reminded me of some of our discussions on human-animal relations. Her flaunting of complete control reminded me of how livestock are striped of identity. As I continued reading it seemed more likely that an underlying theme of the book was simply animal-human relations and not just the negative outcomes of such an association.
I was really intrigued with how Slim was conveyed to the reader. His description was conveyed as pure and he is even said to have “God-like eyes.” With such a righteous character, it seems that any actions of Slim are assumed to be correct or right. His drowning of the puppies, therefore, cannot be compared to the other deaths of animals that did not deem his approval. The death Lenie’s pup and mice were out of ignorance while the drowning of Slim’s pups were out of necessity because according to him the mother would have not been able to take care of all her offspring. So does this mean that not all dominating control over animals results in negative outcomes for the animal? The killing of a dog’s pups is essentially playing God from her perspective, yet if Slim had not done this what would the outcome for mother and offspring have been? The killing of Candy’s dog also shows to me that some dominating control of animals by humans is actually beneficial to them.
At the same time, I couldn’t help to associate the way that all the characters were cramped in a small space, forced to chase unlikely dreams just to keep their insanity with the lifestyle of livestock. Most of the characters shared their aspirations of a better life where they control their fate and can actual say something is there’s. Perhaps animals can be capable of feeling this lack of freedom, and yearn for it on some level. Again this may be forcing the animal-human relations issue but I am just trying to see what relevance this novel has to our class material.
One of the final lines of the book convinced me that an underlying theme of the book is not only the ignorance to the innocence of Lenie, but the ignorance of the innocence of animals: “Now what the hell ya suppose is eatin them two guys?” This shatters the concept of good and bad and shows that there is a gray are to which people can be ignorant to. Some things act by nature with no malice intended and people must be aware of this. I found it very interesting that Curley’s Wife was never given a name, perhaps sealing her fate as an antagonist.
My favorite line of the novel is: “As happens sometimes, a moment settled and hovered and remained for much more than a moment. And sound stopped and movement stopped for much, much more than a moment.”