In this presentation I will talk about the title “Of Mice And Men”, and the significance of various themes incorporated into the story in relation to how they associate with the title, such as the subject of Lennie’s treatment of the mouse at the beginning, and how the animalistic deaths that transpire throughout the novel could be seen as an admonition to later events, in which Lennie is killed by George and conclude by answering if the title is effective in indicating the themes that are prominent in the novel. The title of the novel “Of Mice and Men” is an intertextual reference as it is a quotation from a poem written by Robert Burns, in which he speaks of a homeless mouse that is in fear following the destruction of its house. A quotation from the poem, “The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft agley” means that everything, no matter how well deliberated or considered, is questionable to failure.
Steinbeck took the title of the novel from this quote, as the two pieces of text are easily comparable in their matters, as in the novel, Lennie and George’s plan to find a little place, how they wanted their dream, and yet it never materialized. On-Page 7, George makes the discovery that Lennie is carrying a dead mouse in his pocket. Lennie wanted to keep the mouse because he loves to pet small, soft things. Sadly, such is his brute strength, this often tends to kill them. George found that Lennie had the mouse in his pocket and demanded to know what it was. Lennie acted reluctantly as he wanted to keep it anyway (“I ain’t got nothin’, George. Honest.”) But George insisted and once it found his possession he threw it across a pool of water nearby. You could argue that the significance of this is that the mouse was most likely not dead before Lennie came into contact with it, and this could tell the reader that Lennie was a danger to a lot of things that came under his attention, intentionally or not.
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On-Page 84, Lennie notices a dead puppy and begins talking to it regretfully. He asks “Why do you get to get killed? You ain’t so little as mice.” This tells the reader that for a second time, Lennie has come into contact with a dead creature. Lennie was regretful because in previous segments of the novel as described above George had noticed that Lennie killed the mouse from petting it too hard, and once George has seen the puppy, he would instinctively believe that it was Lennie who killed him (George’s suspicions would, in this case, be parallel). Another parallel that could be argued is the mood of Lennie in the two situations of his mouse and the puppy. On page 7 he spoke out against having anything in his pocket (“Ain’t a thing in my pocket”) and with the puppy, he was predicting George’s reaction, and was thinking defensively, and spoke to the puppy “Now maybe George ain’t gonna let me tend no rabbits if he fins out you got killed”.
Finally, between the two animals, the way Lennie thought about them could have possibly conveyed that the dead puppy and his mouse were “companions” to him of sorts. When George asked Lennie why he wanted the dead mouse in his company, he answered “I could pet it with my thumb while we walked along”, and as for the puppy, it seemed Lennie was lonely and could be argued that by talking to the puppy made him feel better, and also in contact (“he put out his huge hand and stroked it”) and also the fact that dogs or puppies are considered a favourable companion. Through the title of the novel “Of Mice and Men”, as previously mentioned, Steinbeck evokes the feeling that everything is questionable to failure, and that the story itself would have a similar concept.
An example of this could be Lennie’s failed efforts to hide the dead mouse from George early on in the novel (“Give it here!”) and this could be interpreted as a hint that Lennie could not outtake much without being found out, a point that would be developed further and deeper as the story progressed. The dead animal imagery signifies death and morbidity (covered it with hay, out of sight) & these themes do not represent a positive outlook for the story. The deaths of the mouse and puppy could be seen as suggestions to events further on in the novel, notably that which took place in the barn shortly after the incident with the puppy involving Lennie and Curley’s wife, where Lennie forces himself upon her and the situation turns to a violent scuffle that ends in the death of Curley’s wife.
You can see that all the deaths could possibly be linked because it started with the death of a miniature creature (mouse), then moved to an animal/pet (puppy) and as the deaths worked upwards of the scale of significance, it could be predicted that the next would be of a person, and this is what had happened in this case. Also, the reader could take relevance from the quote “All bad things come in threes”; This is the case in Of Mice And Men. To conclude, I believe that overall the title of the novel is an accurate indicator of the themes within the story, notably of the theory that all good things are not unbreakable (in reference to Lennie, George and Candy’s dream) because as the events unfolded near the end the possibility of them happening became more and more distant and the chance was a thing of the past when George shot Lennie at the end, and this also highlights that failure is a powerful thing and the emotion and tension, in the end, showed this.