Of Mice and Men- Symbols

The Dream Farm The dream farm exists only in the minds of George and Lennie. There, George an have his freedom from authority and it will be easier for him to keep tabs on Lennie. Lennie can indulge his affection for animals. The bunkhouse is provided as a juxtaposition to the dream farm. The dream farm is an enchanted concept. As soon as it becomes possible in reality, the dream starts to die. Symbolises the deception of the American Dream.
Bears Lennie is frequently described in language that suggests bears. His ‘paws’ are a focus of early chapters, as is his gait (the way he walks).When Lennie kills Curley’s wife, she ‘flopped like a fish’. Bears eat fish as so Steinbeck shows that she became Lennie’s prey.The bear symbolises Lennie’s uncontrollable physical strength and his untamed natural (base) instincts.
Rabbits It is an important part of the dream for Lennie that he gets to tend the rabbits at the dream farm. Rabbits also feature in the opening scene. They scurry away when humans approach.Lennie’s childlike conscience takes on the surreal image of a giant coloured rabbit in the closing scenes following his murder of Curley’s wife.Rabbits symbolise trouble in the novella.
Card Games George plays card games to pass the time in the bunkhouse.The card games symbolise chance and fate. Man cannot control everything that happens. This idea links to the notion of fate exploring by Robbie Burns in To A Mouse. The mouse cannot predict or control the arrival of the farm machinery that destroys its nest; in the same way, George cannot predict or control events as they unfold in the novel. George is playing cards when Curley’s wife walks into the bunkhouse for the first time.
Horseshoe The men are playing horseshoe outside when Lennie kills the puppy and then Curley’s wife in the barn. Like the card games, the horseshoe game relies on chance. It suggests that events cannot be controlled by man. It was chance that Curley’s wife entered the barn and found Lennie in there. It was unlucky that Lennie was not outside playing horseshoe instead. The horseshoe game symbolises Lennie’s loss of innocence because it is the sound happening outside, before, during and after he kills.
Hands The men on the ranch are called ‘hands’. This shows they each have a job to do and it removes their personal identity. Violence happens by hand. Curley and Lennie have a fist fight. Curley’s hand is crushed. Lennie kills the puppy and Curley’s wife with his hands. Steinbeck describes the hand of each character to capture their essence. Curley’s wife has red fingernails. Slim has the hands of a ‘temple dancer’.

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