Step into a world where dreams and hardships collide, and the bonds of friendship defy the odds.
In John Steinbeck’s timeless classic, “Of Mice and Men,” George, a sharp and nimble man, finds an unexpected companion in Lennie, a gentle giant with a childlike mind. Together, they navigate the unforgiving landscape of California’s labor fields, clinging to each other amidst all the loneliness and alienation.
As they strive for a place to call their own, their shared dream illuminates the depths of their existence and captures the universal themes of tyranny, misunderstanding, and the power of a genuine connection.
In this discussion guide, we’ll have a look at some amazing book club discussion questions for Of Mice and Men and why you should read it to understand the profound human emotions and complex themes woven into the fabric of John Steinbeck’s masterpiece.
Of Mice and Men Discussion Questions
- Lennie’s intellectual disability plays a significant role in the story and greatly affects his relationship with George. Lennie relies on George for guidance, protection, and companionship due to his limited ability to understand and navigate the world independently. George takes on the role of caregiver and protector, providing Lennie with instructions, reprimands, and support. Additionally, the disability also creates challenges and complications for George, as he constantly worries about Lennie’s actions and their consequences.
Discuss how this is in sharp contrast to Lennie’s innocence and childlike nature that elicits empathy and affection from George, leading to a complex and mutually dependent relationship between the two characters.
- The setting in which the book is based has a beauty of its own. The warm river, nestled between mountains and a lush valley, in my personal opinion, represents a peaceful and serene escape from the harsh realities of one’s mundane lives. It serves as a temporary respite from the physical and emotional hardships that the characters encounter.
Do you think it was this purposefully done by Steinbeck to serve as a contrast for the struggles that George and Lennie face in their daily lives?
- Curley is a small, hot-headed, and aggressive man who seeks to assert his dominance and control over others. Curley’s choice of high-heeled boots and spurs reflects his desire to fake his height and power. His immediate antagonism towards Lennie stems from Lennie’s larger physical stature, which threatens Curley’s sense of superiority.
Discuss how Steinbeck uses Curley as an example of how people end up trying to belittle others to assert their own dominance.
- The dream of owning a farm and raising rabbits serves as a powerful source of hope for George, Lennie, and Candy. It represents their shared aspiration for a better life – one where they can escape the hardships of migrant work and find stability, independence, and a sense of belonging.
Do you think the dream farm served as a symbol of their desire for self-sufficiency, freedom from the constraints of poverty, and a place where they can have control over their own destinies?
- The death of Curley’s wife is a pivotal moment in the narrative, symbolizing the shattering of the dream of the idyllic farm and the inevitability of tragic consequences. Lennie’s actions with Curley’s wife are driven by his desire, but his innocence and mental limitations prevent him from understanding the consequences of his actions.
Discuss how this tragedy underscores the recurring theme of the inability to achieve your dreams and the harsh realities of a world that is often cruel and unforgiving.
- Crooks, being the only Black man on the ranch, experiences racial discrimination and is segregated from the other workers. When Lennie visits him seeking some form of companionship, Crooks initially refuses to let him in, stating that he isn’t welcome in his space. This highlights Crooks’ deep sense of loneliness and his defensive reaction to protect himself from potential rejection and also demonstrates the isolation experienced by individuals who are marginalized or deemed different in society. Do you agree?
- Carlson’s possession of the Luger and his suggestion to put Candy’s old dog out of its misery serves as a symbol of mercy killing. The Luger represents the power to end suffering and is a reflection of the harsh realities faced by the characters. When George steals Carlson’s Luger to spare Lennie from a violent fate at the hands of the other men, it underscores the theme of compassion and the painful decisions individuals are forced to make in a world where mercy and understanding are scarce.
Discuss how these acts highlight the moral dilemmas faced by the characters.
- The theme of dreams and their fragility adds depth to the narrative by showing how dreams serve as a source of motivation and hope for the characters. It highlights the vulnerability of dreams and the ease with which they can be shattered, reflecting the harsh realities of the Great Depression. The dreams act as a driving force for the characters, providing temporary solace amidst their difficult lives, but ultimately they reveal the limitations and injustices of the era.
- The moral dilemma faced by George when he decides to do something unimaginable with Lennie is a significant turning point in the story. George is torn between his loyalty and friendship with Lennie and the recognition that Lennie’s actions have caused immense harm and can potentially lead to further violence. George understands that there is no way out of the situation and that Lennie will likely face a brutal and painful death if left in the hands of others, particularly Curley.
What’s your take on this ending?
- The abrupt ending of the novella leaves George’s future uncertain and open to interpretation. As a reader, you can choose to view his future with both optimism and pessimism. On one hand, Lennie’s death may free George from the challenges and risks associated with caring for him, allowing him to pursue his own goals and dreams. He may have the opportunity to meet someone, settle down, and lead a more stable life. On the other hand, without Lennie, George may become just another transient worker, trapped in the cycle of loneliness and isolation.
What do you think would have happened to George? How do you predict his future to be?