This study guide will help you analyze the novel Of Mice and Men (1937) by John Steinbeck. You can also find a summary of the text, as well as inspiration for interpreting it and putting it into perspective.
John Steinbeck (1902-1968) is one of the best-known American authors of the early 20th century. Over his lifetime he wrote 16 novels, including his most famous works Of Mice and Men (1937) and The Grapes of Wrath (1939). Much of his writing is set in central California and often draws on his own experiences. In 1962, he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.
Of Mice and Men is a short novel in the realist genre and is based on Steinbeck’s experiences of working with migrant farm workers when he was young. Although it is a very popular book, it has also been criticized for its use of racist language. The novel has been adapted for film and television several times. The most notable adaptations include the 1939 version directed by Lewis Milestone, and the 1992 version direct by Gary Sinise.
The edition of the novel used for this study guide is the 2006 version from Penguin Classics.
Here, you can read an extract from our study guide:
Metaphors and similes
Steinbeck sometimes uses metaphors or similes, mostly to offer details about the characters or the setting. For example, Lennie is repeatedly compared to large animals: “he walked heavily, dragging his feet a little, the way a bear drags his paws” and he “drank with long gulps, snorting into the water like a horse” (p. 8). This suggests the simplicity of Lennie’s nature and points to the fact that he doesn’t understand ordinary human interactions.
By contrast, Curley is compared to a “terrier” (p. 58), suggesting he is like a vicious dog looking for a fight. Another animal simile is used to describe Curley’s wife when Lennie kills her: “He shook her; and her body flopped like a fish. And then she was still, for Lennie had broken her neck.” (p. 84). Like a fish out of water, Curley’s wife has been gasping and struggling to breathe, before Lennie breaks her neck. The simile highlights how easily Lennie kills her and the accidental nature of her death.
When Crooks responds to Curley’s wife’s threats, Steinbeck uses a metaphor to describe how Crooks tries to protect himself: “Crooks had reduced himself to nothing. There was no personality, no ego—nothing to arouse either like or dislike.” (p. 75)