Steinbeck’s opening to his novel; ‘Of Mice and Men’ is an interesting and captivating beginning. It introduces many of the novel’s key themes as well as having an intriguing introduction to the main characters with considerable foreshadowing even in those first few pages of the book.
Steinbeck introduces his authorial technique from the start of the story by starting with a very positive beginning all about the beauty of nature; even during the great depression the country was charming. He uses simple but effective adjectives, such as ‘warm’ ‘deep’ and ‘rocky’ this makes the story appeal to everyday people because they can then connect with the story more and it makes it feel more realistic. This first page links to the theme of isolation because people are not mentioned very much, the slight comments on people indicate to the loneliness of people. There is no reference to more than one person being there at once, a further sign of loneliness in the novel.
Very soon after the first humans are mentioned you are introduced to the book’s main characters, George and Lennie. Steinbeck has made the introduction so soon, so that it is clear who the main characters are, and to be able to start showing the themes of his novel. There is an immediate link to authority, ‘even in the open one stayed behind the other’ this clearly suggests towards one of the men having the position of a leader over the other one. On the other hand there is an indication of them being similar, ‘Both were dressed in denim trousers and in denim coats’ as both men are wearing the same clothes there is a hint to the fact that the authority has been established by the two men; it is not to do with their class in society. Steinbeck wants to show that authority can be established between friends. The men are wearing migrant uniforms, in the great depression; migrant workers travelled the country looking for work. This in itself suggests the theme of loneliness as many of these men were forced to travel alone and had very few friends due to their consistent moving around the country. There being two men means that they are not as lonely as many and so Steinbeck introduces us to a new idea; friendship.
Steinbeck is very favourable towards detailed description of characters. George is described as ‘small and quick, dark of face, with restless eyes,’ he is still using reasonably simple vocabulary, but it is very effective. George having ‘restless eyes,’ shows that Steinbeck wishes the reader to see him as anxious, it is foreshadowing, though as yet it is not clear what his worry is. Describing him as ‘quick,’ also indicates that he has a good mind, that he is clever; both reasons for him being a valuable leader over his partner. Steinbeck’s description of George shows that he wants George to be the leader and main character of the book, despite this is he also wants people to enjoy reading about Lennie’s little ways, these are essential to the story.
Steinbeck has made Lennie’s description very similar language wise, with simple adjectives used to great effect. ‘Huge man, shapeless of face, with large, pale eyes,’ making him like this immediately impresses on the reader that he is not especially clever and needs leadership. Steinbeck writing that he has ‘large, pale eyes’ holds a strong link to him being innocent, like a child. He does not know what is happening and clearly does not feel a reason for being worried about where he is heading. Later, further description says, ‘the ways a bear drags his paws.’ This reference to being like a bear gives the impression that Lennie is extremely strong. Another suggestion towards Steinbeck wanting the reader to know that Lennie is like an animal, ‘snorting into the water like a horse.’ This also insinuates towards him being strong, as both a bear and a horse are strong animals. The reference to the horse links with the idea that Lennie follows someone who has authority over him, as a horse follows his master. Here you can see that Steinbeck has put a lot of work into the animal imagery in ‘Of Mice And Men.’ The other point which it is possible to infer from this is that Lennie has very little clue of manners and is, in many ways, a little boy in a man’s body. Steinbeck did this so as to foreshadow that Lennie’s strength might cause problems in the novel.
Steinbeck portrays Lennie as looking up to George as though they were father and son. Lennie… imitated George exactly.’ Lennie is clearly shown to admire George very much, he values their friendship and as does George, because in America at this time having a long-lasting friendship was rare and was the best gift to have. Steinbeck added this friendship in because he wanted unique characters and relationships in the book. Life was difficult so having a friend was a useful coping strategy; Lennie is also an important character for Steinbeck because he helps George to find work as Lennie is such an able worker due to his strength. George is portrayed by Steinbeck as someone who appreciates being able to care for somebody because he shows that he truly loves Lennie ‘You never oughta drink water when it ain’t running,’ this shows that Steinbeck wants the reader to know that George has Lennie’s best interests at heart.
Overall, Steinbeck has been very successful in introducing both his main characters and his themes. His use of language is effective and engaging and his authorial technique is clear. He has done a marvellous job of creating a realistic setting for his novel.
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