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    How Does Steinbeck’s Use of Animal Imagery Enhance the Plot or Characters in of Mice and Men? Essay

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    John Steinbeck, the author of the novel Of Mice and Men, wrote this Nobel Prize winning novel to ‘challenge his readers sense of values and morals and also to increase their awareness of the horrible things that people are capable of doing’ (John Pinder, Wiki Answers [online, accessed 14th March 2010], http://wiki. answers. com/Q/Why_did_steinbeck_write_’Of_mice_and_men’). Steinbeck has enhanced the plot and characters in the novel through clever use of animal imagery foreshadowing certain events and giving further insight into many of the characters.

    Steinbeck has cleverly used animal imagery to give further insight into many characters in the novel. He has done this through Candy’s relationship with his dog; Lennie’s infatuation with rabbits and frequently describing Lennie as a bear. Candy’s relationship with his dog almost exactly replicates George and Lennie’s relationship. Candy and his dog have been together “since he was a pup” (1937, p. 45) and although the dog was old and useless he doesn’t “mind takin’ care of him” (1937, p. 46).

    This is very similar to George and Lennie’s relationship as George had been looking after Lennie for a long time and even though he thinks about “the swell time” (1937, p. 14) he could have without Lennie he wants Lennie “to stay with [him]” (1937, p. 15). Rabbits are frequently brought up in the novel and are one of the few things Lennie actually remembers. Steinbeck has used rabbits to give an insight into Lennie’s character as rabbit’s are very similar to Lennie. Rabbits are innocent and simple minded, much like Lenny. The repetition of Lennie worrying about not getting to “tend no rabbits” (1937, p. 5) assists the reader in understanding Lennie’s innocence and simple mindedness. Throughout the novel Steinbeck has described many of Lennie’s physical and mental attributes as those of a bear. He has described the way Lennie drags his feet similar to “the way a bear drags his paws” (1937, p. 4) and when Lennie suggests he “can go right off there an’ find a cave” (1937, p. 99) to live in this also mimics a bears mentality. By doing this Steinbeck helps the reader to understand how large and simple Lennie is. Steinbeck’s use of animal imagery to foreshadow certain events in the novel has proven effective in enhancing the plot.

    Using animal imagery Steinbeck has foreshadowed: the death of Lenny with Candy’s dog; the death of Curley’s wife with Lennie’s pup and the failure of their dream with rabbits. Lennie’s death was foreshadowed by Candy’s dog being killed. Similarly to how Lennie and George’s relationship is viewed, Candy’s old dog “ain’t no good to [Candy] an’ he ain’t no good to himself” (1937, p. 45). Lennie “ain’t bright” (1937, p. 24) but “he’s a god damn good worker” (1937, p. 24), this is similar to Candy’s dog as he was “the best damn sheepdog I ever seen” (1937, p. 45).

    These similarities Lenny and Candy’s dog share creates a link between them, and when Candy’s dog is shot by Carlson because “he don’t have no fun” (1937, p. 45) it foreshadows Lenny being shot. Candy later regrets not shooting his own dog, and after explaining this to George it tells the reader that something bad is going to happen and George is going to have to shoot his own old dog; Lennie. Steinbeck has used the pup Lennie received from Slim to foreshadow the death of Curley’s wife. Lennie “wants to touch ever’thing he likes” (1937, p. 41) and the soft fur of his pup was too much for him to resist petting too hard.

    He killed his pup accidently and this foreshadows the death of Curley’s wife as it is known by the reader that she is very flirtatious and Lennie would take any opportunity to touch her. When Lennie gets the opportunity to touch her hair he cannot stop and when she panics so does he and he kills her. Steinbeck also foreshadows the failure of their dream to live on a farm with the rabbits. As all Lennie sees in the dream is for him to “tend the rabbits” (1937, p. 104), this highlights a major flaw in their dream. It is inevitable that Lennie would kill the rabbits and thus crushing his dream.

    This foreshadows the downfall of their dream when Lennie kills Curley’s wife and is shot by George. Steinbeck’s effective use of animal imagery enhances the plot and the characters in the novel. He has given further insight into many key characters and with his use of foreshadowing through animal imagery has enhanced the plot. His use of animal imagery has helped enable this short novel to be rich in meaning and cleverly written. His use of animal imagery keeps the reader guessing and effectively allows them to further explore the characters and plot.

    This essay was written by a fellow student. You may use it as a guide or sample for writing your own paper, but remember to cite it correctly. Don’t submit it as your own as it will be considered plagiarism.

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