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Essay/Term paper: Of mice and men: burdens of responsibility

Essay, term paper, research paper:  Literary Essays

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Of Mice and Men: Burdens of Responsibility


By evaluating the novel of mice and men carefully I have found that every
character in the novel has a
facet of life that consists of burdens and responsibilities. The characters in
the novel basically have three options in which they can live their lives. They
can knuckle down, work hard, keep a positive frame of mind and try earnestly to
improve their standard of living. An example of this is would be George Milton
and Lennie Small. The other option is to walk around with a chip on their
shoulder, not bother to improve oneself but eradicate those around him or her
that serve as a frustration or nuisance. An ideal example of this would be
Curley when he decides to target Lennie as a'frustration' and subsequently
attacks him with no real valid reason apart from jealousy and spite. The last
option concerns Candy and Crooks to an extent. They live a fairly meaningless
life void of love and affection. They have few friendships and cling to anyone
who shows them sincere attention. An example of this is when Lennie has a
conversation with Crooks and he expresses his feelings of loneliness. Another
example is when Carlson shoots Candy's dog. Candy becomes very eager to attach
himself to George and lennie and purchase a house with them as a result of the
loss of his only real love in his life.

The responsibilities of aspiration and hope play a major role in the structure
of George, Lennie and Curley's wife's character. To an extent their aspirations
protect them from reality for short stints and acts like a recharge to their
motivational batteries. This is a good thing more often than not. Examples of
these instances are when Lennie and George are sitting on the bank of a pool of
the Salinas river in the last chapter. George is in the process of telling
Lennie how together they are "gonna get a little place." He does this because he
knows it makes Lennie happy and he wants Lennie's last thoughts to be of his
ideal world not terror. George then shoots Lennie in the back of the head doing
whats best for everyone, and Lennie dies in a state of utopia, his reward. An
example of Curley's wife's hopes is when she finally finds a person around the
ranch who sees her not as an object of lust but someone to talk to. This person
is Lennie. Of course he subsequently snaps her neck when they are both in a
state of hysteria, but for a brief moment she was a step closer to her hope.
Talking to Lennie was her reward in a sense.

The responsibilities of friendship, whether it be marriage as with Curley and
his wife or mateship as in Lennie and George's situation, also play a vital role.
George and Lennie's friendship is an ideal one where they both respect, help and
love each other in their eyes. There is an example of this unity at the start of
the novel when both George and Lennie are sitting around a fire ready to make
dinner. Referring to their baked beans Lennie makes the comment of "I like "em
with ketchup." After this comment George explodes into a verbal rage explaining
how he could have so much fun by himself and how much of a burden Lennie is to
him. When George finishes his "speech' Lennie attempts to reconcile by
explaining to George how he could go and live in a cave in the hills. This "
guilt trip' delivers a realisation to George that he has been nasty. They then
patch things up by discussing their utopia. Curley and his wife's marriage is
filled with mixed emotions and motives. Curley is filled with disgust for his
wife for marrying such a poor choice of a "man' and he expresses this by
attempting to control her, ever worried that she will cheat on him. He is very
paranoid. She used him to get out of a situation she was not comfortable with
and is now in a worse one where she cannot communicate with anyone properly.
She has become a prisoner. Curley and his wife take a negative approach towards
their marriage therefore getting little out of the relationship and no real
rewards. George and Lennie on the other hand "feed' off each other in a sense
and grow in responsibility and love.

The rewards of responsibility vary in size and quality. As a result of George
and Lennie's commitment towards each other they are rewarded with friendship and
companionship. Crooks's alienation delivers to him humility and a realisation
of how it is very difficult to function without friendship, he has gained
knowledge at a price. His bitterness and anger also get him through life unlike
Candy. Curley's wife's reward has turned into a burden, she is free from her
mother but no longer is granted a social life. Candy had his hand severed off at
work and is rewarded by compensation and an easier workload. But he is disabled
and lonely due to the departure of his dog making his life sad and without
meaning. Due to Curley's bloodlines he probably never will get retrenched, but
no body likes him not even his wife.

In my opinion the burdens outweigh the rewards of responsibility in this novel.
In some ways it is rather macabre that John Steinbeck builds his characters up
to their most probable height of achieving their utopia and then kills them or
part of them off. But in another perspective this style of writing is quite
ingenuitive because the main characters set out with a goal and when they manage
to grasp a fragment of it they wither away or die. This is as if their purpose
in the story has been served. Their services are no longer needed to help get
the message across that life can either be a responsibility of burdens or a
rewards full of responsibilities.


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