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13. The early 1930s was a time of poverty, homelessness, and pain in the United States. Families were breaking apart. Violence in the form of labor strikes and an impending world war was in the air. All of these feelings are mirrored in the ranch of Of Mice and Men. The ranch is filled with characters who are more symbolic than real. As such, they represent various aspects of American society in the 1930s. George and Lennie are the working class looking for a better life but unable to overcome the system that holds them down. Candy is old age, no longer respected as in the past but instead pushed aside. Crooks is the black man turned into a "rugger" and isolated from the rest of society. Curley's wife shows us that love has become empty and is often replaced by lust.
Steinbeck's style in the novel also indicates that he intended the book to be more of an allegory than a narration, and his ranch to be more of a microcosm than a real place. His themes are obvious and his characterizations are only sketchily developed. Steinbeck is making a social statement in the book while he tells a story.
14. By titling the book Something That Happened, Steinbeck would have demonstrated his feeling that there is no power controlling what happens in this world. Things just happen. Nature goes on, bringing with it life and death. People come into the world and go out of it, and they are only barely noticed. Life is fairly mechanical. Throughout the novel there is a sense of the ending's being inevitable. There is no way for George and Lennie to prevent the impending tragedy. In that sense, the events that occur are just "some things that happen."
The title Of Mice and Men adds to this view. The new title illustrates that we will still strive to develop schemes to overcome our small role in the universe. We will build hopes to find a better world. But in the end we will fail. The first title would give readers a sense of emptiness; the second title gives them a feeling of pain.
15. Faced with the poverty and emptiness of their lives, most of the people on the ranch have isolated themselves from others. People are always moving into and out of their lives, such as the cleanness freak whose bunk George takes over or the former ranch hand who wrote the letter to the magazine. Their aloneness is a way of protecting themselves. The most obvious example of this is Crooks. He has been forced to live alone, but he has turned his lean-to into a personal sanctum. The characters seem to know that opening themselves up to relationships with others can expose them to the danger of being rejected or of the pain of losing a friend. Perhaps these feelings are what motivate Crooks to frighten Lennie with his story of George's deserting him in Chapter 4.
Having this mentality, the characters are naturally suspicious of George and Lennie's partnership. Why are these two men traveling together? Why are they looking for permanence in the vision of a farm of their own? They feel, like the boss, that George must be out to exploit Lennie. Or they feel, like Curley's wife, that the relationship is just a front.
In the end, the skeptics turn out to be right. Relationships in the world of the ranch are doomed to failure.