Symbolism in Of Mice and Men
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Steinbeck includes several symbols in Of Mice and Men that add depth to the story. George and Lennie's farm is one of the most powerful and important symbols in the novel. As George talks about the farm that they will one day have to grow crops and livestock, it develops into an ideal of freedom. This mythical farm seduces everyone that hears George talk about it. They, too, hanker for the freedom of living off the land as one's own master instead of having to constantly struggling to survive from the scraps of a failing society.
Animals also play important roles as symbols in Of Mice and Men. Lennie's puppy, for instance, is a symbol of how the strong can destroy weaker things in the world. Lennie is physically strong, so he easily crushes the puppy by accident. The death of this innocent puppy, however, also foreshadows the death of Lennie, who is also innocent in his own way because he lacks the intellectual capacity to understand cause and effect in the world.
Candy's old dog is another animal used symbolically in Of Mice and Men. Candy's dog was once a great worker on the farm. As it aged, though, it became less useful. As his usefulness wanes, Carlson insists on killing the dog. Even though he says he will kill the animal painlessly, the dog still stands as a symbol of how weaker members of society are disposed of casually by those with more strength.