Steinbeck’s “Of Mice And Men” Essay, Research Paper
Throughout history, many groups of people have been the target of persecution by a much larger or more dominant group, often the common people. Among these groups are or were: blacks, the disabled, women, children, the elderly, and members of other religions. In John Steinbeck?s ?Of Mice and Men?, three characters were regarded as outcasts by the majority of workers on the ranch: Lennie, mentally disabled, Candy, an elder and amputee, and Crooks, a black.
In the time frame in which the novella is set, a mentally disabled person was often seen by others as incapacitated, retarded, and a waste of the caregiver?s time. In Lennie?s case, he was first seen as useless, but when he was put to work, he was doing a much better job than most others around him. However, his child-like mentality caused several problems: he very rarely remembered what people told him, he became fixated on one subject (rabbits), and he became confused or clueless as to what to do if he heard someone scream or yell. This explains how he accidentally killed Curley?s wife. In the end, as previously foreshadowed, George grew sick of dragging Lennie around, and eventually shot him.
The reason for amputees being labeled as outcasts is obvious: they are missing limbs, which makes them useless in some fields of employment, including farming, one where many people lose hands or arms. Candy is the ranch?s amputee, but the reader does not know whether or not his disability was caused by a farming accident. Being an amputee, Candy was given a somewhat degrading job compared to others: pushing a broom. Not only are humans targeted, but Candy?s dog is also considered an outcast, due to his age, odour, and physical strength. Eventually, Slim shot Candy?s dog, putting an end to its pain.
For decades, blacks were the largest minority group in the United States, and it wasn?t until the 1960?s that blacks were officially recognized as persons in the U.S. On the ranch, Crooks wasn?t given much more than his job and a small space in the barn. He wasn?t permitted to participate in any social events, nor was he allowed to speak to any whites, 99% of the people on the ranch. The only person who actually saw Crooks as a real man was Lennie, who came in and, as usual, told him about his & George?s master plan to run their own farm and ?tend the rabbits.?
Today, there are many programs assisting the physically, mentally, and developmentally disabled, blacks are dominant in the entertainment industry, and there are more humane ways of abandoning a domesticated animal than taking it out into a field and shooting it. But 65 years ago, such events would be unheard of.
Steinbeck, John. 1937. Of Mice and Men. New York: Penguin Books.