Stylistic Elements in Of Mice and Men: Enhancing Connection and Understanding
The Power of Imagery in Of Mice and Men
In Of Mice and Men, the author, John Steinbeck, uses stylistic elements to impact how readers perceive and understand the text, allowing them to make deeper connections and relate the themes and struggles characterized in the book to their own lives. Steinbeck uses imagery, describing characters and settings in such a way that readers can visualize the depictions Steinbeck creates in order to find greater meaning in the messages and themes he conveys.
Symbolism and Themes in Of Mice and Men
Multiple examples of symbolism are found in the text, in which Steinbeck relates characters, actions, and circumstances to concepts found in everyday life. Diction, or the author’s word choice, impacts the readers’ understanding of the situations characters have to endure. Steinbeck uses these and other stylistic elements to connect with his readers and incorporate emotion and significance in the circumstances he depicts. John Steinbeck uses imagery in order to develop further understanding of the text, but also to give readers a vivid picture of what is happening throughout the book.
Order your custom essay on
In the text, Steinbeck uses imagery to describe the setting, character, and any underlying thoughts and tone that certain actions and words from characters may portray. When describing the setting in the first few pages of the novel, he goes about depicting the area in which Lennie and George — the two main characters in the book — are introduced with such depth and detail that anyone reading would have a clear picture in their head where the beginnings of the novel are taking place. He writes, “. . .a few miles south of Soledad… the Salinas River drops in close to the hillside bank and runs deep and green. . .
There is a path through the willows and among the sycamores, a path beaten hard by boys coming from the ranches. . . in front of the low horizontal limb of a giant sycamore, there is an ash pile made by many fires; the limb is worn smooth by men who have set on it.” Not only does Steinbeck portray the scenery with uttermost clarity and beauty, but he also builds a solid foundation that readers will come back to there on after. From the first thing he describes, readers are hooked, having a place they have conjured in their minds, and progressing through the story as if they were alongside the characters.
When describing characters, without fail, Steinbeck takes time to introduce them on a somewhat personal level, taking them apart piece by piece in a somewhat analytical way, describing how each character thinks, speaks, and acts. When describing Slim, Steinbeck states, “. . . there was a gravity in his manner and a quiet so profound that all talk stopped when he spoke. His authority was so great that his word was taken on any subject. . . his ear heard more than was said to him, and his slow speech had overtones not of thought, but of understanding beyond thought.” Steinbeck uses imagery to create a picture inside of the reader’s head—as imagery often does—and creates a higher concept of meaning and understanding of any particular event. By describing characters and settings in the way that he does, readers can have a deeper grasp of how events might unfold and how a character’s personality or traits, or the setting in which they reside, may contribute to the overall concept and themes of the novel.
Steinbeck’s use of imagery allows readers to understand the text in a different light and perspective, and through this, they are able to understand the underlying messages and meaning of the words within. As well as imagery, Steinbeck uses symbolism in his writing to represent certain ideas and concepts through different people and events. For example, throughout the story, Lennie constantly mentions his obsession with owning rabbits on his and George’s dream farm. In one such event, where Lennie and George are talking about their future farm, Lennie exclaims eagerly, ‘An’ rabbits . . . An I’d take care of ‘em. Tell how I’d do that, George . . . They’d nibble an’ they’d nibble.’ For Lennie, these rabbits symbolize his goal and dream. They serve as a motivation for him, for as long as there is the prospect of owning rabbits and a farm with George, he is happy.
Another example of symbolism throughout the story is Candy’s dog. Carlson—one of the workers on the ranch— describes the dog as ‘all stiff with rheumatism. He ain’t no good to himself . . . This ol’ dog jus’ suffers himself all the time.’ Many of the workers of the ranch want Candy’s dog dead, not just because he reeks, but because he is old and appears to be suffering. In the story, Candy’s dog represents an object or idea that people often are reluctant to let go of.
Just as Candy was unwilling to kill his dog, people are often averse to the notion of giving up or letting go of something they have had for a long time. Steinbeck uses symbolism to connect seemingly normal or regular objects to real-world concepts and ideas. This gives a deeper meaning for readers analyzing his text, as a person or object in his story may symbolize something different for each individual person. It allows readers to link Of Mice and Men with their everyday lives, letting them not only understand the text better but also view their own lives in a seemingly different perspective and light.
Evoking Realism Through Diction
John Steinbeck uses diction in character dialogue to achieve verisimilitude or realism and in descriptions of events, characters, or scenery to impact how readers perceive and understand the story being written. Published in 1937, Of Mice and Men tells the story of two low-class men trying to find work during the Great Depression, a time characterized by a lack of income and an increase in the number of itinerant workers. The Great Depression represents the loneliness, suffering, and adversity that many men faced. Through this, Steinbeck conveys how their circumstances impact workers’ persona and actions and how Lennie and George use their friendship and their hope for a brighter future to overcome the alienation and hardship many other workers experience. Using this, John Steinbeck writes with that of the vernacular of low-income, uneducated men to make the novel more realistic.
During the novel, after Candy and George find Curley’s wife dead in the stable, Candy, in anger, shouts at Curley’s wife, “You God damn tramp . . . You did it, didn’t you? I s’pose your glad. Ever’bodyknowed you’d mess things up. You wasn’t no good. You ain’t no good now, you lousy tart.” Candy’s way of speaking reflects that of an old, broken man who has lost all hope for a pleasant future. Steinbeck uses this diction in Candy’s speech to elicit sympathy from readers. It allows them to empathize with the man, thus making Curley’s wife’s death more significant and memorable to readers. As well as in dialogue, Steinbeck uses diction in his descriptions. Steinbeck uses phrases such as “her body flopped like a fish,” “a water snake glided smoothly up the pool, twisting its periscope head”, and “the crash of the shot rolled up the hills and rolled down again.”
In some situations, Steinbeck uses word choice in figurative language, such as similes and imagery. This impacts how readers perceive the text and how they imagine or understand the story. As well as this, Steinbeck uses diction to develop a greater interest in the detail for readers, creating such intricate art through words when describing something seemingly bland and simple. Steinbeck’s use of words not only creates a sense of realism but also allows readers to connect and relate to characters and events, furthering their understanding of the plot and concepts Steinbeck conveys.
Overcoming Adversity and Building Connections
In the author’s portrayal of circumstances and actions, Lennie and George— and how they respond to their situation— are somewhat of an oddity in comparison to the overall actions and perceptions that were consistent in most men at the time of the Great Depression. Their dream serves as a motivation for them to keep going, and their friendship and reliance on one another keep them from experiencing the alienation and loneliness that characterizes the itinerant workers of that time period.
John Steinbeck’s use of stylistic elements not only helps readers understand the text at a fundamental level but also allows readers to use their comprehension of characters, settings, and plots and connect these concepts to their view of the world around them. Steinbeck, through his use of stylistic elements, displays how circumstances affect other’s actions but also how the responses of individuals to adversity or oppression may vary depending on personal attitudes and perceptions of life.
- Steinbeck, J. (1937). Of Mice and Men. Penguin Books.
- Steinbeck, J. (1965). Introduction. In Of Mice and Men (pp. 1-3). Penguin Books.
- Hayashi, T. (2017). The Use of Imagery in John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men. Retrieved from https://www.grin.com/document/379343
- Wohlpart, J. V. (2004). The Relationship Between Setting and Theme in John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men. Steinbeck Review, 1(1), 50-60. doi:10.1111/j.1540-5818.2004.00006.x
- Mitchell, C. R. (1998). Of Mice and Metaphors: Therapeutic Storytelling with Children. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 29(6), 555-562. doi:10.1037/0735-7028.29.6.555
- Weiger, K. (2013). Symbols and Symbolism in Of Mice and Men. Retrieved from https://www.123helpme.com/preview.asp?id=16867
- Rodabaugh, S. L. (2007). Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath and Of Mice and Men: A Conversation with Historiography. Steinbeck Review, 4(1), 64-79. doi:10.1111/j.1754-6087.2007.tb00258.x
- Gunning, T. (2016). John Steinbeck’s Use of Realism. Retrieved from https://prezi.com/nnrlwgiogklr/john-steinbecks-use-of-realism/
- Shumaker, L. L. (2001). John Steinbeck: The Influence of the Great Depression. Retrieved from https://www.steinbeck.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/john-steinbeck-the-influence-of-the-great-depression.pdf
- Roberts, J. L. (2013). John Steinbeck: A Literary Reference to His Life and Work. Infobase Publishing.