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7. Motifs: The Bad Seed?

Of Mice and Men

John Steinbeck, 1937
Famous for: Bunnies, an “interesting” perspective on women, a horrible, tragic ending.

Macbeth, like Of Mice and Men, takes a dim view of womenIn Steinbeck’s universe, the greatest bond is the brotherly bond. The relationship between George and Lennie is the axis around which the action in Of Mice and Men revolves.

As for that other great bond—the bond between men and women—Steinbeck takes a more skeptical view.

In Of Mice and Men, men may be corrupted, but it’s the women who are at fault.

 


 

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Before popular culture came up with the term “bromance”—super-special boy buddies, for those of you not in the know—Steinbeck was all about guy BFFs. At least, that was his vision of a perfect world. Here’s how his motifs back up his dream.

OK, so if you’re clued in to Steinbeck’s themes, you know a big one is about the bonds of brotherhood. Steinbeck dreamed of a land where men could work together and protect each other, free from the cares of the world.

Unfortunately, ladies, when I say “free from the cares of the world,” I mostly mean free from women. In Steinbeck’s mind, that double X chromosome is nothing but trouble. That’s why, to support Steinbeck’s theme about fraternity we have the motif of the corrupting power of women.

And think about it—that’s exactly the characterization of women that we get in this story. The only female character we meet is Curley’s wife, and what does she do?

She flirts. She teases. And she dresses like a tramp.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, let’s not forget that Steinbeck gives Curley’s wife the honor of that scene in the barn with Lennie—the one in which she tries to seduce him by letting him feel her hair. After that it’s boom, boom, boom: Lennie freaks out, snaps her neck, and George manages to shoot Lennie just before Curley’s lynch mob shows up.

Gee, Steinbeck, I never knew women were that bad.

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck | 60second Recap study guide resources

 

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