John Steinbeck’s novella “Of Mice and Men” follows the story of George Milton and Lennie Small, two American migrant workers, as they attempt to actualise their dream of owning a little piece of land during the Great Depression. The internal conflict for George about whether to care for Lennie was important to the text as a whole because it provided readers with a deeper understanding of the difficulty of kindness to exist in 1930s - a central idea. Conversely, the external conflict between Curley’s wife (CW) and Crooks, Candy and Lennie was important to the text as a whole because it enabled readers to understand that many of the characters were hostile due to isolation. After reading his novella, Steinbeck desires that his readers will have a greater appreciation of the difficulty of being a migrant worker in 1930s-America.
The internal conflict George experienced regarding whether to care for Lennie was important to the text as a whole because it revealed a central idea - the difficulty of kindness to exist in a cruel world. Lennie Small is an intellectually impaired individual who is unable to remember much of what he experiences - consequently, he is a bane on George’s life because he forces George to serve as a parental figure while also looking after himself. In the opening part of this novella, Lennie forgets that they have no ketchup seconds after George reminded him and George explodes, “God a’mighty, if I was alone I could live so easy. I could get a job an’ work … An’ whatta I got? I got you! You can’t keep a job and you lose me every job I get.” Here, readers see the emotional and financial toll that caring for Lennie - displaying kindness - has oon George. Later in the text, George tells Slim, another character on the ranch, “'Course Lennie’s a God damn nuisance most of the time.” Again, it becomes apparent how difficult caring for Lennie is for George - having to manage, look after and sacrifice for another person while he is only managing to survive - and thus for kindness to persist. Conversely, we see George’s love for Lennie as he tells him, “Guys like us, that work on ranches, are the loneliest guys in the world. They got no family. They don’t belong no place … With us, it ain’t like that. We got somebody to talk to that gives a damn about us.” His relationship with Lennie - displaying kindness - although taxing is obviously beneficial as he has family in Lennie and a sense of belonging.
However, at the end of the novella, George’s efforts are in vain as he must kill Lennie (in mercy) as Lennie unknowingly kills CW. Hence, through George’s own internal conflict, readers are exposed to the difficulty of kindness to exist in 1930s-America. After realising that he must kill Lennie, George remarks, “I should’ve knew … maybe way back in my head I did”; he should have known that kindness would be unable to persist.
This conflict was important to the text as a whole as it allowed readers to understand the social setting. One of the reasons Steinbeck wrote this novella was to paint the bleak image of life as a migrant worker - this idea, the difficulty of kindness to persist in a cruel world, was important to the text as a whole as it allowed readers to view the novella from the lens that Steinbeck intended.
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