I’ve decided to concentrate on the book “Of Mice and Men.” John Steinbeck’s novel describes the parable of what it is to be human. The tale of Lennie and George’s dream of buying a ranch and the struggles that come with it exemplifies the essence of isolation, sacrifice, dream, and integrity. It’s ironic that Lennie, the mentally challenged giant, helps to justify George’s desire to own a ranch but then becomes a stumbling block in George’s pursuit of that desire. George and Lennie, two wandering spirits, are distinct in appearance and stature but identical in spirit. The true foundation of friendship is expressed in this relationship. However, Lennie irritates George at the beginning of Steinbeck novel by stating a simple luxury but George recoils by exclaiming “I could live so easy, I could get a job and work, an’ no trouble” (Steinbeck 11). The specific element of the relationship between George and Lennie is more than just a coincidence. It shows how Lennie ignores any memory or command of anyone other than George. However, this paper seeks to discuss the world of “Of Mice and Men” through the lens of a critical approach, theme of the novel that’s most important using this approach and what the approach shows about the Author’s choice of this world.
The lens of one particular critical approach I think it is well used to discuss the world of “Of Mice and Men is the Jungian approach. Jungian is the best psychological approach to analyze critically the novel of “Of Mice and Men. There are many approaches in this lens of psychological aspect such as Freudian approach and Marxist approach but Jungian stand out to be the best in this novel because the most important theme to me in the novel is the struggle with the idea of “self”. Therefore, using this approach will enable the reader to comprehend the primary character, his actions and ultimately its influences. Carl Jung, a psychoanalyst, believed in the theory of individuation and hence came up with the Jungian approach. According to Carl Jung (35), the impression of individuation is to find out what makes people different from other. The Jungian approach looks at personality theory that talks about introvert and extrovert. Introvert personality is stimulated from within while extrovert personality is stimulated by the external environment. Introvert and extrovert personality is further subdivided into four types based on the functions that regulate how someone perceives the world. This includes intuition, feeling, sensation and thinking. The Jungian approach also focuses on human psych that dictates conscious and unconscious of a person such as personal unconscious and ego (Jung 37).
The Jungian approach focuses on the change of the main character in the novel from a typical generation of agriculture to the generation of an industrial age. In this case the two main characters, Lennie and George can be perceived as one person developing from another. However, the Jungian approach helps the reader to understand how the relationship between these two men contributes to the conclusion of the novel. The main character, George is used to representing a man or persona’s social responsibility. The reader views George as quick-witted, arrogant and short-tempered. At the beginning of the novel, the reader is able to get the kind of relationship that George and Lennie have. George says, “If I’m alone, I could get a job, work and have no trouble” (Steinbeck 11). This means that George chooses to take care of another man, Lennie but he is not obligated. Throughout the novel, George never wafts from his main responsibility of taking care of Lennie but he keeps complaining. When his relationship with Lennie was questioned he went to an extent of lying. He said Lennie is his cousin knowing that they are not related. George says “He is my cousin. I promised his old lady that I will take care of him. He got kicked on his head by a horse when he was a child. He is a Wright, ain’t bright but he can do whatever you tell him to do” (Steinbeck 22). This speech highlights the impression of Jung’s character and the verity that is a concession between a person and the world in which an individual desires.
The most important theme of the novel to me using Jungian approach is the struggle with the idea of “self” because it enables the reader to understand primary characters, their actions and ultimately its influences. The impression of individuation is to find out what makes people different from other. The Jungian approach looks at the theory that explains the introvert and extrovert personality. In the novel, the theme of struggling with “self” is seen in the loneliness among the migrant workers, George and Lennie who works and walks together. Both of these two men are working at farmland of Salina’s valley in California. During this time the world was in depression due to Wall Street crash in America. Therefore, the rate of unemployment was high and people had to move around looking for a job. This means that people have never been together to form a relationship which shows a world of loneliness. George and Lennie were to work in a very primitive and isolated ranch that was established by Steinbeck. George says” Ranch worker are the loneliest people in the world and they don’t know anywhere, they got no family, nothing to look ahead to…” (Steinbeck 45). In this speech, the reader sees clearly how the life of ranch workers was lonely.
The author also uses characterization such as sexism, racism, and ageism to express the message of loneliness. A good example is where George meets an old decaying Candy with his very old dog and told him about the “black” person called Crook. Candy says to George, “Give the stable buck hell, Ya see the stable buck nigger” (Steinbeck 65). This shows that, in the world of 1930’s, black people were perceived inferior to white people in America. They could not sit together with white. Crooks had to remain indoors because white claimed that he is stinking and his hands were dirty to play the cards with them. He suffered from racial discrimination as the only black person in the ranch. For being lonely, he was not friendly and he could leave his personal possessions scattered on the floor of his own bunk in a separate nigger room.
Carl Jung believed in the concept of individuation which brought about the Jungian approach. In the Steinbeck novella “Of Mice and Men”, this concept gives the impression of how relationship leads to a struggle with an idea of ‘self’. This theme helps the reader to understand how Steinbeck proves the relationship makes people understand their differences and their need to each for self-discovery. Through the story, it is shown how Lennie helped George to know what makes people different from each other through friendship, needs for each other and responsibility. George was able to learn more about himself and friendship due to Lennie’s presence. A good example is where George tells his friend about his friendship with Lennie. He says, “Lennie travels together with me from work and we kinda getting used to each other little by little” (Steinbeck 90). George means that Lennie has a different personality from any other person but their relationship still continues growing despite that. The more George spends time with Lennie the more he is accepting his differences and appreciating their friendship. The presence of Lennie makes George realize Lennie is his friend.
Another area that shows how the relationship between George and Lennie enhances their friendship is when Candy talks to George about his antiquate dog. Candy states, “Well hell, I had him for so long. I had him since he was a pup….we herded the sheep together, you wouldn’t think it to look him now. He is the best damn sheepdog I ever saw” (Steinbeck 43). In this speech, Candy was referring his old dog about the friendship they have had together and how the time they have spent together have assisted their attachment. George associated this with Lennie and believed that the longer they will stay together the stronger their bond will become.
There are several ways that using Jungian approach reveals about the John Steinbeck choice of “Of Mice and Men”. Jungian Approach is based on the concept of Individuation according to Jung (39). Based on this concept, the reader can understand the essence of author’s choice of this world. John Steinbeck wrote this novel when the world was in total depression due to Street Wall crash in America. The level of unemployment was so high. There was no relationship among people since everyone was walking up and down looking for a job. Loneliness existed in the world. John Steinbeck skillfully crafted a novel of “Of Mice and Men” to deal with the theme of ‘outsiders’. The ‘outsider’ in this case is a person who does not flow along with the mainstream of society. Steinbeck stimulates the idea of loneliness throughout the novel. The Jungian approach mainly captures how the author addresses the theme of Loneliness and prejudice in his choice beside loyalty and friendship.
Use of this approach makes the reader raise a question in his mind about how the author based the novel on loneliness. The first line of the novel gives a clever idea of the author, “A few miles south of Soledad” (Steinbeck 10). Soledad is a Spanish word that means loneliness. I think the title of “Of Mice and Men” might be a warning to the whole novel as it is derived from a poem written by Robbie Burns known as “To a Mouse” which means no matter how well we may plan the future, things always go wrong. Steinbeck uses the character of Curley’s wife to portray the effect of loneliness on people in the novel. The way of people’s life and action is affected when they get exposed to loneliness. Steinbeck is able to draw a true picture of poor people he met in California especially the migrant farm worker, American, and Mexican, in 1930 (Sinises n.d). The plight of the migrant is the obvious elements of social protest in Steinbeck work. The underscored fact is that the characters in “Of Mice and Men” novel have no social awareness of their situation and the cause of that.
On the other hand, Jungian approach tilts the lens of Author’s Marxist perspective to help the reader see the world of “Of Mice and Men” in a different angle. George and Lennie are deprived of their homes just like a mouse deprived of its habitat due to industrialization in America. They became the blue-collar class who the capitalist bought their labor-power for profit because the capitalist class was the owner of that factor of production. As all men yearn for a land that is what Lennie fundamentally and innocently did. He kept dreaming of having a rabbit ranch to an extent of telling George to shape and facilitate that dream (Sinise n.d). There is no place for black people in the society that discriminate people on racial bases. Crooks, the stableman suffers from poverty, lack of companion and lack of a home. The desire for a companionship dominates in this world. The effect of this desire results in the death of Curly’s wife. Curly’s wife went to Lennie looking for a companion. In the process, her neck was broken and she died. George had to kill Lennie in the fear of him suffering in the hands of Curly. He was frustrated since the death of Lennie aborted his dream (Sinise n.d).
Steinbeck shows how proletarians were weak in all dimensions because of their lower economic and social position since they had no political power like capitalists. From the beginning, Steinbeck shows how capitalist world is hostile to the poor migrants. In this world, the reader notices that Candy realizes his situation after his dog shot by Carlson. He is old as the dog and the dog is useless to boss now. He might even have a worse situation than that of his dog such as being left alone in the world, poor and old. Candy gives the money he was paid by the boss after losing his hand at the ranch to Lennie and George in order to bring him to live once they own a ranch. His only hope was in companionship with George and Lennie so that when they possess a land they will take care of him but the hope was shattered by the death of Lennie.
Jung, Carl. Individuation: Philosophy, Analytical Psychology, and the Question of the Feminine. Routledge, 2013.
“Of Mice and Men”. Directed by Gary Sinise, Perf. George Milton, Lennie Small,Curley,Slim and Candy. 2013. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1939.
Steinbeck, John. Of Mice and Men. Penguin Books, 2012.