The woman accused Leonie of attempting to rape her and George and Leonie had to run for their lives out Of town. While recounting this incident, George complains that if he didn’t have to take care of Leonie he could live a normal life: “l could live so easy and maybe have a girl” George tells Leonie that they are going to bivouac a couple of miles away from the ranch so that they won’t have to work the morning shift the next day. They set up camp and George sends Leonie off to look for firewood so that they can heat up some beans.
Leonie goes off into the darkness and turns in a moment; George instantly knows from Lien’s wet feet that he has retrieved the dead mouse. He takes it from Leonie, who begins to whimper. George assures Leonie that he’ll let him pet a “fresh” mouse, just not a rotten one. They recall that Lien’s Aunt Clara, whom Leonie refers to as “a lady,” used to give Leonie mice to play with. Leonie fetches some wood and George heats up their beans. Leonie complains that they don’t have ketchup, which sets George off on a rant about having to care for Leonie. After this outburst, George feels ashamed.
Leonie apologizes and George admits that he’s “been mean” (14). Leonie passive-aggressively offers to go away and live in a cave so that George can have fun. George resolves this short argument by agreeing to Lien’s request to ‘tell about the rabbits,” which is Lien’s shorthand for “talk about how things will be for us in the future. ” George paints a picture of the future a picture he has obviously painted countless times before – in which he and Leonie have their own place on their own farm and “live off the fat of the land. ” He promises Leonie that they will have rabbit cages and that Leonie will be allowed to tend them.
Leonie repeatedly interrupts George as he tells this story, but insists that George finish it to the end. As they prepare to sleep, George reminds Leonie not to say a word during their interview with the boss the following day. He also tells Leonie that if he runs into trouble as he has so many times before, he is to return to the place where they’ve camped, hide in the brush and wait for George. Analysis John Steinbeck enduring popularity is largely the result of his ability to weave a complicated fictional reality from simple elements – simple language, simple characters, simple techniques.
One of the techniques he uses consistently is the juxtaposition of the human and the natural worlds. He often – as in The Grapes of Wrath – alternates short natural vignettes with the parallel struggles of humankind. Of Mice and Men, as is clear from the title alone, features this parallelism as well. It is a novel about the natural world “of mice” – and the social world – “and men. ” The relationship between these two worlds is not one of conflict but of comparison; he invites us to witness the similarities between the human and animal worlds. The title, Of Mice and Men, comes from an eighteenth-century poem by
Robert Burns entitled “To a Mouse. ” This poem features a couplet that has become widely known and quoted: “The best laid schemes of mice and men / Gang oft agley. ” That last phrase, written in Scottish dialect, translates as “often go wrong. ” As will become clear, the quotation relates directly to our two protagonists, who do indeed have a “scheme” to get out of the cycle of poverty and alienation that is the migrant worker’s lot: they plan to purchase a farm of their own and work on it themselves. Leonie visualizes this future possibility as near to heaven -? he can imagine nothing better than life with the rabbits. Their action in the novel is largely motivated by a desire to achieve the independence of this farm life. Poverty, in Burns’ work as well as Steinbeck, draws the human and the natural worlds closer together. During the Great Depression, in which the novel is set, workers were thrust from relative comfort to fend for themselves in a cruel and uncaring world. They face the original challenges of nature – to feed themselves, to fight for their stake. Poverty has reduced them to animals – Leonie a ponderous, powerful, imbecilic bear; George a quiet, scheming, crappy rodent of a man.
Notice how frequently the two men, particularly Leonie, are described in animal similes: Leonie drags his feet “the way a bear drags his paws” (2) and drinks from the pool “like a horse” (3). Leonie even fantasize about living in a cave like a bear. Of course, Lien’s vision of nature is hardly realistic; he thinks of nature as full Of fluffy and cute playthings. He has no notion Of the darkness in the natural world, the competition and the cruelty. He wouldn’t have the faintest notion how to feed himself without George. In this too the men balance each there: George sees the world through suspicious eyes.
He sees only the darkness where Leonie sees only the light. George may complain about how burdensome it is to care for Leonie, but this complaint seems to ring hollow: in truth, George needs Lien’s innocence as much as Leonie needs George’s experience. They complement each other, complete each other. Together, they are more than the solitary and miserable nobodies making their migrant wages during the Depression. Together, they have hope and solidarity. George’s complaint -? “Life would be so easy without Leonie” – and Lien’s counter-complaint I could just live in a cave and leave George alone” – are not really sincere.