Of Mice and Men Essay

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Submitted: September 21, 2009

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Submitted: September 21, 2009

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Of Mice and Men Essay
 
As often discrimination is demonstrated in Of Mice and Men, one would think that John Steinbeck saw humans as afraid or disgusted by someone who is different. If a person is not a certain standard of normal, it seems that people will cast them out. Physical and mental handicaps, race, gender, whatever it is, they all appear to be excuses for this behavior. Is it possible that discrimination—hate—is only a product of a person’s fear of something outside of the norm?
Lennie is a gentle giant who is often misjudged in Of Mice and Men. Lennie is mentally handicapped and because of this, the men on the ranch often refer to him as a “crazy bastard” in the book. He’s often excluded from nights out and games other men play, like horseshoes. In chapter four, Crooks, the black stable buck, said this to Lennie when he talked about the dream he had about tending rabbits, “You’re crazy as a wedge.” Because Lennie isn’t bright, people seem to misunderstand him. For example, when George and Lennie were kicked out of Weed, it was because Lennie had grabbed a woman’s dress, just to feel. The woman misunderstood this action and he was accused of rape when he refused to let go of her dress because the woman’s screaming frightened him. Lennie is discriminated against mainly because he is misunderstood by most, excluding George. George always knew that Lennie never did anything bad “out of meanness”. When Lennie accidentally killed Curley’s wife, Curley didn’t see it that way and wanted to shoot him in the stomach and make him suffer. George knew otherwise and, sadly, decided to kill him painlessly to protect him.
The ranch hands discriminate against Curley’s wife, often referred to as a tart by them. Because of her apparent sexuality, the men on the ranch ignore and never want anything to do with her. Because she is Curley’s wife and Curley is an easily wound up former boxer, they see her as trouble. All of the men are sure that she would try to seduce them and then they would get in trouble and be fired by the boss. So, she’s only ever allowed to talk to Curley and always feels lonely because of it. She doesn’t like Curley in the least and doesn’t enjoy being around him. In chapter five, she said to Lennie, “Wha’s the matter with me? Ain’t I got a right to talk to nobody? Whatta they think I am, anyways? You’re a nice guy. I don’t know why I can’t talk to you. I ain’t doin’ no harm to you.” This is what she says as Lennie tries to tell her that George told him not to talk to her because she was trouble. Curley’s wife was never even given a name. She was just misplaced and belonged somewhere else besides the ranch. Unfortunately, she chose to live in surroundings that didn’t fit her at all and in a situation that gave way to loneliness.
Crooks was never called by his real name, but a name given to him because of his handicap. Before the story really began, Crooks was kicked in the back by a horse and because he is an insignificant black stable buck, is not taken to the doctor. Because no one took him to the doctor, his back was permanently crooked. He, unlike the other ranch hands, is made to sleep alone in the barn, with the animals. In chapter four, Candy made a comment to him, “Must be nice to have a room all to yourself this way.” Crooks replied, “Sure. And a manure pile under the window. Sure, it’s swell.” Crooks was obviously bitter and lonely in this story because of his alienation. When telling Candy and Lennie to leave his room, he said, “A colored man got to have some rights even if he don’t like ’em.” Crooks was the victim of one of the most common acts of discrimination: racism.
People beyond the norm are frequently estranged because of their differences. Others see them as a threat to their peace (Curley’s wife) or maybe they just perceive them as being inferior (Crooks and Lennie). Often times, the underdog is left standing alone because they’ve been alienated for so long. Racism, sexism, intolerance for the mentally impaired, these are all examples of discrimination both in Of Mice and Men and real life.


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