Of Mice and Men

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Themes and Colors
Broken Plans Theme Icon
The American Dream Theme Icon
Male Friendship Theme Icon
The Weak and the Strong Theme Icon
Women Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Of Mice and Men, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Of Mice and Men takes its title from a famous lyric by the Scottish poet Robert Burns (1759 - 1796). Burns's poem "To a Mouse" contains the lines, "The best laid plans of mice and men / Often go awry." Nearly all of the main characters Of Mice and Men harbor dreams and plans that never come true. Most notably, George, Lennie, and Candy share a doomed dream of buying their own farm…

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The American Dream is written into the Declaration of Independence: "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." Lennie and George's dream of owning a farm and living off the "fatta the lan" symbolizes this dream. Of Mice and Men shows that for poor migrant workers during the Depression, the American Dream became an illusion and a trap. All the ranch hands in Of Mice and Men dream of life, liberty, and happiness, but…

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Of Mice and Men explores the dynamics of male friendship. When Lennie asks George to tell him why they're not like other ranchers, George explains that they're different because they have each other. Usually ranchers have no family, no friends, and, therefore, no future. George and Lennie's friendship strikes the other ranch workers as odd: their dependence on each other makes the boss and Curley suspicious; and Slim observes that ranch workers rarely travel together…

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Though many characters in Of Mice and Men long for friendship and compassion, they live in fear of each other. As Carlson's unsentimental shooting of Candy's dog makes clear, in the Great Depression the useless, old, or weak were inevitably destroyed as the strong and useful fought for survival. Everyone on the ranch constantly tries to look strong, especially if they feel weak. The fear of the weak being overrun by the strong explains why…

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There are two different visions of women in Of Mice and Men: the male characters' view of women, and the novel's view of women. The men tend to view women with scorn and fear, dismissing women as dangerous sexual temptresses. Women are often referred to as "tarts," a derogatory word for women that means "tramp." Lennie and George have a mutual friend in prison "on account of a tart," and their own troubles result…

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