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.
Broken Plans Theme Icon

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 and living off the land. George often laments the life he could have had as a freewheeling bachelor, free of the burden of caring for Lennie. "[I]f I was alone I could live so easy," he says. Lennie has his own private dream of living in a cave with his own rabbits, while Curley's wife often regrets her missed chance to become a Hollywood actress. In the end, the novel's main theme is that people must learn to reconcile their dreams with reality, to accept that everyone's best laid plans often perish. These plans "go awry" not because the characters in the novella give up on them, but because forces beyond their control destroy them. In the bleak economic outlook of the Great Depression, during which the novel was written and set, coming to terms with dreams broken by out-of-control economic forces became a reality nearly everyone in America faced.

Broken Plans ThemeTracker

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Broken Plans Quotes in Of Mice and Men

Below you will find the important quotes in Of Mice and Men related to the theme of Broken Plans.
Part 1 Quotes
Well, we ain't got any,' George exploded. 'Whatever we ain't got, that's what you want. God a'mighty, if I was alone I could live so easy. I could go get a job an' work, an' no trouble....An' whatta I got,' George went on furiously. 'I got you! You can't keep a job and you lose me ever' job I get. Jus' keep me shovin' all over the country all the time. An' that ain't the worst. You get in trouble. You do bad things and I got to get you out.
Related Characters: George Milton (speaker), Lennie Small
Page Number: 11
Explanation and Analysis:

While eating a dinner of canned beans, Lennie complains about the lack of ketchup to spice up the meal. In this quote, George complains about Lennie's attitude in retaliation. Though Lennie is large, strong, and a good worker, he is mentally disabled and often misbehaves, getting the two of them into trouble and often causing them to lose their jobs. However, though George here complains that he would be better off if he were not stuck with Lennie, the fact that he is still with Lennie after so many mishaps is a testament to his loyalty to his friend—and it also suggests that George is dependent on Lennie just as much as Lennie depends on George.

George is all talk, and for him, venting his frustration is Lennie's punishment for being ungrateful about the meal. George would never actually act on any of these claims. Though he acknowledges that Lennie does "bad things" that he must then bail him out of, the fact remains that he does, consistently, bail Lennie out, again and again. His irritation with Lennie is sincere, but his statements that he will abandon him never are. While the two men differ in many significant ways, they are bound by their unyielding loyalty towards one another. 

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Part 2 Quotes
"Ain't many guys travel around together," he mused. "I don't know why. Maybe ever'body in the whole damn world is scared of each other."
Related Characters: Slim (speaker), George Milton, Lennie Small
Page Number: 35
Explanation and Analysis:

On the ranch, George and Lennie are introduced to Slim, a skinner whom everybody respects. In this quote, Slim, like many of the other ranchers, expresses his surprise that two men like Lennie and George travel around together. Ranchers in that region tended to be nomadic workers, moving from ranch to ranch whenever and wherever they could find work. It was seen as lonely, individual work, and men rarely traveled together. Therefore, a pair like Lennie and George was seldom seen at these ranches. Slim, as an experienced rancher, has seen many men come and go, and in this quote, he observes that these men are usually alone--perhaps, he reasons, "the whole damn world is scared of each other." The lonely life of a rancher perpetuates feelings of animosity against other ranchers who could be potential competition for jobs and can often inspire meanness, creating a circle of loneliness. What George and Lennie have, particularly in their line of work, is a rarity. 

Part 4 Quotes
I seen hundreds of men come by on the road an' on the ranches, with their bindles on their back an' that same damn thing in their heads . . . every damn one of 'em's got a little piece of land in his head. An' never a God damn one of 'em ever gets it. Just like heaven. Ever'body wants a little piece of lan'. I read plenty of books out here. Nobody never gets to heaven, and nobody gets no land.
Related Characters: Crooks (speaker)
Related Symbols: George and Lennie's Farm
Page Number: 74
Explanation and Analysis:

Despite being warned by George to keep quiet, Lennie proudly tells Crooks of the plan to purchase a farm. Crooks, like Candy, is immediately enticed by the idea of a farm and a place to call home, where he might be treated better than he has been on the ranch. Years of isolation, however, have made him very cynical (for a good reason) and he is scornful of the idea. In this quote, he tells Lennie that though he sees many men come through the ranch with similar ideas, none of them ever follows through with it.

Crooks' statement helps explain why George wants Lennie to keep the land a secret--if another rancher with more money in the bank hears about it, they might poach it before he gets a chance to purchase it. It also shows how similar the lives and dreams of ranchers are--they all long for their own piece of land to call home, and to no longer live a nomadic existence, traveling from ranch to ranch searching for work. Yet, despite the similarities in their sentiments and dreams, there remains very little interpersonal connection. 

Part 5 Quotes
He pawed up the hay until it partly covered her.
Related Characters: Lennie Small, Curley's Wife
Page Number: 92
Explanation and Analysis:
Curley's wife offers Lennie to touch her hair to feel how soft it is. Enjoying the feeling, Lennie continues to pet her hair even when she yelps for him to stop. Concerned that George will be mad at him, Lennie tells Curley's wife to stop yelling, shaking her to try and make her stop. The shaking breaks her neck, and she dies instantly. In this quote, Lennie realizes that he has done a bad thing--like in Weed, but worse--and hastily attempts to cover up his crime. Due to his disability, Lennie does not understand that partially covering the body in hay not only does not conceal it at all, but actively shows that someone tried to cover it up and was present, revealing the death as a murder. This further shows how Lennie, though physically at fault for the murder, truly does not understand his own strength or the repercussions of his actions. As George repeats to the other men, nothing that Lennie does is ever out of "meanness"--only careless accidents that stem from his mental impairments. 
I think I knowed from the very first. I think I knowed we'd never do her. He usta like to hear about it so much I got to thinking maybe we would.
Related Characters: George Milton (speaker)
Related Symbols: George and Lennie's Farm
Page Number: 94
Explanation and Analysis:

When George realizes that Lennie has killed Curley's wife, he immediately knows that his dream of owning his own farm, too, has died. The farm was the collective dream of both George and Lennie, and it would never be the same without Lennie.

In this quote, George painfully recalls how much Lennie loved to daydream about having the farm. The story, he now knows, has become one of myth rather than of a future reality. Here, George attempts to convince himself that he had never really believed it would happen--that he had only started to believe it because Lennie made him recite the story so many times, since it delighted him to imagine their own farm (particularly, the rabbits). Like with his fake scorn of Lennie, to make his friend feel badly when he misbehaves, George tells himself it would have never really happened, so he feels less disappointed about no longer holding onto the dream of the farm. Even though he could still potentially buy the farm on his own with Candy, and even with Crooks, he knows he could never bring himself to do it without Lennie. Rather than bringing the peace and freedom he hoped it would, it would only carry with it memories of pain and sadness. 


Part 6 Quotes
A water snake glided smoothly up the pool, twisting its periscope head from side to side; and it swam the length of the pool and came to the legs of a motionless heron that stood in the shallows. A silent head and beak lanced down and plucked it out by the head, and the beak swallowed the little snake while its tail waved frantically.
Page Number: 99
Explanation and Analysis:

After killing Curley's wife, Lennie escapes to the brush that George told him to hide in if he ever were to get into trouble.

In this quote, Steinbeck uses the fauna of the environment to paint an ominous picture foreshadowing what is about to happen to Lennie. The water snake--which Steinbeck uses to illustrate the same spot at the beginning of the story--is killed by the heron in a moment when it does not even know it is in danger. This is a metaphor for Lennie: when George finds him in the brush, he thinks he is perfectly safe, now that he is by the side of his friend. He complies with George's requests to turn his head--like the snake does, searching for danger, and finding none--and then is shot in the back of the head by his best friend and only companion in the world. However, while the murderous search party led by Curley would have certainly led to torture (like the snake's tail waving frantically), George kills Lennie instantly with a shot to the back of the head, sparing him moments of misery before his death. 

No, Lennie. I ain't mad. I never been mad, an' I ain't now. That's a thing I want ya to know.
Related Characters: George Milton (speaker), Lennie Small
Page Number: 106
Explanation and Analysis:

After killing Curley's wife, Lennie goes and hides out in the brush, just like George told him to if he ever got in trouble. George accompanies the murderous search party, but sneaks away to find Lennie in their chosen spot. Lennie tells George he knows he is probably angry over what he has done, and in this quote, George tells Lennie he is not mad at him--nor has he ever been mad at him. Though Lennie frequently misbehaves and gets both himself and George in trouble, and George acts as if he is very angry and on the verge of abandoning Lennie, George is never truly furious with his friend. He understands that Lennie has a disability and simply does not comprehend his own physical strengths, mental weaknesses, or the actions that result from the dangerous combinations of the two. It is in this heartbreaking final goodbye that George tells Lennie he has never been really mad at him. Rather, this statement implies that he has been truly grateful to have Lennie, who is faithful to a fault, by his side for so many years.

"Never you mind," said Slim. "A guy got to sometimes."
Related Characters: Slim (speaker), George Milton
Page Number: 107
Explanation and Analysis:

With Curley's armed and murderous party approaching, George asks Lennie to look out at the water as he describes, for one last time, the dream of their shared farm. Before the party can find them in the brush, George shoots Lennie in the back of his head, killing him before the other men have a chance to. In this quote, Slim finds George and Lennie and realizes what has happened. He attempts to console George by telling him he had no choice--had the men found Lennie first, there was no telling what they might do to him, but it was certain to end in death. Similar to the way Candy wishes he shot his dog instead of Carlson, George wanted to be the one who killed Lennie because he knew he was the only person who could do it in the most merciful way possible, even though it was an act that surely would haunt him for the rest of his life.