Of Mice and Men

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The Weak and the Strong Theme Analysis

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The Weak and the Strong Theme Icon

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 Curley likes to fight larger men, why Crooks tells Lennie that George is going to abandon him, and why Curley's wife threatens to have Crooks lynched. Each character tries to appear strong by asserting power over another. The fear of the strong also explains why most of the other characters in Of Mice and Men can't comprehend Lennie and George's friendship. A human relationship devoid of power dynamics simply makes no sense to the other characters, all of whom assume they're in a fight for survival.

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The Weak and the Strong Quotes in Of Mice and Men

Below you will find the important quotes in Of Mice and Men related to the theme of The Weak and the Strong.
Part 1 Quotes
Slowly, like a terrier who doesn't want to bring a ball to its master, Lennie approached, drew back, approached again.
Related Characters: Lennie Small
Page Number: 9
Explanation and Analysis:

After escaping from Weed, where Lennie was falsely accused of raping a girl, Lennie and George trudge to another ranch seeking work. George realizes that Lennie has been keeping a dead field mouse that he found in his pocket. When Lennie picked it up, it was alive, but his powerful grip killed it.

In this quote, Lennie reluctantly approaches George to give him the mouse, which George then throws away. Lennie's love for all things soft and his powerful strength are a dangerous combination that plague him throughout the story: In Weed, he is accused of raping a girl after holding onto her dress for too long; at the ranch, he kills a puppy, and ultimately, kills Curley's wife after holding on to her soft hair. This quote also reveals the dynamic of the relationship between George and Lennie, one that is not dissimilar to a dog and his owner. George takes care of Lennie and brings him from ranch to ranch for work, until Lennie misbehaves and they must run away. Though Lennie's antics frustrate George, they are loyal to one another, and stick together regardless of hardships. 


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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. 

Guys like us, that work on ranches, are the loneliest guys in the world. They got no family. They don't belong no place....With us it ain't like that. We got a future.... An' why? Because...because I got you to look after me, and you got me to look after you, and that's why.
Related Characters: George Milton (speaker), Lennie Small
Page Number: 13
Explanation and Analysis:

After George finishes complaining about Lennie as a burden, Lennie offers to leave George and run away into the woods. George tells him to stop, and that he wants him to stay. In this quote, George repeats a refrain about his and Lennie's friendship that he often uses to calm Lennie down when they get into an altercation like this one.

Here, George explains that though ranching is a lonely line of work, he and Lennie are special because they have each other. Though they live a nomadic life, working from farm to farm like other ranchers, they look out for each other, and have a future planned together: they want to buy a ranch of their own some day. George sticks with Lennie because he knows Lennie would never make it alone in the world, and he reciprocates Lennie's undying loyalty towards him. Lennie trusts George without question, since George has been his only support system since his Aunt Clara passed away. Though other ranchers might be technically richer since they aren't constantly running away from their jobs, like George and Lennie have to do when Lennie gets in trouble, they are rich in something other ranchers don't have: a friendship that functions like a family. 

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 3 Quotes
"Carl's right, Candy. That dog ain't no good to himself. I wisht somebody'd shoot me if I got old an' a cripple."
Related Characters: Slim (speaker), Candy, Carlson
Related Symbols: Candy's Dog
Page Number: 45
Explanation and Analysis:

Candy,  an old swamper on the ranch who lost his hand to a machine, has an old dog whom he adores. However, the other men whom he bunks with complain that it is useless and smelly. When Slim's dog gives birth to a littler of puppies, Carlson proposes that he put Candy's dog out of its misery and replace it with a puppy. In this quote, Slim agrees. He attempts to sympathize with the dog by saying that if he were "old an' a cripple," he would want someone to shoot him, but unfortunately, this statement seems to bear more resemblance to Candy's situation: he is no longer an efficient worker due to his age and disability, but he has kept his job out of pity from the boss. The fact that all the workers get together to convince Candy that he should let his dog go makes Candy nervous that he, too, will one day be ousted--or worse--for a younger worker. 

S'pose they was a carnival or a circus come to town, or a ball game, or any damn thing." Old Candy nodded in appreciation of the idea. "We'd just go to her," George said. "We wouldn't ask nobody if we could. Jus' say, 'We'll go to her,' an' we would. Jus' milk the cow and sling some grain to the chickens an' go to her
Related Characters: George Milton (speaker), Candy (speaker)
Page Number: 60
Explanation and Analysis:

Candy overhears Lennie and George talking about the farm they one day want to own and pipes up that he, too, would love to get in on the deal. He says that he has money saved up from the settlement when he was injured, and that he would work on the land for no pay. In this quote, George and Candy both relish the idea that if they owned their own farm, they would not have to answer to anyone--if there was something they wanted to do, they wouldn't have to worry about losing their jobs if they left the ranch for a day. Both men are tired of working to harvest crops that they don't own for very little money, and are seduced by the idea of being their own bosses and owning the fruits of their own land. To finally have a place to call home is an especially tantalizing proposition. 

I ought to of shot that dog myself, George. I shouldn't ought to of let no stranger shoot my dog.
Related Characters: Candy (speaker), George Milton
Related Symbols: Candy's Dog
Page Number: 61
Explanation and Analysis:
Overpowered by the collective agreement of the men that his dog needed to be shot, Candy reluctantly consents to letting Carlson shoot it outside. In this quote, Candy tells George that he regrets not shooting the dog himself. Of course, Candy would have never even thought to kill the dog due to old age if he hadn't been egged on by the other men. Candy reared the dog since it was a pup, and was very attached to it. He feels residual guilt for not killing the dog himself due to this attachment, even though he would never have had the courage to put a gun to the old dog's head. Much of this guilt and regret is related to the fact that Candy feels that he has little control over his life on the ranch. Due to his age and disability, he has no other job prospects, and worries that his employment will abruptly end one day when the boss decides he is a financial burden. Even though it would have been incredibly painful for him to kill his own dog, it would have at least given him a degree of control in his life. 
Part 4 Quotes
A guy sets alone out here at night, maybe readin' books or thinkin' or stuff like that. Sometimes he gets thinkin', an' he got nothing to tell him what's so an' what ain't so. Maybe if he sees somethin', he don't know whether it's right or not. He can't turn to some other guy and ast him if he sees it too. He can't tell. He got nothing to measure by. I seen things out here. I wasn't drunk. I don't know if I was asleep. If some guy was with me, he could tell me I was asleep, an' then it would be all right. But I jus' don't know.
Related Characters: Crooks (speaker)
Page Number: 73
Explanation and Analysis:

Crooks' isolation on the farm stems from the deeply entrenched racism of society. Because he is black, none of the ranchers will speak to him or let him play their games. As a result, he is given his own room while the other men sleep in bunks, but he feels incredibly lonely all the time. 

In this quote, Crooks' acknowledges that he has seen many strange things on the ranch, but never knows if he has truly seen these things because he has no one to bounce ideas off of. Crooks is so isolated that he does not know whether his conceptions about the world are real or not because he is so cut off from human contact. Crooks longs for someone, anyone at all to speak to, and is happy to have Lennie visit him. His line of thinking underscores why George and Lennie stick together: in the lonely life of a rancher, having a friend who is always by your side is a precious thing. Even though Crooks has his own living space, and a number of possessions that he has accumulated in his room, he would likely trade it all for companionship--similar to the reason why George travels with Lennie, even though he believes he could make more money alone. 

'A guy needs somebody-to be near him.' He whined, 'A guy goes nuts if he ain't got nobody.'
Related Characters: Crooks (speaker)
Page Number: 72
Explanation and Analysis:

In an attempt to make Lennie understand how lonely he is, Crooks asks Lennie what he would do if George did not return from town that day. Not understanding the thought experiment, Lennie flies into a rage and demands to know what happened to George. Crooks finally calms him down, and in this quote, he further tries to impress upon Lennie how difficult it is to be as isolated as he has been on the ranch. As a black man, Crooks has been shunned in this part of California, which is largely white, his whole life. He longs for a companion, the way Lennie and George have each other. This sentiment further reinforces how lucky the two men are to have such a strong friendship and attachment to each other. 

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
Why can't I talk to you? I never get to talk to nobody. I get awful lonely.
Related Characters: Curley's Wife (speaker), Lennie Small
Page Number: 86
Explanation and Analysis:

On a Sunday, Lennie sneaks into the barn to play with the puppies. One tries to bite him and, not knowing his strength as usual, he accidentally kills it. Curley's wife wanders into the barn, and seeing that Lennie is upset, tries to speak with him. Lennie remembers that George told him she was bad news, and tells her he can't speak to her. In this quote, Curley's wife complains that she feels lonely on the ranch. She is the only woman on a farm of many single men, and though she attempts to speak to the ranchers, her overt sexuality makes them uncomfortable--particularly due to the fact that Curley is the boss's son. This quote reveals that her flirtatious demeanor is only due to the fact that she is starved for affection, which she does not receive from Curley. She is drawn to Lennie because of his affability, and is surprised when he, too, shuns her like the other men. Tragically, it is this desperation for friendship that leads to her offering Lennie to touch her hair, and as a result, leads to her death. 

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.