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.
The ThemeTracker below shows where, and to what degree, the theme of The Weak and the Strong appears in each chapter of Of Mice and Men. Click or tap on any chapter to read its Summary & Analysis.
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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.
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.
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.
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."
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."
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
I ought to of shot that dog myself, George. I shouldn't ought to of let no stranger shoot my dog.
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.
'A guy needs somebody-to be near him.' He whined, 'A guy goes nuts if he ain't got nobody.'
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.
Part 5 Quotes
Why can't I talk to you? I never get to talk to nobody. I get awful lonely.
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.
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.
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No, Lennie. I ain't mad. I never been mad, an' I ain't now. That's a thing I want ya to know.
"Never you mind," said Slim. "A guy got to sometimes."