Animal and Human Nature in Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men
The relationship between animal nature and human nature in John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men is a major theme throughout the work. Lennie and Candy are connected with animals via their various individual characteristics, such as physical appearance, mental capacity, or emotional maturity. Other characters, such as Curley and Carlson, demonstrate their animal-like natures in their interactions with others. Despite the obvious connection between the human natures and animal natures of the characters in the work, some of the characters attempt to rise above their bestial nature by dreaming and seeking companionship.
Lennie is perhaps the most obvious example of an animal-like character. The very first description of Lennie is as "a huge man, shapeless of face, with large, pale eyes, with wide, sloping shoulders; and he walked heavily, dragging his feet a little, the way a bear drags his paws" (Steinbeck 2). This opening description of Lennie immediately connects him with a large animal, and for the rest of the novel, whenever his name is mentioned, the reader instinctively pictures a big, bear-like man.
Lennie is also likened to a dog, just a few pages later, when he is compared to a "terrier who doesn't want to bring a ball to its master" (Steinbeck 9). This connection is further emphasized when, at the novelís end, Lennie is shot with the same gun and in the same way as Candy's dog was shot earlier in the novel. Lennie is also connected with animals in his mental capacity and preferences. His "simplemindedness as well as his attraction to animals, especially the rabbits and the puppy, would seem to fix him as animal-like" (Johnson 16).
Candy is identified with animals in a similar fashion. He, like his dog, is old, crippled, and practically useless. He even compares himself with the dog, saying "You seen what they done to my dog tonight? When they can me here, I wisht somebody'd shoot me" (Steinbeck 60).
Curley and Carlson, like Lennie and Candy, are connected with animals, but in a much different manner. They "display the basest elements of nature... and lack all sensitivity, all compassion for those more helpless and weaker in mind and body than they are" (Johnson 16). Curley is extremely competitive, a trait that is evident in his desire to prove himself in a fight with Lennie and in his constantly asking where his wife is, as if he is...