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Steinbeck’s Use Of Biblical Allusions In Of Mice And Men

1194 words - 5 pages

Although John Steinbeck was known to be personally irreligious (), Of Mice and Men is still underscored by Judeo-Christian and Biblical allusions, mores, and ideas. With the irreligious nature of Steinbeck in mind, these allusions in Of Mice and Men can be understood as Steinbeck creating a familiar framework to explore the issues of moral decay and societal dissolution in the era of the Great Depression. This idea of religious allusion as a vehicle for exploring modern day issues is supported by Steinbeck himself, who explicitly stated in his 1962 Nobel Prize banquet speech that “The ancient commission of the writer has not changed. He is charged with exposing our many grievous faults and ...view middle of the document...

This idea was also highlighted by Warren French in his discussion of pessimism (with him specifically analyzing those same words of Carlson), where he states that “Steinbeck is still presenting an unfeeling world where any sign of human caring is exploited as a weakness.” (qtd. in Bloom 101). Thus, as is shown in the above example, Steinbeck’s use of allusions to the Christ figure archetype is to evaluate the contemporary effects of moral and societal decay in a transient society.
Despite the overarching importance of George's status as a Christ figure, however, Steinbeck also makes other biblical allusions, especially to the idea of heaven and prophecy. For example, George persistently tells Lennie tales of the farm with rabbits, which seems to represent the idea of heaven, especially when seen in the light of statements such as:
“‘You . . . an’ me. Ever’body gonna be nice to you. Ain’t gonna be no more trouble. Nobody gonna hurt nobody nor steal from ‘em.’” (Steinbeck 101). The idea of the farm with rabbits representing heaven has also been noted by William Goldhurst, who states that “ . . . the dream farm is a metaphor or image for heaven (as suggested by Crooks’s speech in scene 4)” (Ste) In many respects, this is quite similar to a Christian conception of heaven as shared by the prophet Isaiah:
“The wolf and the lamb will feed together,
and the lion will eat straw like the ox,
but dust will be the serpent’s food.
They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain,”
Says the Lord. (Isaiah 65:25).
In many ways, both of the above quotes echo the same ideas of harmony and an end to all trouble. Just as Isaiah prophesies the image of heaven for the people of his day, George prophesies the ideal of the farm with rabbits as a foretelling of heaven for Lennie. Thus, the farm dream of Lennie and George can be seen not only as a literal desire for a farm over their own, but also a representation of heaven that utilizes modern imagery to convey Biblical ideas.
Similarly, an allusion that incorporates both the above ideas of Heaven and Christ figures is Steinbeck’s allusion to Christ’s actions on the cross and his ultimate sacrifice, which, in Christian theology, meant that humanity attained salvation and that the gates of heaven were finally opened. Likewise, George’s actions, which meant...

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