Just my thoughts
by Aditya Hingne

It Is All Up to Fate?

The greater the obstacle, the more glory in overcoming it." - Moliere. While this may be true, can the obstacle truly be overcomed? Is it even our choice? John Steinbeck's' Of Mice and Men explores many such questions. The narrative follows Lennie and George, two friends finding work in a ranch. They're saving up money to buy their own farm, and along the way they have interactions with different characters. Most of the main characters are disadvantaged and nearly all of them have an American dream. The story follows what happened with their American dream and how they deal with their lives in the ranch. Many people have certain limitations, and they attempt to overcome the obstacle caused by it, but fate would not allow their endeavors to prevail.

Many people have their own limitations. Three characters in particular are restricted in their own unique way; Curley's wife, Candy, and Crooks. With Curley's wife she's first described as having "full, rouged lips and wide-spaced eyes, heavily made up"(Steinbeck 31) along with other descriptions about her appearance. There is nothing said about her character and even her name is unknown to the reader. This imagery of the only woman in the ranch is stereotypically pretty, hinting at the typical woman a man wants, with no regards to her personality. This objectification makes it so that a woman's looks are her only power and, in the book, all they did was lead her to trouble. Candy's trouble is his crippling age, and he's disabled with only one hand. He obviously doesn't have the strength of the other workers. This makes him weak and the ranch is a place where there is no place for the weak. When Candy is shown to "stare at the ceiling" (Steinbeck 49) he's been deeply affected by the death of his dog. His dog was put to death because it was old and no longer had any usefulness. The dog symbolizes weakness. Its age makes it so that it can't be compared to anything young. It's blind, and thus it is constantly dependent on its owner. Weakness is also what isolates Curley's wife. Being a woman, she is treated with condescension, it is not accepted for her to talk with anyone else besides Curley. If one can no longer serve a purpose, he or she will be removed, with no consideration to his or her situation. Nobody considers Crook's situation either. He's more secluded from the ranch workers than anybody else, since his race prevents him from interacting from everyone else. His crooked back is one of his weaknesses and he has "had more possessions than he could carry on his back" (Steinbeck 67). His possessions are all he has that make him happy. His back is a symbol of oppression, and in this case, it stems from racism. He is constantly bent forward when facing white people since they rule over him. This oppression is what compelled Candy to allow his innocent dog to be put down. People are helpless against oppression because they have no chance of defending themselves, and their lack of choice is what causes their downfall

Loneliness has been the biggest obstacle that has limited a person. Crooks isn't the only one who is lonely. Everyone refuses to talk to Curley's wife and without his dog Candy doesn't have anyone. Loneliness was an effect of their constrictions. The characters attempted to overcome this loneliness by talking to Lennie. When Curley's wife's "words tumbled out in a passion of communication" (Steinbeck 88) she exemplified her desperation to talk to someone. The words are personified as tumbling because they escape her mouth suddenly, as it wasn't supposed to happen. She's isolated because she's the only female in a ranch on men, but this proves how she's actually just like everyone else. She's also someone who couldn't achieve her American dream. The characters were supposed to cure their loneliness because fate would interfere with their lives. Candy has been fate's toy for years. Candy couldn't achieve his longing for peace in in old life. He talked to Lennie so that he could stay at their ranch with them and live out his last days in peace. Otherwise he will suffer a worse fate, as he says "I wisht somebody'd shoot me. But they won't do nothing like that" (Steinbeck 60) if they ever let him go. A man is preferring death over spending more time at the ranch because most of the characters want a content life. Though, this better life can never be achieved, because fate won't accept it. Crooks also wants peace. He's accepted his social stereotype as an African American and seems to feel disdain when white people come near him. He ends up isolating himself even more, but he submits himself to "Lennie's disarming smile" (Steinbeck 69). It's ironic that he would be so welcoming towards Lennie when he has just told him to go away, meaning that he actually appreciates the company. Like many characters, he submits to Lennie's smile because that's the only way fill that empty void in his life. By interacting with those who are accepting of someone can that person's unhappiness be relieved, but the world does not have many people who are this accepting.

Even though there were attempt obstacles, that was never achievable. Crooks finally found someone to confide in, but that ended rapidly. He was pulled back to reality, where he realized he could never be with Lennie and George. When he "looked at the door" (Steinbeck 83) after Candy, George, and Lennie has left he was looking at a symbol of a boundary that he could never cross uninvited. The other characters were had more freedom because they were still thought of as people. Crooks is not a slave, but he is as much of a possession as his books. A limitation can make a man worth the same as an old dictionary. The dreams in this book are also worth this much. "Looked down at the hay" (Steinbeck 94) before letting George answer because he knew the truth. There was no way they were ever going to buy that ranch. That dream was a symbol of temptation. There wasn't a character who achieved his American dream, because it's unachievable. Yet, people constantly fall for its trap believing that their wishes can become a reality, but their disadvantages would keep their wishes from coming true. Curley's wife wished to be in the movies but being a female, she was deceived into believing this. This forced her to marry Curley for financial reasons. The horses "rattled the halter chains" (Steinbeck 98) when she died because it foreshadowed the unavoidable danger. The loud rattling occurs whenever she was around, for it was a warning of what fate had in store for them. Fate is what decides one's path in life, not one's dreams.

Though people attempts to overcome the obstacles that stem from their limitations, their endeavors are never authorized by fate. Jamal Penjweny is a photographer who showed many people in Iraq holding a picture of their favorite athlete. Each of these Iraqis were people with a dream, but due to poverty or physical injury they could not become the famous stars they though they were going to be. They didn't decide to be born poor or get life-changing injuries. Fate was the one who made disadvantaged.

References: Steinbeck, John. Of Mice and Men. Penguin Books, 1993

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