Power in of Mice and Men Essay

Published: 2020-04-22 15:25:56
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The theme of power is prevalent throughout the novel Of Mice and Men. Steinbeck uses various methods and techniques to establish the dynamics of power on the ranch. In the first extract, George and Lennie are in the brush and we get a strong sense of Georges parental control over Lennie, but it also shows how Lennies physical stature gives him a degree of power over George. In extract two we meet Curley for the first time, and his authority over the ranch workers is clearly asserted through the various ways in which Steinbeck describes him. And finally, in extract three, we see the first fight of the novel. The fight is very diverse in how it portrays power. At different stages in the fight some people have more authority over others and we see how the workers feel more powerful together as opposed to individually.

In this extract the hierarchy of power on the ranch is very shaken up. Extract one focuses on George and Lennies relationship. Even from the onset words such as timidly, softly, and gently help to establish the dynamics of their relationship. These words portray Lennie as a weak, almost fragile character in contrast to words such as jerked, scowled, and bastard which portray George as impatient and annoyed, almost like an exasperated parent. Steinbeck uses a multitude of exclamation marks to emphasise Georges frustration. Ellipses are also used throughout the extract to show how Lennie hesitates and stutters though his sentences.

This clearly shows that he is unable to recall information and is, at times, very nervous. This reiterates the fact that George holds the reins of power in the relationship. It is significant, maybe, that Steinbeck describes George as a little man. It points out that physical stature does not equate power in this relationship. If this was not true the tables would be turned as Lennie towers over George, which is why it is strange that he is so reliant on George. This really shows how Lennie is less powerful. Lennies metal disability makes him vulnerable because he is unable to retain information. This is shown through Lennies very simple language. ..But it didnt do no good

Steinbeck also uses many question marks to show how Lennie is constantly asking questions and therefore constantly seeking guidance from George, and again, thats what gives George the edge over Lennie. When discussion moves to the bus tickets and work cards Lennie realises that he doesnt have his. He looked down at the ground in despair which shows that he is ashamed and perhaps a little frightened of Georges reaction, but Steinbeck then goes on to say that George took responsibility for both of the work cards, knowing that Lennie could not be trusted. This, again, demonstrates the balance of power and shows that both George and Lennie are aware of how much power the other possesses. After looking for his work card in his pocket, Lennie take out a mouse to which George replies sharply. Whatd you take outta that pocket?

Georges tone is accusatory which shows that he is astute. He then continues to bombard Lennie with questions, which gives Lennie the chance to demonstrate another type of power his cunning. He attempts to deceive George. Aint a thing in my pocket

Although childlike, this sentence shows that Lennies mind is able to think of plans. How would he keep the mouse? By attempting to deceive George. Eventually, Georges patience wears thin and he exclaims Give it here! shouting at Lennie like a parent. Throughout the extract George issues a multitude of orders to Lennie. You aint gonna say a word, Were gonna work, You jus stand there. These commands show just how pliable Lennie is and how George uses his power to make Lennie comply. George also uses idle threats to manipulate Lennie.

¦if I didnt have you on my tail.

This, again, shows Georges parental control over Lennie and goes hand in hand with his use of the dream to make Lennie work. Just as a child would get no presents at Christmas, Lennie would not be allowed to tend the rabbits if he steps out of line. But, as much as George chastises Lennie, he does give him appropriate encouragement. Good boy. Thats swell.

Extract two focuses on Curley. When he enters the bunkhouse his authority over the ranch workers becomes very apparent. Steinbeck says that he wore a work glove and he wore high-heeled boots. The simple fact that Curley has to wear certain items of clothing suggests that his authority is somewhat artificial as opposed to Slim, whose power comes naturally. It is important to note how Curleys body language changes when he notices the new men. He glanced coldly, his hands closed into fists and his glance was at once calculating and pugnacious. This kind of body language is very aggressive and he uses it to dominate the men. Lennie squirmed under the look and shifted nervously on his feet which shows that Curleys power is very obvious and he continues to assert his power by invading Lennies personal space and speaking to him with a very brusque tone. Curley is quick to confront Lennie, as he feels like Lennie will be a threat dure to his size. Let the big guy talk.

Lennie is unsure of how to respond to this and twisted with embarrassment which shows just how debilitated he is. As usual, George stands up for him and challenges Curleys power. George has a very monosyllabic tone of voice when speaking to Curley which shows that he does not feel the need to elaborate and is perhaps being defiant. Yeah, its that way.

Lennie looks helplessly to George for instruction when given the chance to talk which again demonstrates Georges power over him. Eventually, when Lennie does speak, he speaks softly which suggests a lack of power and perhaps a degree of uncertainty. Curley starts to get aggressive with Lennie, but the anger is totally unprovoked. Even Candy is wary of Curleys power and looked cautiously at the door to make sure no one was listening before telling George that Curley is the bosss son and that he is pretty handy. In this role, authority is implicit and Curley evidently has a lot of physical power if he is being described as handy by the other ranch workers. This is important to note in extract three when Lennie and Curley have a fight. At the beginning of extract three, Curley feels his power is being threatened by Carlson. He uses very authorial body language to regain this power but it is in vein as the ranch workers feel comfortable standing up for themselves when they are together.

Carlson lectures Curley on how he isnt as powerful as he likes to think. Candy joined [Carlsons attack] with joy and this is far from how Candy was acting at the end of extract two. Again, the ranch workers feel safer in large groups. Perhaps Curley decides to fight Lennie because he wants to demonstrate his strength and feels that Lennie is the weakest of the workers, therefore, the easiest to fight. Curley stepped over to Lennie like a terrier. Here Steinbeck, yet again, uses a simile to describe the invasion of Lennies personal space. Then Curleys rage exploded and he uses a lot of expletives to provoke Lennie.

This can be compared to Georges language and how he curses at Lennie calling him a big bastard. Perhaps Curleys reaction is so vicious because he is afraid of being humiliated in front of the workers. Lennie looked helplessly at George which shows that he is weak, but more so vulnerable. Yet again, he looks to George for direction. At first, Lennie doesnt fight back because he knows that if he gets himself into trouble he wont be allowed to tend the rabbits, although when Curley starts getting very violent George encourages Lennie to fight back. Get him, Lennie. Dont let him do it.

The fact that Lennie has to be told by George to protect himself shows just how much leadership George has when it comes to Lennie. The line I said get him also emphasises Georges control. Lennie, however, redeems himself and crushes Curleys hand. Lennie is so adamant to do what George has told him to do that he stills holds on to Curleys fist even though George is slapping him and telling him to stop.

George slapped him in the face again and again, and still Lennie held on to the closed fist. In conclusion, I think it is difficult to define the most powerful man on the ranch as Steinbeck presents so many different types of power; innate, physical, implicit, parental etc. Throughout all three of the extracts the balance of power shifts frequently, but authority is always evident. Steinbeck shows it very cleverly and subtly, almost manipulating the reader to anticipate certain reactions from certain characters which is why I find these extracts so engaging to read.

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