A Different Form of Tragedy: Critical Analysis of Of Mice and Men

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Thomas Scarseth, the author of the examination A Teachable Good Book: Of Mice and Men, is correct in saying that Steinbeckr’s Of Mice and Men is a tragedy. Yet it is not a tragedy in the classic Aristotelian or Shakespearean sense, which Scarseth states. The majority of the characters in the novel are in stasis.

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The world is limited around them and results in minimal possibilities, and the lack of love and friendship both contribute to them being stuck. J.A. Cuddon, the late English teacher and author, defined tragedy in saying, the overwhelming part about tragedy is the element of hopelessness, of inevitability…the greater the person, so it seems, the more acute is their tragedy (Cuddon). Yet this acute tragedy is found when the lowliest of lowly exploited people fail to become anything more. The characters in Of Mice and Men are inevitably lead to disappointment, for many reasons, including their social status, job, and even the time period, which plays a part in their struggles. A release from this struggle is hopeless. The tragedy that the characters are a part of results in them being one archetype of being in stasis, and this is due to the constraints the characters have and the lack of love and friendship around them.

The struggle of limitation and constraint is a clear message that Steinbeck portrays through many of the characters. Scarseth is quick to notice and comment on this theme, though he only discusses the explicitly mentioned limited characters. Curley, as Scarseth mentions, is limited: Curley doesnt know how to hold on to what he finds important: his young wife, his status as the Bossr’s son, his reputation as a man [his] aim to be a respected husband/boss/man is foiled by his own limited abilities (Scarseth). Curley is stuck in his place. He, on paper, has the most power on the ranch compared to most of the other men. He is the boss son, rich, is able to boast that his wife is …a sex object, a status symbol (Scarseth), but he is lost. His aggressiveness and his unforgiving attitude on life and people around him puts him into the same cycle of anger. Curleyr’s wife, one of the most marginalized characters, evident by the name she is called and her gender, is also brought up by Scarseth. She is a lost little girl in a world of men whose knowledge of women is largely limited (Scarseth). She is called names, teased, and has no power, and is limited due to Curley. Scarseth also writes about George, Lennie, and their struggle, saying …[the] aim of Lennie and George to have a small place…is doomed to frustration also by their own limitations (Scarseth). Lennie, being his poor dumb big (Scarseth) self cannot have his dream with George come true.

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