THREADS Argument: The central guiding principle of the novel is the theme of Cain and Abel. “The mythical discourse theme that is present throughout the novel is the question of man’s destiny and fate, which Cain is noted to have asked God.” Comes from chapter 4 of Genesis in the Old Testament. Immediately following the Creation and Expulsion (from the Garden of Eden). Cain and Abel were sons of Adam and Eve. Cain was a farmer, but his offerings of agricultural produce to the Lord failed to find favor; Abel, the second son, offered livestock, which was well received. Angry, jealous, and rejected, Cain killed Abel when they were working in the field. When the Lord inquired of Cain, “Where is your brother?” Cain replied: “I know not: Am I my brother’s keeper?” Cain was marked by the Lord so as to preserve him from the wrath of others. He left home and went to the land of Nod, which the story says lies east of Eden. For his crime, the Lord banished Cain and set upon him a curse that Cain was to become homeless, a wanderer, and an agricultural laborer who would never possess or enjoy the fruits of his labor. Where does the story find application in Of Mice and Men? The relationship of George and Lennie, and the reactions of the other characters to that relationship. George and Lennie have a brotherly, mutual concern for each other and faithful companionship. “If them other guys gets in jail they can rot for all anybody gives a damn. But not us.” “…because I got you to look after me, and you got me to look after you.” Each is truly his brother’s keeper – and they get beauty, joy, security, and comfort from this. Secondly, this sort of camaraderie is rare, almost unique in the world George and Lennie inhabit. Other men are solitary souls without friends or companions (such as Candy). So the alternative to George and Lennie is aloneness: The migratory ranch worker seems to be the fulfillment of the Lord’s curse on Cain. Right from the first scene, after the incident in Weed, they are “fugitive and a vagabond,” just as Cain was. The “Eden” myth looms large in other ways in the novel. The California setting underscores the theme of man’s isolation and need for commitment. Takes place along the Salinas River, a few miles south of Soledad, California. Steinbeck often used California as symbolic of a fallen world or lost Eden. “The Promised Land” is a painful and illusory dream. “Soledad” translates into English as “solitude” or “loneliness.” In this country of solitude and loneliness, George and Lennie stand out sharply because they have each other. George and Lennie’s dream represents a desire to defy the curse of Cain and fallen man – to break the pattern of wandering and loneliness imposed on the outcasts and to return to the perfect garden. The “dream” farm symbolizes their deep, mutual commitment to each other. Even Candy and Crooks subconsciously recognize this unique commitment when they unite to protect Lennie from the threat posed by Curley’s wife. They, too, become their “brother’s keepers.” The “serpent”? Loneliness and the barriers between men, and between men and women , that create and reinforce this loneliness. Yet, it is this overwhelming and uncontrollable urge for human contact that brings about Lennie’s destruction and the destruction of almost all he comes in contact with – the mice, the puppy, and Curley’s wife. Because of this, the dream of the Edenic farm was likely never a possibility – he likely would have killed the rabbits, too. So his flaw represents the inherent imperfection in humanity that renders Eden forever impossible. What hasn’t perished with Lennie? The dream of man’s commitment to man. This is seen in the final scene when Slim comforts George. The novel began with two men climbing down to the brush from the highway. It ends with two men climbing back up from the pool to the highway. George is not alone – he is spared the fate of Cain. Still, many readers wonder why George doesn’t still purchase the farm with Candy. While we sympathize with George’s decision, we sense that he is still making a terrible mistake. Let’s consider Candy. It’s easy to see the parallel between the shooting of Candy’s dog by Carlson, and the shooting of Lennie by George. But Lennie and Candy are very similar. Candy needs someone to look after his affairs: He needs George and the dream farm. However, George declines to still get the farm with Candy, even though Candy is still more than willing to put up the money. This proves that being in one safe place with Lennie was more important to George than simply being in one safe place. He elects to continue living the hard life of a ranch hand rather than settle down to life on a small farm with Candy. This may be the true tragedy in the book. It’s not just that George loved Lennie; this unnatural attachment (in the context of typical migrant workers) was the only reason why George could put up with and do so much for Lennie in the first place. Without Lennie, George sentences himself to the same fate as the other migrant workers: a life of loneliness. So when Lennie dies, the dream of the farm dies with him. While his weakness doomed the dream, it was only his innocence that kept it alive.