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Literary Allusions in 'Of Mice and Men': A Deep Dive

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Allusion 1: The American Dream

The American Dream is a recurring motif in 'Of Mice and Men,' and Steinbeck alludes to it through the character of George. The concept of the American Dream, which promises equal opportunities and success to all, is contrasted with the harsh reality of the Great Depression. Through George's yearning for a better life and his constant struggle to achieve it, Steinbeck criticizes the flawed nature of the American Dream.

Allusion 2: Biblical References

Steinbeck employs various biblical allusions in 'Of Mice and Men' to add depth to the story and highlight moral and ethical dilemmas. One such allusion is the portrayal of Lennie as a Christ-like figure. Lennie's innocence, vulnerability, and eventual sacrifice for George parallel the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, emphasizing the tragic nature of his character.

Allusion 3: Shakespearean Influences

Shakespearean allusions are also present in 'Of Mice and Men,' particularly through the character of Curley's wife. Her name is never mentioned in the novella, emphasizing her insignificance as a person in the male-dominated world. This lack of identity parallels Shakespeare's female characters, such as Ophelia in 'Hamlet' and Desdemona in 'Othello,' who are also marginalized and suffer tragic fates due to societal constraints.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Q1: How do the literary allusions contribute to the overall meaning of 'Of Mice and Men'?

A1: The literary allusions in 'Of Mice and Men' enhance the depth and complexity of the story. They provide a deeper understanding of the characters' motivations, highlight the societal and cultural contexts, and offer insights into the broader themes explored in the novella.

Q2: Are there any other prominent literary allusions in 'Of Mice and Men'?

A2: While the aforementioned allusions are the most notable ones, 'Of Mice and Men' also contains references to Robert Burns' poem 'To a Mouse' and the concept of Darwinian survival of the fittest.

Q3: What is the significance of characterizing Lennie as a Christ-like figure?

A3: By portraying Lennie in such a manner, Steinbeck emphasizes his innocence and vulnerability. It also underscores the tragic nature of Lennie's character and highlights the themes of sacrifice and redemption.


The literary allusions in 'Of Mice and Men' enrich the narrative and offer a deeper understanding of the characters and themes explored in the novella. From the critique of the American Dream to biblical and Shakespearean influences, these allusions contribute to the overall meaning and impact of the story. Through their skillful integration, Steinbeck elevates 'Of Mice and Men' from a simple tale of friendship to a profound exploration of human nature and societal constructs.