Of Mice and Men? was written by the author John Steinback and published in England in1937. It tells the story of two very contrasting characters trying to live out the American dream in the farming lands of North California. The tale is classed as a short story as is ?The Withered Arm? which is a story about witchcraft in Dorchester during the 18th century. This book was written by the author Thomas Hardy and published in 1888.
Although the stories were written in different centuries and tell of different circumstances there are many similarities between them involving outsiders, loneliness, the roles of women and much more.
Straight away you can tell when reading that the two books are from separate times and places and this is due to the language and setting used.
In ?Of Mice and Men? the language used is that of the itinerant worker this is typical of that which would have been used on the farms at the time. This helps add to the realism of the story and make it more life like. Steinback also uses a great deal of description including metaphors and similes to describe the landscape around him. These give us a clear and vivid picture of the natural world surrounding the characters. This technique is particularly used in the first and last scene in the forest near the river. This scene is remembered the most clearly as its placed at the two crucial points where readers will be reading every word in detail to gain a good understanding of the book. The fact that the story ends in the same place it began gives it a circular structure. Not only are the characters in the same place but life is set to continue in the same way for George as he will leave this farm to work at another just as he was doing at the beginning.
The language and setting is also very important in ?The Withered Arm? as many words in the story such as ?lorn? and ?wellnigh? are not commonly used in the writing today so help set a date to the story. Because Hardy was brought up in Dorset and the people in the villages there spoke their own dialect some of the words used in the story also help set a place to the time and setting. Hardy also uses detailed description and pathetic fallacy to make the weather, scene and story fit together. For instance when Rhoda and Gertrude are travelling to see Conjurer Trendle Rhoda is apprehensive and thinks something bad is going to happen. The weather echoes this where?
Thick clouds made the atmosphere dark?the wind howled dismally?
One of the most obvious comparisons between the two stories is how many of the main characters are lonely and outsiders compared to the others. In ?Of Mice and Men? Lenny and George are alone as although they have each other it seems to be more of a chore to be with each other than a friendship. Both George and Rhoda have only child like characters to confide in and have no one of their own intellectual level or age to talk to. Because Lenny and George are new to the area they don?t know who to trust and have to keep some distance from the new people they are meeting so can?t make friends this way. However the opposite is true with Rhoda as although she has been there for many years she is described as?
A thin, fading woman of thirty milked somewhat apart from the rest.?
She is partly separated because she wants to keep to herself although I believe that social class separates certain characters in both books. Because Rhoda was married to Farmer Lodge she used to be part of the ?upper class? now that she has to work again her pride has been hurt and she is to ashamed to try and reassociate herself with the other milk maids. Gertrude, the young wife of farmer lodge is also set aside because of her ?marks of a lady? as is put in the book. As the wife of a reasonably wealthy man she is not to be seen mixing with the workers and although she manages it it is very difficult for her to get them to accept her.
This idea of division among the social classes is also true in Steinbacks story where Curly and his wife are believed to be above the others and are not expected to spend time with the other workers. Therefore when Curly comes in to the mens living quarters there is uncomfortable conversation as his class (and arrogance) have set him apart from them. It is also all the more shocking then that his wife is continuously talking and hassling the men into being around her when as the bosses? wife she should have had nothing to do with them.
One other cause of loneliness in of mice and men is due to the prejudice between whites and coloured people. The coloured, crippled stable boy is set apart from the other men as his colour invents yet another ?class? of people who are socially below even the farm workers. It is ironic that the one of the only people to see that his colour makes no difference is Lenny and he is the least intellectual person in the story.
Another type of prejudice is used in both books and this is to do with the role of women. Both Gertrude, Rhoda and Curlys wife all have the fact that they are women and good looking used against them but curlys wife is hurt the most. Because of her looks and flirtatious nature the workers automatically assume that she is a horrible person and looking for trouble. Although this is partly true we find out later that she is only really looking for people to talk to as she is yet another lonely person in the book.
Although the men were disgusted by her flirting they find no problem in visiting ?old Suzies place? where they can pay ?two an? a half? for a girl.
This shows that the men believed a married womans place was in the house and she should obey her husband. This point is reinforced when Carlson says in reference to Curlys wife?
Why?n?t you just tell her to stay the hell home where she belongs??
The main themes in both stories are based on dreams and ambitions. ?Of Mice and Men? shows Lenny and George trying to live out the typical American dream with Lenny wanting to tend rabbits and George ?live of the fatta the land?. In ?The Withered Arm? Gertrude wants to be a good wife and Rhoda wants to be reunited with farmer lodge and have him acknowledge his son.
Although these dreams all look set to come true at some point during the book there are clues given by both writers to the fact that none of them will accomplish there goals. For example, when we hear the dreams of the ranch Lenny and George want to live on it seems almost impossible that two lowly farm workers would be able to achieve such a goal but the promise of the money from Candy makes it seem almost certain to happen. However we hear throughout the book how all farm workers dream the same thing but no one has ever seen it actually happen. This is pointed out when crooks the stable boy says?
I seen hundreds of men come by on the road?every damn one of ?em?s got a little piece of land in his head an? never a god damn one of ?em gets it.?
Comments such as this can tell readers what is likely to happen and you know that for some reason they will never get to live on their ranch.
The most obvious sign that ?Of Mice and Men? is going to end tragically is the meaning of the title that roughly translates as?
No matter how well we plan the future, things often go wrong.?
The endings to both books are very violent with the deaths of a main character bringing a similarity between the two stories. I think the endings are appropriate and bring a good climax to the story, as had the two characters not died they would have suffered even more. For example Lenny could not have lived with the fact that his dream wasn?t going to happen and he was going to have to be a worker all his life. To have him die while dreaming of his ranch seems almost like a happy but ironic ending. The same goes for Gertrude had she not died she would have had to live with the fact that she was becoming disfigured and this would have meant she would have lost her husband and lived a lonely solitary life.
Killing both the characters seems like an act of mercy to them as they are both innocent victims who got caught up in a life where they were set to be hurt but did nothing bad to bring it upon themselves.