Thursday, July 9, 2009

Marxist Analysis of "Of Mice and Men"

Although everyone has a dream that they hope to execute, dreams are no always possible to attain. In John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men the two main characters are George and Lennie who are two ranch hands. Lennie is a troublemaker and inadvertently causes them to be run out of all of their previous jobs. The two finally find work in Salinas Valley and hope to accomplish the dream of having a small farm of their own. Throughout the story we realize how unattainable dreams can really be.
In “Intellectuals and Hegemony”, Antonio Gramsci states that, “All men are intellectuals…: but not all men have in society the fuction of intellectuals.” In Of Mice and Men, it is clear that everyone on the ranch is in a constant power struggle; some people have the power and others don’t have the power and are trying to obtain it. George’s character appears to have some power. He is constantly ordering Lennie around, and the people at the ranch all have some respect for him, especially Lennie. This is evident in the way that Lennie seems to get so excited at the smallest thing that George says. For example when George is explaining to Lennie that the other people on the ranch “ain’t got nothin’ to look ahead to” and Lennie is excited and asks him to “tell it how it is with us.”

Slim appears to have the most power on the ranch, although he is very reserved about it. He goes about as a normal member of the ranch and that is probably what makes it appear as though he has even more power. Everyone’s goal is to be like Slim; he didn’t have to say or do much to get the respect that he wanted, and everyone listened to him even if they disagreed with what he said.
Curly always wanted to have power. He displayed this every time he yelled at someone and every time he bossed people around. He was constantly angry and I think this was his way of trying to show people that he had power. However for him this was to no avail because the other ranch hands didn’t respect him, and actually hated him because of his hostile ways. Another way you can see a power struggle is between him and his wife. He is so overprotective of her that he keeps her locked up inside the ranch despite her dreams to become a Hollywood star.
Often I wondered why it was that no one else could have power in this novel. Gramcsi states that “The problem of creating a new stratum of intellectuals consists therefore in…modifying its relationship…towards a new equilibrium.” In this case, I realized that someone like Curly’s character couldn’t be put into power because everyone’s way of thinking would have to be altered. The society would have to become more subordinate to a leader’s thoughts rather than rebellious like they already were. And of course they would not consent to this because Curly’s manner of talking and interacting with people was all wrong.


  1. Interesting. I think you might have also done something nice with Gramsci comparing Curly to the explicit state power (the threat of violence) and Slim to those values which gain spontaneous consent through their enviable character and position. Overall, keep working to make the connection between the book and the theory as strong as possible.

  2. "Although everyone has a dream that they hope to execute, dreams are no always possible to attain."