The Idea of Responsibility in John Steinbeck’s Novel of Mice and Men

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Responsibility is an aspect in life that every person will experience in their lifetime. Being able to take care of another person or thing takes a lot effort since there will be a point in time where it is no longer possible for you to take care of yourself, while also being responsible for another. This point is shown when the many characters who have the part of being responsible in John Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men”, reach the time when they have to decide whether the part is worth it or not. The connections between the characters in the story demonstrates how the responsibility to others won’t last in a world that calls for independence.

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Arguably, the most important connection that the plot contains that represents the idea that responsibility to others won’t last in a world that calls for independence, is the connection between the two main characters, George and Lennie. Due to Lennie’s mental illness which causes him to act in a way that children do, which includes depending on others and being oblivious about what to do, George, being the more mature of the two and being the man in charge, has to be the one responsible for himself and Lennie. As the days go on, situations become more and more hectic which leads George to the conclusion that he can no longer continue his life with Lennie who is constantly hanging onto him. “If I was alone I could live so easy…I could get a job an’ not have no mess.” (Steinbeck, p.103) In this particular quote, George makes his final decision that it is not worth the trouble to keep taking care of Lennie. Here, Steinbeck shows how responsibility eventually comes to an end because the society that exists in their world is very demanding for independence in each individual. This idea is also supported in the connection between George and Lennie because when their journey together started out, George believed that he would never let go of Lennie, however, when he realized the truth about taking responsibility, George did the opposite of his belief.

Furthermore, another connection between characters that illustrates this idea is the connection between Candy and his dog. Because Candy’s dog is old aged, it had developed many disabilities and downfalls, such as being nearly blind and having no teeth. This means that Candy, who is a disabled person himself, having lost one arm to a machine, has to take care of his dog for every little thing. Eventually, the reality that being responsible for something won’t last long in a world and society that needs independence catches up with Candy and he soon realizes, after being pressured by his coworkers, that he will have to stop taking care of his dog. “At last Candy said softly and hopelessly, ‘Awright-take ‘im.’ He did not look down at the dog at all.” (Steinbeck, p.47) When Candy says this, he accepts the fact of no longer having the responsibility of his dog. Another thing from this connection that supports the idea is that because Candy’s coworkers, Carlson and Slim, agree that Candy should stop taking care of his dog, this shows that their world does need everybody to be self-reliant.

Finally, another important connection in “Of Mice and Men” that exemplifies the idea of how the responsibility to others won’t last in a world that calls for independence is the connection between Curley and his wife. Although Curley’s wife doesn’t directly rely on her husband to survive, she, instead, relies on him as a way to pass time. To clarify, because Curley’s wife is lonely most her time at the ranch, she tries to have conversations and/or conflicts with the ranch boys. However, she has no legitimate reason to talk the boys, so she starts her conversations, using her excuse that she is looking for her husband. “I’m looking for Curley,’ she said. Her voice had a nasal quality.” (Steinbeck, p. 31)

When this happens, Curley’s Wife is meeting George and Lennie for the first time. She uses this excuse, again, to make conversation with somebody else due to her loneliness. This part from the story also proves the idea and reality behind responsibility because Curley’s Wife finally stopped using the excuse after one day she took it too far and ended up losing her life. Another example from the connection between Curley and his wife is that Curley’s responsibility for his wife ended rather abruptly because he didn’t spend much time with her and had a lack of effort when it came to being a worthy husband. This shows how because Curley’s Wife couldn’t take care of herself and Curley couldn’t really take care of her either things has to eventually come to an end.

Additionally, I believe Steinbeck has chosen to convey this theme because it is an important lesson to learn. This is because the lesson that is supported is that you cannot live your life if you keep relying on others and having others be responsible for you. This is presented in the connections between the characters given. Such as, for George and Lennie, Lennie’s life ended because George could no longer be responsible for him. If Lennie were able to be independent and self-reliant, he would’ve survived and the two of them would live a successful life. Same for Candy and his dog, if the dog was not disabled in so many ways, it would’ve been able to take care of itself and live on. Instead, because Candy had the responsibility to take care of his dog for every little task, society’s way of resolving the problem was to kill the dog. Finally, because Curley wasn’t responsible enough for his wife, she ended up dead because he didn’t care for her the way he should have.

In conclusion, the connections between the characters in “Of Mice and Men” demonstrates how the responsibility to others won’t last in a world that requires individuals to be independent in order to survive. This theme is supported throughout the story in the connections between George and Lennie, Candy and his dog, and Curley and his wife. In addition, Steinbeck deliberately conveyed this theme in his story because it teaches the lesson that you cannot always have someone be responsible for. By doing so, you let somebody decide your life for you instead of you doing it for yourself.

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The Idea of Responsibility in John Steinbeck's Novel Of Mice and Men. (2022, Sep 30). Retrieved December 3, 2022 , from

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