The Natural World

The natural world presented in Of Mice and Men mirrors the world of the ranch. Like the ranch, the natural world is a dog-eat-dog place, where animal instincts and hunger trump any sense of justice or goodness. The grove is one of the book’s few settings, and while it’s a beautiful refuge from the ranch, there are still birds eating snakes and the like. The natural world is also represented as part of the duality of relationships: Lennie loves animals, but kills them. Candy loves his dog, but can’t stand up for it; and even Crooks tends to the horses that maimed him. The relationship of characters to animals is a reminder that love doesn’t mean safety, and cruelty isn’t limited to the world of the ranch: it’s a fact of life. The natural world is without rhyme or reason, and often against our hopes, things die, even if you love them, because nature is as cruel as it is beautiful.

'[He] walked heavily, dragging his feet a little, way a bear drags his paws. His arms did not swing at his sides, but hung loosely.'

'Lennie dabbled his big paw in the water and wiggled his fingers so the water arose in little splashes; rings widened across the pool o the other side and came back again. Lennie watched them go. "Look, George. Look what I done."'

'"What you want of a dead mouse, anyways?"
"I could pet it with my thumb while we walked along," said Lennie.'

'The old man came slowly into the room. He had his broom in his hand. And at his heels there walked a dragfooted sheep dog, gray of muzzle, and with pale, blind old eyes. The dog struggled lamely to the side of the room and lay down, grunting softly to himself and licking his grizzled, moth-eaten coat. The swamper watched him until he was settled. "I wasn’t listenin’. I was jus’ standin’ in he shad a minute scratchin’ my dog."'

'"She slang her pups last night," said Slim. "Nine of ‘em. I drowned four of ‘em right off. She couldn’t feed that many."'

'[Candy] said miserably, "You seen what they done to my dog tonight? They says he wasn’t no good to himself nor nobody else. When they can me here I wisht somebody’d shoot me. But they won’t do nothing like that. I won’t have no place to go, an’ I can’t get no more jobs."'