Of Mice and Men
, John Steinbeck illustrates that even with perseverance, fate is inevitable and will destroy hope and whatever plans are made, resulting in suffering. One aspect of fate is that it is inevitable, and man fails to control it with planning, seen when George, Lennie and Candy are in the bunkhouse, waiting to hear the sound of a gunshot signaling the death of Candy’s dog. “Almost automatically George shuffled the cards and laid out his solitaire hand. He used a deliberate, thoughtful, slowness.
Lennie reached for a face card and studied it, then turned it upside down and studied it. ‘Both ends the same,’ he said. ‘George, why is it both ends the same?’”(Steinbeck 55). Comparable to the futile struggle against the Dust Bowl, Steinbeck displays powerlessness with the cards. The design of the cards is symbolic of fate, which has ultimate control and no matter the situation, or how one selects to handle it, that same result of suffering will persist. It always “ends the same”. The laying down of cards is a metaphor for making plans, so no matter how George plans with a “deliberate, thoughtful, slowness”, the outcome of fate is always the same. George is “automatically” drawn to shuffle the cards, revealing human nature to take control of one’s future. When faced with the threat of losing control, one will “shuffle the cards” and set up to find control, much like how shuffling of cards sets up the game of solitaire. Humanity has this optimism that control is possible, and chooses to believe that putting in an effort will result in a better outcome. Steinbeck applies irony here in that men try to take control by “shuffling cards” so that they can beginning planning for the game ahead, but at this point their fates have already been determined, in fact, by the shuffling.
Foreshadowing the death of Candy’s dog, the cards depict the idea that while man may have a slight deterrent on the grasp of fate, it’s not enough to overpower the end result. George plays solitaire, representative of the fact that he is reliant on his own abilities to fend for Lennie and himself. When George is faced with uncertainty he relies on creating a solid plan to reestablish control. At the beginning, after Lennie is falsely accused of rape, he creates the image of the dream farm that he and Lennie hope to own someday to find a new focus for their lives. In this time of anxiety, George demonstrates his need for control of the situation that has temporarily fallen out of hand. As far as the same outcome occurring despite other efforts,
George is determined to buy the farm for Lennie and himself so they may escape their past, but again because of Lennie’s carelessness their dream is stopped in its path, and no matter what
George does for the situation, it’s always the same ending: their dreams are crushed by fate. Steinbeck’s message can also be seen in the opening of the book, as he sets the scene for the path that George and Lennie are about to enter. “In front of the low horizontal limb of a giant sycamore there is an ash pile made by many fires; the limb is worn smooth by those who have sat on it” (Steinbeck 2). The ash and fire are both subject to symbolism: the ash representing the suffering that everyone experiences while the “many fires”, the cause of the ash, portrays fate. The fire symbolizes fate because it consumes all, not caring what is destroyed. Ash is the end of life for the forest, and foreshadows Lennie’s death, which in fact takes place near the described location. Ash is chosen as the symbol for suffering as it is complete destruction, and the items that were burned are no longer distinguishable. With the limb, “low” describes that
fate will stoop to levels of utmost cruelty, and does not discriminate. Steinbeck chooses the ashes as a symbol of suffering, the result of fate, because when something burns and leaves behind ash, the process is