Of MIce and Men Naturalism
Of Mice and Men is a famous Naturalist work in American literature. Various elements of Naturalism is exhibited in this novel through its character types and story plot. Charles Darwin, an English Naturalist proposed a theory called natural selection, meaning that nature selects the best adapted varieties to survive and reproduce. Darwin also identified this theory as survival of the fittest. Steinbeck incorporated this belief of natural selection in many instances throughout Of Mice and Men using characters and their circumstances.
One character named Candy has an injury and is old in age. They were leading factors in is fear of being unemployed. His dogs old age and uselessness also resulted in its death. Another character named Lennie has a mental illness that caused troubles for George and himself which ultimately led to his death. Darwin’s theory survival of the fittest is one of the significant elements of Naturalism that is demonstrated continuously throughout Of Mice and Men. An example of Naturalism in Of Mice and Men is when Candy asks to be a part of George and Lennie’s dream of getting a ranch.
He overhears George and Lennie talking about what their future will be like on a farm and he offers his share to purchase the farm with them. “They’ll can me purty soon. Jus’ as soon as I can’t swamp out no bunkhouses they’ll put me on the county… ‘ won’t have no place to go, an’ I can’t get no more Jobsm (Steinbeck 60). Candy will eventually be unemployed because he will no longer be needed. He will be out of a job and have nowhere to go afterwards. Candys situation demonstrates the Naturalist element of survival of the fittest.
Candy is trying to survive after he is let go from the ranch by making plans with George and Lennie. He is not as useful on the ranch as he used to be. He will have no place to return back to and he will be left lone, with no Job. During the Great Depression, living was harsh and surviving was tough. Candys situation shows how difficult it was during those times and it displays a realistic outcome of Candys dilemma. Another example of Naturalism is the death of Candy’s dog. Candy’s dog was old and sick with rheumatism.
All the men recommended to shoot the dog because it would not be beneficial to anybody. “‘He ain’t no good to you, Candy. An’ he ain’t no good to himself. Why’n’t you shoot him, Candy?… You wouldn’t think it to look at him now, but he was the best damn sheep dog I ever seenm (Steinbeck 44). Candy’s dog was useful in the past when he was a sheep herder. He was young and energetic, but he started to age and was infected by disease. Candy’s dog depicts natural selection because as his effectiveness on the ranch declines, the need for him decreases as well, resulting in a different dog to take his place.
Candys dog was not able to endure the competition because he did not have the best adapted varieties to survive. In this novel, Darwin’s speculation of natural selection is demonstrated through Lennie’s mental condition. His condition was a catalyst for all the predicaments he caused for himself and George. Although Lennie has an abundance of physical power, he lacks knowledge and common sense. “‘Maybe he ain’t bright, but I never seen such a worker. He damn near killed his partner buckin’ barley. There ain’t nobody can keep up with him…
Sure he’s Jes’ like a kid. There ain’t no more harm in him than a kid neither, except he’s so the fittest because he fails to have the most beneficial characteristics to survive in a ruthless, harsh environment. Lennie has the similar qualities to a child; he is innocent and gullible, likes to pet soft items, and needs a responsible companion with parental qualities. In a setting like the Great Depression, those qualities would not enable a person to survive. The Great Depression was a dog-eat-dog world and everybody was out for themselves.
Lennie definitely would not be able to endure this type of setting, as he was not very intelligent and he was gullible. His mental illness and personality are two major components to why he was not able to survive during the Great Depression. Darwin’s theory survival of the fittest essentially means the strong will remain and survive while the weak will be ousted and perish. His belief appropriately applied to each character’s situation. Candys old age and uselessness on the ranch was a warning that he will be let go soon with no place to go.
Candys dog was killed because he was sick and old. Lennie’s mental handicap repetitively caused complications and dilemmas which ultimately led to his death. Charles Darwin’s belief of natural selection, also known as survival of the fittest is displayed frequently through characters and their specific circumstances. Unfortunately, these three characters in Steinbeck’s novel Of Mice and Men were not able to persevere through all the hardships and obstacles and their lives concluded in either death or failure.