What Is the Theme in Of Mice and Men – 2023

Of Mice and Men, a novella by John Steinbeck, is a classic story exploring the themes of human isolation, friendship, and the American Dream. Despite being published over 80 years ago, its relevance to modern readers remains strong.

John Steinbeck

John Steinbeck was an American writer born on February 27, 1902, in Salinas, California. With humble beginnings, Steinbeck worked his way through college at Stanford University but never graduated.

He moved to New York in 1925 with hopes of establishing himself as a free-lance writer, but he failed and returned to California where he worked as a farm laborer and a journalist.

Steinbeck is most famous for his works on the lives of ordinary people during the Great Depression, such as the novella Of Mice and Men. The story follows the lives of George Milton and Lennie Small, migrant ranch workers who travel from place to place in search of employment during the Great Depression.

The novella was released in 1937 and has since become a classic staple of American literature.

Understanding the Theme

In literature, a theme is defined as a universal message, idea, or lesson that is explored throughout the work. It goes beyond the specific characters and events in the story and expresses something that is applicable to real-life situations.

In John Steinbeck’s novella, Of Mice and Men, the theme revolves around loneliness and the human need for companionship. This is highlighted through the characters of George Milton and Lennie Small, who are migrant ranch workers during the Great Depression in the United States.

Despite the challenges they face, the two men have each other and their shared dream of owning a piece of land.

The theme of loneliness is further explored through the other characters in the novella, such as the old swamper, Candy, who is isolated due to his age and disability, and Curley’s wife, who is trapped in an unhappy marriage and yearns for attention.

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Through the theme of loneliness, Steinbeck delivers a powerful message about the importance of human connection and the devastating effects of isolation.

What Is the Theme in Of Mice and Men

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck is a novella that explores various themes. The book contains a universal idea, lesson, or message that is explored throughout the novella.

Some of the main themes of Of Mice and Men are:


One of the central themes of the novella is Dreams, which is an essential part of human nature. In Of Mice and Men, dreams are a source of companionship, hope, and future visions.

George and Lennie’s dream of owning a farm cultivates the idea of working hard towards their shared goal, which is to be self-sufficient and fulfilled.


Loneliness is another vital theme of the novella, and it shapes the characters’ behavior and personalities. Steinbeck portrays loneliness as a complex issue that arises from different circumstances, such as the social and economic circumstances during the Great Depression.

The theme of loneliness is evident in the characters of Candy, Crooks, and Curley’s wife, who feel isolated and disconnected.


Companionship is a third significant theme in Of Mice and Men that underscores the need for human connection. Steinbeck’s portrayal of George and Lennie’s friendship demonstrates the significance of kinship and the joy and comfort it can provide.

In conclusion, the themes of Dreams, Loneliness, and Companionship run throughout Of Mice and Men, contributing to a comprehensive exploration of the human experience. Through these themes, Steinbeck highlights the importance of companionship, the challenges of loneliness, and the fundamental value of having dreams.

Significance of Themes Today

The themes presented in Of Mice and Men resonate with readers today due to their universal nature. The importance of companionship and belonging are just as relevant today as they were in the 1930s.

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Image of Of Mice and Men book cover

The characters’ struggles with loneliness and isolation are also still relevant in modern society. The theme of dreams versus reality is also applicable to readers today, as many people still struggle to reconcile their aspirations with the harsh realities of life.

In addition, the theme of loyalty and sacrifice is a timeless lesson that is still highly valued in society today.

Of Mice and Men Book Cover

Steinbeck’s exploration of these themes in Of Mice and Men is a testament to his skill as a writer, and his ability to create relatable characters and situations that still resonate with readers today. The novella’s enduring popularity is a testament to the relevance of its themes, and their ability to connect with readers on a deep, emotional level.


While Of Mice and Men presents several important themes, it is not without its detractors who argue that the novella is too simplistic and formulaic in its approach to character development and plot. Some critics suggest that the depictions of George and Lennie perpetuate stereotypes about intellectual disability and the struggles of migrant workers during the Great Depression.

Others argue that the portrayal of women in the novella is shallow and one-dimensional. Additionally, some readers may find fault with the novella’s tragic ending, which reinforces the idea that those who are marginalized in society are ultimately doomed to fail.

Despite these criticisms, Of Mice and Men remains a classic work of American literature that speaks to timeless themes of human connection, the American dream, and the consequences of isolation and exclusion. Even as readers grapple with the complexities and controversies of the novella, they can appreciate the beauty and power of Steinbeck’s writing, which captures the essence of the human experience in all of its joys and sorrows.

Examples of the Themes in Popular Culture

Many forms of media today explore universal themes that resonate with readers or viewers. With regards to John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, some examples can be found in popular culture where themes of dreams, loneliness, and companionship are heavily present.

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One example can be seen in the movie The Pursuit of Happyness, starring Will Smith. The film portrays a man’s struggle to achieve his dream of becoming a successful stockbroker while dealing with homelessness and raising his young son.

The theme of dreams is also present in the Disney movie Tangled, where Rapunzel longs to see the world outside of her tower.


Another example can be found in the movie Her, where a lonely man develops a relationship with an intelligent computer operating system. The TV show Bojack Horseman also explores themes of loneliness through its titular character, a washed-up actor who struggles with depression and isolation despite his fame and wealth.


The theme of companionship can be seen in the TV show Friends, which portrays a group of friends navigating through life’s challenges while supporting each other. In the movie Up, an unlikely friendship develops between an elderly man and a young boy as they embark on a thrilling adventure together.

Overall, these examples demonstrate how the themes present in Of Mice and Men are still relevant and explored in popular culture today.


John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men is a novella that explores several universal themes that are still relevant to readers today. The themes of loneliness and alienation, dreams versus reality, and friendship and loyalty are woven into Steinbeck’s masterful storytelling and complex characters.

Through George and Lennie’s journey during the Great Depression in the United States, readers are reminded of the importance of human connection, pursuing their dreams, and sticking together through thick and thin. Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men continues to be a classic piece of literature that resonates with readers of all ages and backgrounds.


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Jonathan B. Delfs

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