In this article you will learn about the archetypes in Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck, the classic novella containing various archetypes commonly seen in literature throughout the ages.
What are the Archetypes in Of Mice and Men?
George is the archetypal everyman, somebody who most readers of the book will identify with due to the normalcy of his feelings and thoughts, whose actions are understandable and relatable to almost anyone.
Most people will see something of George in themselves – whether it be the dreams of a better life, the desire to do the best for those they love or the pleasure in the simple things of life.
However, George also represents the archetypal mentor and leader figure, providing guidance and leadership to both Lennie and a number of other characters such as Candy.
Others look to Lennie for advice and support, for a role model on how they should act and for hope of a better future.
Lennie is the archetypal fool, a man with a good heart but who, because of mental inferiority beyond his control, is unable to always control his actions.
However, his mental problems also allow him to see the world with a naivety and innocence not available to those more mentally capable, and he is symbolic of how the mentally handicapped are mistreated and misunderstood.
Curley’s wife is an archetypal temptress, who sets out to cause mischief through her manipulations and flirtations in order to make her own lonely and miserable life more eventful but in doing so causes tragedy.
Curley himself is an archetypal small man, made angry by their physical inferiority and determined to make up for their lack of physical prowess by asserting their power and control over others.
Of Mice and Men Book Summary
- Two migrant workers, George and Lennie, travel through California seeking work, dreaming of one day owning their own farm.
- Lennie is a large, strong man but mentally disabled.
- He dreams of tending his own rabbits, but in reality does not know his own strength and ends up killing them.
- George constantly tells Lennie the story of the farm. However, they recently had to flee jobs at a farm because Lennie was accused of rape.
- On being hired at a new farm the pair are confronted by farmer’s son Curley, a small and angry man who dislikes larger men.
- They meet Candy, an old ranch handyman, as well as another worker called Slim, who gives Lennie a puppy.
- However, Curley’s flirtatious wife proves an attraction to Lennie and becomes a problem.
- Candy offers to help pay for their dream farm on condition he can live there with them – they just have to wait till the end of the month.
- However, their joy is short-lived when Curley attacks Lennie, who crushes Curley’s fist.
- Lennie is in the barn when Curley’s wife wanders in. Lennie has accidentally killed his puppy while stroking it.
- Curley’s wife lets him stroke her hair, telling him how lonely she is and her dreams of movie stardom.
- However, she panics and screams on feeling his strength and, frightened, Lennie breaks her neck before running away.
- When the corpse is found George realises the dream is over and hurries to the meeting place he told Lennie to go to if there was trouble.
- George shoots Lennie, believing it in his best interests.
- Curley, Slim and another man arrive.
- Only Slim realises what has happened and leads George away, the others unable to understand their subdued moods.
Of Mice and Men Archetype Examples
- Mentally mistreated
- ‘Small man’
Want more literary archetypes?
Go check out our extensive list of archetypes in literature to find out more about the characters seen in literature throughout the ages.