Why is the ending of “Of Mice and Men” significant?

Could someone shed light on the significance of the ending of "Of Mice and Men" by John Steinbeck? How does it tie together the narrative and its themes?

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The ending of John Steinbeck's "Of Mice and Men" is deeply significant both in terms of narrative closure and the reinforcement of the novel's central themes. To analyze the ending, we must recognize it as a culmination of the struggles and relationships developed throughout the story, particularly between the two main characters, George Milton and Lennie Small. **Narrative Closure:** The narrative of "Of Mice and Men" follows George and Lennie, two itinerant workers in the Great Depression, who share a dream of owning a piece of land and living off it. The tragic ending, where George takes the responsibility of ending Lennie's life to spare him from a more brutal death at the hands of a lynch mob, provides a grim resolution to their dream. It underscores the harsh reality of the world they inhabit—a world where the kind of mercy and dignity George offers Lennie is the best that can be hoped for under dire circumstances. **Thematic Significance:** 1. **The American Dream:** The novel questions the viability of the American Dream. The ending suggests that for many, especially the disenfrathed and marginalised characters like George and Lennie, the dream is ultimately unattainable. It demonstrates the merciless nature of an era where the dream was continually out of reach for the average person. 2. **Friendship and Loneliness:** Throughout the novel, the friendship between George and Lennie is a central point of light amidst the prevailing loneliness experienced by the characters. The ending reflects the extreme actions taken to protect a friend and the solitude that follows—a poignant comment on the sacrifices made in the name of friendship and the profound loneliness that can result. 3. **Mercy Killing:** The ending forces readers to grapple with the moral ambiguity of George's choice. It's an act of mercy that spares Lennie from a more painful and terrifying fate, but it also raises questions about justice, empathy, and the right to make such a decision. This ties back to the overarching theme of survival and the ethics of the choices made for survival. 4. **The Inevitability of Tragedy:** Steinbeck's naturalistic style posits that fate is often out of one's control. Despite George's best efforts to protect Lenny and build a future together, external forces and Lennie's own uncontrollable actions set them on a path toward tragedy from the beginning. The ending is thus a fulfillment of an inevitable cycle presented throughout the novel. 5. **Loss of Innocence:** Lennie, with his child-like innocence, represents an idealistic and more simple way of life that is incompatible with the harsh realities of the world. His death represents the destruction of innocence and, by extension, the loss of hope for a better life, encapsulated in their shared dream. 6. **Cyclical Structure**: Finally, the novel starts and ends at the same location, near the Salinas River, which gives the story a cyclical structure that emphasizes the inescapability of the characters' circumstances. The same setting serves as a stark contrast between the hopeful beginning and the tragic conclusion. The ending of "Of Mice and Men" remains a topic of discussion and analysis because of its layered implications and its ability to provoke thought regarding the human condition. Steinbeck's skill in portraying complex characters and intricate relationships — all culminating in an ending that ties back to the work's themes — is why the novel continues to be a poignant classic that resonates with readers across generations.
Answered on July 8, 2024.
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