Ideas and Topics for Papers


1. Though George wants to keep his plans about owning a ranch secret, both Crooks and Candy learn of the scheme, and both want to become part of it. Why? What does this tell you about the significance of George’s plan?

2. Compare the characters Slim and Curley. In what ways are they similar? How does Steinbeck use them to suggest opposing forces in human nature?

3. In a brief novel such as this one, economy of detail is important: the author must make good use of everything he includes in the story. Select several passages in which Steinbeck demonstrates his ability to say a great deal about his characters or to foreshadow events to come. Discuss ways such details enrich your understanding of the story.

4. What role does Crooks play in the novel? What is the significance of his being black?

5. The first four paragraphs of chapter 6 describe a heron fishing in a pool in the Salinas River. Why do you think Steinbeck includes this scene? Why does he place it at the beginning of the final chapter?


1. Writers often use patterns of imagery (repeated descriptions of places, objects, or activities) to add subtle emphasis to their themes. How does Steinbeck use patterns of imagery (e.g., animal imagery) in this novel?

2. In chapter 3, Carlson takes Candy’s dog away and shoots it. What is the significance of this incident in the novel?

3. In chapter 4, Crooks tells Lennie: “Books ain’t no good. A guy needs somebody-to be near him.” What do you think Crooks means? What is Steinbeck trying to suggest by this comment?

4. Why does George travel with Lennie, tying himself down in this way? How do his actions illustrate one of Steinbeck’s major concerns in the novel?

5. Read Robert Burns’s poem “To a Mouse,” which treats the same theme as this novel: the inevitability of fate upsetting man’s careful planning. In what ways are Steinbeck’s and Burns’s treatments of the theme similar? In what ways do they differ?