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Show how strength is significant in Of Mice and Men.
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck presents physical and mental strength as something that divides people; it creates unfair opportunities and leads people to judge others.
When Lennie and George initially meet The Boss, George urges Lennie to not to ‘say a word’ and to leaves his ‘big flapper shut’. George is aware that Lennie will be discriminated for his mental disability, so attempts to hide it. Even George seems to get frustrated with Lennie, when describing his mouth as a ‘big flapper.’ Despite seeming to care and love Lennie, George carelessly insults him, calling him a ‘crazy son of a *****’ and saying ‘if I was a relative of yours I’d shoot myself.’ Their relationship is one sided; Lennie clings onto George like a child, but George does not care deeply about Lennie. George knows that Lennie has to stay with him, otherwise Lennie would die or be put into a mental institution. This gives George social strength over Lennie; he is able to force Lennie to obey him. In 1930s America, having a mental disability would be as good as being dead. No one would help you; often people with mental issues were put into jail or left for dead on the streets. People with mental disabilities were seen as a burden on society. Steinbeck echos this view in the novel, with George trying to hide Lennie’s mental disability and feeling that he must take care of him. George is burdened by Lennie and wishes to escape. People with mental disabilities were so powerless that they had to be with someone that would protect them; if they were not, they would die. George has more mental and social strength than Lennie as he does not have any mental disability.
Another character who lacks strength in the novel is Curley’s wife. She is constantly belittled and described as a ‘tart’, ‘jailbait’ and a ‘tramp’. Curley’s wife is objectified by the men and seen as ‘trouble’. Curley's wife’s lack of strength lead to her American Dream being crushed; she tells Lennie that a man ‘could put me in the pitchers’. Along with other characters in Of Mice and Men, Curley’s wife regrets not following her dream, and wished her life had not turned out the way it did. She holds onto her dreams of ‘being in the pitchers’, not realising that the man who offered her the opportunity was using her. Curley’s wife lacks the social strength to make her own way in life; she lives with Curley wishing for someone to come and put her in movies. She cannot decide her own fate, she must wait for a man to offer her an opportunity. Steinbeck presents Curley's wife’s broken dreams in this way to show how unfair society was for women in the 1930s. It was not meritocratic and it ignored the ideal of the American dream; in reality, the only way for Curley’s wife to end up in movies was for a man to give her the chance. Women were discriminated against and had significantly less opportunities than men. They were paid less for the same work, and often were kicked out of jobs for a man to take over. In the Great Depression it became even more impossible for women to find work. There weren’t enough jobs so they had to rely on men for money. If a woman was not married, she would be in poverty and left to die. Women were worthless. A man’s social strength allowed him to control women; he would have been her only source of money. Women's lack of social strength in Of Mice and Men meant they had to live off men, and weren’t offered equal opportunities.
Crooks is presented as the weakest character in the novel. He has no social or physical strength, and is at the bottom of the social hierarchy. The first character to mention Crooks is Candy, when he says that ‘the boss gives him hell when he’s mad’. Despite being aware that The Boss makes Crooks’ life miserable, Candy still describes him as a ‘fair’ man. Crooks has so little social strength that he is discounted; the other characters do not care if The Boss abuses or hurts him and still find him a good man. Crooks is seen as unimportant and is uncared for by the characters on the ranch, no one minds that he is given ‘hell’ by The Boss, as long as The Boss is kind to them. The treatment of Crooks reflects the treatment of all black people in 1930 America. Black people were discriminated against and segregated. In the novel, Crooks is isolated and lives on his own in the bunkhouse. The 1930s was a period of segregation; especially with the introduction of the Jim Crow laws, which legalised the separation of white and blacks. The novel shows the unfair prejudice that all blacks faced; they were forced to stay in jobs where they were badly treated because otherwise they would have nothing. People were seen as kind for offering a black person a job, even if they abused them or hardly paid them. Black people were never listened to; they had nowhere to complain to or go to so they had to suffer in the unfair conditions they lived in. Crooks has no social power because of his race, and this has a large impact on his life.
Also, avoid generalising in your context. “In 1930s America, having a mental disability would be as good as being dead”. That does not fully support your point and is very generalised, and while it may have been often true, it is too general. Instead you could go into how often institutionalisation of individuals in 1930s America with such illness could further their demise in mental state, and how George protects Lennie from this by keeping him alongside him, and by default giving him a position of power and strength over Lennie.
And maybe about the fact that strength was a big deal to the male characters for example how when curley got crushed by lennie he lost his self esteem.