Alliteration in Of Mice and Men

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  • 0:01 Alliteration
  • 0:55 The Title
  • 1:23 Names
  • 2:36 Alliteration and Imagery
  • 3:47 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Lauren Posey

Lauren has taught intermediate reading in an English Language Institute, and she has her Master's degree in Linguistics.

There are many descriptive devices that can be used to aid in the telling of a story. In this lesson you'll learn about alliteration and how it is used in John Steinbeck's 'Of Mice and Men'.


Think about the last time you went shopping. Did you happen to notice the signs in front of the stores? For example, let's say there is a flower shop that has a sign that says something like: 'Lovely lilies leaping off the shelves!' to advertise a special on lilies. This would be an example of alliteration. Alliteration is when multiple words that are close together start with the same sound. You can see it a lot in advertising, as well as in literature. In literature, such as in novels, novellas (a literary work that is longer than a short story but not as long as a novel), short stories, poems, etc. it often works alongside figurative language to enhance the imagery. One place where we see quite a bit of alliteration is in John Steinbeck's novella, Of Mice and Men, published in 1937. Of Mice and Men follows two migrant workers in California: Lennie Small, a giant of a man who is slow and dim-witted, and his best friend and the man who watches over him, George Milton.

The Title

The very first piece of alliteration that we see in the book is the title itself. Of Mice and Men, because of its alliteration, has a very poetic quality. This is also due to the fact that it comes from a line in the Robert Burns' poem To a Mouse: '...The best laid schemes o' Mice an' Men.' This poetic and very beautiful title helps to capture the reader's attention. Steinbeck uses this alliteration specifically because the Burns' poem talks about how even the most carefully planned events can come undone, and this gives meaning to Steinbeck's story.


Another place we see a lot of alliteration in Of Mice and Men is in the names of characters. Many of the characters living on the ranch have names that begin with the same letter: Candy, Carlson, Curley, and Crooks. One function of this alliteration is to set Lennie and George apart from the other characters. The alliteration of the names of the men on the ranch help group them together, and since Lennie's name and George's name both start with different letters and neither of them being 'C,' this sets them apart as outsiders from the very beginning.

In addition, the sound these men's names start with is a harsh one. They all begin with a hard 'C,' which is a grating and unpleasant sound. Just like the sound of their names, the lives of these men are also hard and unpleasant. Grouped together, these men with the harsh sounding names and harsh lives are living the extremely painful ranch life that Lennie and George are trying to escape. In this way, too, the alliteration helps set them apart from the others.

Slim's name does not start with a 'C,' but we still see alliteration at work in his name and title. He is Slim the Skinner, and he is the only skinner on the ranch. This, along with the different sound in his name, sets him apart from the other ranch hands in a different way than Lennie and George, since he is not an outsider. He is a leader there, and well respected among the men. The alliteration in his name and title helps draw attention to this.

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