Metaphors in Of Mice and Men

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  • 0:00 What Is a Metaphor?
  • 1:27 Candy and His Dog
  • 2:12 Solitaire
  • 2:42 The Dead Mouse and the…
  • 3:12 Metaphorical Lines
  • 4:51 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Susan Nagelsen

Susan has directed the writing program in undergraduate colleges, taught in the writing and English departments, and criminal justice departments.

The metaphors found in 'Of Mice and Men,' add to the visual experience of this classic tragic tale set during the Great Depression. These comparisons provide detail that adds richness and understanding to the plot.

What Is a Metaphor?

Metaphors make an implied connection between things that, while unrelated, share characteristics. When these connections are made in literature, a depth of understanding is added to the story line that engages the reader and encourages us to draw conclusions. In order to understand metaphors, it is helpful to look at some common metaphors as examples. In Romeo and Juliet for example, these lines are familiar:

'But, soft! what light through yonder window breaks?
It is the east, and Juliet is the sun.'

In this metaphor, Romeo is comparing Juliet to the rising sun. The daylight brings with it a promise of new hope. It shows Romeo's devotion to his love. Understanding metaphors help us look at the deeper meaning of the words, and looking at metaphors encourages us to reach an appreciation of the material in a new way.

Now that you have an understanding of what a metaphor is and an example to serve as a guide, let's take a look at metaphors in Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck.

There are many sub-plots in Of Mice and Men that serve as metaphors that ask us to arrive at a deeper meaning. There are also extended metaphors that foreshadow events to come. Three, in particular, stand out that we should consider.

Candy and His Dog

Candy is a handyman who lost a hand in an accident. He worries that he will be fired when he can no longer do his job. He has an old sheep dog that becomes a metaphor for what is to come in the story. Carlson, another ranch hand tells Candy that the dog, 'Got no teeth, he's all stiff with rheumatism. He ain't no good to you, Candy. An' he ain't no good to himself. Why'n't you shoot him, Candy?'

These lines serve as an extended metaphor for what is to come in the book. Taking care of the situation by shooting the dog is a metaphor for the idea that George will have to take care of the situation with Lennie. When it becomes apparent that Lennie is going to drag George down, he must be put out of his misery, just like the dog.


Solitaire is a game that George likes to play, and this game is a metaphor for many aspects of this novel. We come to understand that it represents the loneliness that is felt by living a lifestyle that means you have no one to count on but yourself. It is also showing us that George is tired of taking care of Lennie, who is unable to fully take care of himself. George longs to be alone and unburdened or to live a solitary life.

The Dead Mouse and the Dead Puppy

The dead mouse and the dead puppy are great metaphors in the book. They serve to remind us of the death of George and Lennie's dreams. We see that Lennie can and will destroy not just the creatures, but the hopes and plans he shares with George. The accidental death of these animals is used as a metaphor for the death of Curley's wife, another event that happened at the hands of Lennie, but was unplanned and a mistake so large that it cost him everything.

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