The use of foreshadowing in “Of Mice and Men” by John Steinbeck
John Steinbeck's novella "Of Mice and Men" is a story about two migrant ranch workers, George Milton and Lennie Small, who dream of owning their own farm one day. Published in 1937, the book is a commentary on the American Dream and the difficulties faced by ordinary people in achieving it. One of the most significant literary techniques used in this novella is foreshadowing, which is used to build tension and suspense, and to give the reader hints about what is to come.
The novella opens with a description of the idyllic setting, a peaceful scene of a river flowing gently through the countryside, and birds chirping. However, this tranquility is soon shattered when the reader is introduced to George and Lennie, who are on the run from their previous job. This abrupt change of tone foreshadows the difficulties that George and Lennie will face in their quest for a better life.
Another example of foreshadowing occurs when George and Lennie arrive at the ranch where they will be working. The boss's son, Curley, is introduced as a violent and aggressive character, who is always looking for a fight. This sets the stage for the conflict between Curley and Lennie, which is to come later in the story.
The most significant example of foreshadowing in "Of Mice and Men" is the death of Candy's dog. Candy's dog is old, blind, and no longer useful, and the other ranch workers pressure Candy to have it put down. This event foreshadows the tragic ending of the story, where Lennie is killed by George to spare him from a painful death at the hands of Curley and the other ranch workers.
Throughout the novella, Steinbeck uses imagery and symbolism to reinforce the foreshadowing. For example, the image of the dead puppy that Lennie accidentally kills is a symbolic representation of Lennie's own fate. The puppy is small and weak, just like Lennie, and its death hints at the inevitable tragedy that awaits Lennie.
In conclusion, the use of foreshadowing in "Of Mice and Men" is an essential element of the novella's structure and theme. Steinbeck masterfully uses foreshadowing to create tension and suspense, to hint at the difficulties that George and Lennie will face, and to give the reader a glimpse of the tragic ending that awaits them. The use of imagery and symbolism further reinforces the foreshadowing and adds depth to the story. Overall, "Of Mice and Men" is a powerful example of how foreshadowing can be used to create a compelling and thought-provoking work of literature.