A Spotlight on Power Essay Example

Power is considered a valuable quality that is obtained by so few but desired by so many. While the concept of authority is always on people’s minds, the art of exercising it is never in the picture. The theme of power is prevalent among various characters in the novel, Of Mice and Men, as John Steinbeck presents a number of figures in the story who either struggle to establish their authority or those who wield the attribute with ease. Curley’s wife and Lennie are two characters that embody this description. Steinbeck creates this type of aura around two of the more uncommon personalities in the novel to establish the theme that power, which is often used for one’s own needs, leads to negative consequences when applied unreasonably.

One of the more polarizing characters in the novel, Curley’s wife uses her attractiveness and her husband’s position as tools to establish authority. Unable to use her talent of acting, Curley’s wife is restricted to “[giving people] the eye” (Steinbeck 28) to gain attention. The theme is prevalent in this situation as Curley’s wife is able to control men by entrancing them with her appearance, which temporarily quenches her thirst for human interaction. Nevertheless, Curley’s wife is often the subject of derision, as she is seen as flirtatious and provocative. Moreover, Curley’s wife further establishes dominance against weaker figures in the novel, as she threatens to have “[Crooks] strung up on a tree” (Steinbeck 81). This circumstance highlights Curley’s wife’s status and authority on the ranch, as she is able to threaten Crooks, who is considered inferior due to his race. Nevertheless, Curley’s wife’s continuous attempts to exercise power ultimately lead to her demise, as she was perceived as an object with a tarnished reputation.

Unlike Curley’s wife, Lennie’s power circulates around his immense strength. For instance, Lennie uses his power to “[buck] barley… [and] take orders” (Steinbeck 39). This situation reflects the theme as Lennie uses his power for his own needs, which is to efficiently execute his tasks. The unique combination of force, however, makes certain members of the ranch wary of his massive stature, despite the absence of a notorious motive. Nonetheless, Lennie’s sheer strength is often compromised by his lack of intelligence, as he frequently “[does] bad things and [George] has to get [him] out” (Steinbeck 11). While he lacks a pugnacious attitude, Lennie’s actions lead to his and George’s detriment in several moments of the novel; these circumstances embody the theme repeatedly, as Lennie’s desire to go about his business is often undermined by negative consequences. Overall, Lennie’s abnormal strength continuously puts him and those around him in harm’s way. 

The concept of power is accepted and cherished among numerous groups, but the logistics of wielding this “weapon” is often an afterthought. John Steinbeck’s novel illustrates this topic and the negative consequences that follow by shining the spotlight on Curley’s wife and Lennie. While being wrapped in their own inconceivable thoughts and ideas, not one stopped to recognize the lasting effects of their actions. Ultimately, the power that each character possessed was the very thing that led to their demise or downfall.



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