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Examples of Foreshadowing in 'Of Mice and Men'

Samarpita Choudhury Jan 26, 2019
Foreshadowing is another writing technique that a witty writer incorporates in his unique story narration style. To understand this better, we shall take a look at some of the foreshadow examples from John Steinbeck's 'Of Mice and Men'.

A Better Way to Die?

In 'Of Mice and Men', George chose to shoot Lennie, rather than have him lynched by the mob.
That one thing about which we get a hint in the first part of the story, and we remain on our toes, glued to the story till we understand the significance of it in the succeeding part of the story is what we know as the act of foreshadowing. It is a literary device that authors bank upon to lend a touch of excitement and mystery to their pieces.
One successful and common way to use this device is the use of prophecies in stories. In this post, we shall take note of some of the examples of foreshadowing in 'Of Mice and Men', which is a popular parable that was first published in 1937.

Examples of Foreshadowing in 'Of Mice And Men'

One of the best examples for the use of foreshadowing in literature is 'Of Mice and Men'. John Steinbeck has used the technique of foreshadowing almost across the length and breadth of the story. That explains why the story appears that enticing, as it is. Let us read some of them in greater detail.
Let's begin with the title.

'Of Mice and Men' is a title with bears strong resemblance with another piece of art entitled 'To a Mouse'. In this poem, the poet feels sorry to see the fate of the little mouse who had built his little home, preparing for the winters. But, with the plow at work, the little home of the little mouse got ruined.
The similarity with 'Of Mice and Men' is that however efficiently man contemplates and plans for the future course of action, something or the other alters it greatly.
In the beginning of the story, before George and Lennie find their way into the ranch, the writer draws a picture with the following words:

"... a path beaten hard by boys coming down from the ranches, an ash pile made by many fires, and a limb...worn smooth by men who have sat on it."
The aforementioned quote suggests that George and Lennie are definitely not the only ones who have come into the ranch, and they are also not the last ones to be here. There were, and there will be people who would come. Hence, the phenomenon is vicious, and it would follow in the later times as well.
In the first chapter itself, we find Lennie hiding a dead mouse in his pocket, aspiring to pet it. George discovers it and asks Lennie to throw it out. Lennie tells George that he wants to have another mouse. He then said the following to Lennie:

"That was your own Aunt Clara. An' she stopped givin' 'em to ya. You always killed 'em."
These words suggest that there was death that was in store in the course of the story. This is confirmed when Lennie unknowingly kills a puppy, and then even Curley's wife.

"Lennie- if you jus' happen to get in trouble like you always done before, I want you to come right here an' hide in the brush...Hide in the brush till I come for you. Can you do that?"
This quotation from the story is a revelation that Lennie always ends up landing himself in trouble, and George has to come to his rescue. The quote is also suggesting that since Lennie is in the habit of running into trouble, it is expected that he is perhaps in for another one(s) quite soon.
To top it all, Lennie's gesture of showing kindness in extreme, is ironically responsible for harm than good to the objects and creatures towards whom he is compassionate.
In the story, we also see that Lennie is furious at the death of a little puppy which dies at his hands. Lennie was fond of soft, tender objects. His enormous strength surpassed the tenderness of the puppy and the mice in the story, and he killed them. He killed them not with such an intent, but in an attempt to caress them.
The following line shows his deep remorse.

"You ain't so little as mice. I didn't bounce you hard."

This incident was also a foreshadow of the death of Curley's wife who came at the barn. She, given to her state of wrong marriage, was always inclined towards other men.
On that fateful day, it was poor Lennie whom she wanted to seduce. She offered Lennie to feel the softness of her hair. Lennie was overwhelmed at the touch of her soft hair, and stroke it harshly, which she didn't like.

Lennie fearing that the woman would scream, put his enormous palms on her mouth and nose and choked her to death, without knowing.
In the story, we also get to know that Carlson doesn't seem to approve of the idea of having Candy's old dog anymore. The dog had been with Candy since long, and now it was ill and old. So, he asks Candy to kill it. The following excerpt narrates the tormenting opinion of Carlson about Candy's dog
"Well, I can't stand him in here," said Carlson. "That stink hangs around even after he's gone." He walked over with his heavy-legged stride and looked down at the dog. "Got no teeth," he said. "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?"
This incident of killing Candy's dog is a strong foreshadow of Lennie's death. Lennie, as we know, is mentally unwell.

Hence, he always depends upon George for everything that happens in his life. The state of his dependence is so much that he appears to be George's 'pet', in the same way as Candy has his old dog as his pet.
In the final section of the story, we see Lennie at that very riverbed where George had asked him to come, when he is at the face of trouble.

Lennie is happy and hopeful that once again, George would come to his rescue, and end all his troubles, like always.
George comes, and Lennie is happy to see his only friend. Both try to visualize the ranch of their dreams that they aspire to own some day.

George asks Lennie to take a look at the river, while he would narrate the story of their farm.

George then shot him right at the back of his head, just like Candy's dog was shot.
Steinbeck's 'Of Mice and Men' is laden with many such foreshadow descriptions, which he has used to ignite the excitement in the minds of his readers, and keep them hooked to the story, also motivating them to think and reflect. As the reader reads the story gradually, he gets to know the use of these hints that the author has wittily left for his readers.