->''The best-laid schemes o' mice an' men\\
Gang aft agley[[note]]Scots, "often go wrong" or "go oft awry"[[/note]],\\
An' lea'e[[note]]Scots, "leave"[[/note]] us nowt[[note]]Scots, "nothing" or "naught"[[/note]] but grief an' pain\\
For promis'd joy!''
-->-- '''Creator/RobertBurns''', "To a Mouse"

''Of Mice and Men'' is a 1937 novel, one of Creator/JohnSteinbeck's most famous, set during TheGreatDepression. It involves Lennie Small (a mentally-impaired GentleGiant) and George Milton, migrant workers who arrive on a California farm to work and hope to earn enough money to open a rabbit farm of their own, but things go pretty wrong.

One of the most challenged books of the 20th and 21st centuries and a frequent target of censors, who criticized it for bad language,[[note]]The far-right Reform Party of Canada attempted to have it banned in public schools in the city of Winnipeg in 2000; nothing came of the effort.[[/note]] "promoting euthanasia" and being "anti-business". However, it remains very popular and is a widely used SchoolStudyMedia. It has also had several film adaptations, including theatrical releases in 1939 and 1992 and made-for-TV versions in 1968 and 1981. The most famous adaptation is probably the 1939 film, which was directed by Lewis Milestone and starred Burgess Meredith as George and Creator/LonChaneyJr. as Lennie, with a musical score by none other than Music/AaronCopland.

!!This novel contains examples of:
%% Zero context examples have been commented out. Please provide context before uncommenting.
* AccidentalMurder: At the climax of the book in chapter 5, Lennie kills Curley's wife. He didn't ''mean'' to, he was just trying to stop her from screaming and getting him into trouble, which is lampshaded when George finds the body and talks to Candy and Slim.
* TheAce: Slim, one of the work bosses who takes charge of George and Lennie; he's handsome, fair-minded, hard-working, loyal, reasonable and just all around a nice guy. Even when Lennie accidentally murders Curley's wife, he agrees that Lennie doesn't really deserve to die for it -- or, at least not die the sort of death Curley will give him.
* AdaptationExpansion:
** The 1992 film. It adds scenes not present in the book such as showing scenes where the men are working, Curley's wife flirting with George in the barn, and BookEnds where George is hitching a ride on a train.
** Steinbeck's own play version of the book, in which he expands on a few characters for the purposes of drama. (Note that the ''book itself'' may be performed as a play without changing a word, and it was written for this purpose, but a few dramatists wanted a longer version.)
* AmbiguousInnocence: Lennie has the mind of a very young child -- but, like a child, he can't properly control his strength, and he can be scared or made angry, causing him to lash out like a child. And as he's so very strong, that makes him incredibly dangerous.
* AndCallHimGeorge: Lennie is one of the TropeMakers. He loves cute and cuddly animals. Only he loves them too much for their safety, due to his immense and uncontrollable strength.
* AssholeVictim: Curley gets his hand broken by Lennie after he tries to assert dominance over him and the bunkhouse. Everyone was clearly on Lennie's side since Lennie had no interest or desire in fighting Curley. Slim quickly blackmails Curley to lie about the source of his injury by threatening to tell everyone about how he broke his hand in fight he started against a herculean, towering simpleton. Curley's wife had no sympathy for him either.
* TheAtoner: George, it's partly why he's so protective of Lennie, when they were younger George made fun of Lennie's simplemindedness like everyone else until it caused an accident where Lennie nearly drowned.
* BetterToDieThanBeKilled: It's George who [[ShootTheDog decides what's best for Lennie]]: a quick, painless death he doesn't see coming, instead of a much uglier end at the hands of a lynch mob.
* BeigeProse: The writing in the book can get really overblown and haphazard at some points; many consider the film versons better for this reason.
* BewareTheNiceOnes: As is discussed during the story, Lennie doesn't have a mean bone in his body... but, if scared or angry, he can ''really'' hurt somebody without even meaning to.
* BigGuyLittleGuy: Lennie and George respectively.
* BilingualBonus: Soledad, the name of the nearby town, means ''solitary''.
* BodyMotifs: Curley has a hand motif: His glove full of Vaseline, his status as a prized fighter, and how his hand gets broken by Lennie.
* BoisterousWeakling: Curley.
-->'''Candy''': S'pose Curley jumps a big guy an' licks him. Ever'body says what a game guy Curley is. [[HeadsIWinTailsYouLose And s'pose he does the same thing and gets licked.]] Then ever'body says the big guy oughtta pick on somebody his own size, and maybe they gang up on the big guy.
* BookDumb: [[DownplayedTrope Downplayed]] with George. He is cunning and intelligent at times, but was too poor to afford education growing up. He also points out once that he's only smart in comparison to Lennie.
* BookEnds: The story begins and ends with George and Lennie sitting by the pool by the river. At the beginning of the story, it's a sanctuary of hope and confidence. At the end, it's the place where George is forced to kill his best friend.
* BullyingADragon: Curley tries to pick a fight with Slim, and Slim ends up intimidating Curley into submission. He turns it around on Carlson, who just laughs at him. Then he turns on Lennie...
* TheCaretaker: George serves as this to Lennie; being smarter than Lennie, George comes up with all the plans for getting money, tries to keep Lennie out of trouble, "translates" for him to others, and generally does whatever it takes to keep Lennie alive. PlayedForDrama in that, ultimately, the best thing George can do for Lennie is shoot him in the head.
* ChekhovsGun: Carlson's Luger; he uses it to kill Candy's dog, and ultimately, George steals it and uses it to kill Lennie.
* ChildhoodBrainDamage: George tells the ranch owner that Lennie was kicked in the head by a horse as a child to explain why he's mentally slow. Lennie has to ask George about it afterwards as he doesn't know whether it's true or not -- George then says it's not true.
* ChronicPetKiller: PlayedForDrama. Lennie loves small, fuzzy animals, but because he's too dumb to measure his strength properly, he ends up breaking their necks.
* {{Cloudcuckoolander}}: Lennie is a deconstruction of this trope. As shown by his plight, such a character can't fend for themselves in a world that exists outside of their head; without George's care, he would starve to death or die of exposure or end up being killed by someone. At the same time, he's immensely problematic to deal with, because he can't keep up with what other people are saying, and he ignores various social rules; at best, he alienates people, at worst, he can hurt them when they unintentionally panic.
* CloudcuckoolandersMinder: George is one of the best examples out there. He makes sure Lennie stays safe, keeps him fed, explains his oddities to other people, and finally [[ShootTheDog sends him to the afterlife himself]] rather than let a lynch mob do the job.
* CompleteTheQuoteTitle: The title is taken from the Robert Burns poem "To a Mouse". The line where it occurs goes in full "The best-laid schemes o' mice an' men / Gang aft agley". It foreshadows how the plans of the main characters will go unfulfilled due to tragic circumstances.
* ConspicuousGloves: Curley wears a glove full of Vaseline on one hand, supposedly because he's keeping that hand soft for his wife. This has no plot-relevant reason, but does make the theatrical adaptation easier to stage when his hand gets crushed.
* ConversationCasualty: At the end of the book, George is calmly talking to Lennie about the farm they've always dreamed of; he asks Lennie to close his eyes while talking, and George pulls out a gun and shoots him in the head. A non-villainous version, as George is doing this so that Lennie will die calm and happy.
* CrapsackWorld: The story is set in TheGreatDepression, which colors a lot of what goes on; times are tough, folks are mean, and there's no happy endings on the horizon for anyone.
* CrouchingMoronHiddenBadass: Oh sure, Lennie is dumb as a post and pretty gentle to boot, but Curley's crushed hand will testify that he is not someone you provoke.
* ADeathInTheLimelight: Curley's wife unpacks all her secrets throughout Chapter 5, right before she gets killed.
* DepartmentOfRedundancyDepartment: 'Candy's been sharpening his pencil and sharpening and thinking.'
* DoesNotKnowHisOwnStrength: Lennie, possibly the TropeCodifier. He kills mice just by petting them, kills a puppy by trying to play-hit it, and tries to calm Curly's Wife down by shaking her, but instead breaks her neck.
* DownerEnding: C'mon, you know you cried. Lennie dies and George is shattered. The farm was as much his dream as Lennie's, and he took pride and enjoyed taking care of his companion.
* DumbMuscle: Lennie is a deconstruction of this trope, with almost all the death in the book is caused by Lennie accidentally killing something, due to his strength, and not realizing this until it is too late.
* {{Foreshadowing}}:
** The whole scene with Candy's dog foreshadowed the end of the book.
** Chapter 5 has been nicknamed "The Foreshadowing Chapter" by some, as almost every event in it was foreshadowed at an earlier point in the novel.
* ForgottenFallenFriend: Curley used his wife's death to get murderous revenge on Lennie for breaking his hand. Their marriage was lifeless and Curley didn't take too long to assume the role as a CrusadingWidower
* FromBadToWorse: Things weren't so good when Lennie unintentionally puts himself and George into trouble more than a few times, but when Curley's wife gets drawn into the picture, that's when things start going off the deep end.
* GentleGiant: Lennie is huge NiceGuy and loves cuddly animals and soft things. The problem is that because of his inability to control his strength, he frequently kills pets when cuddling them.
* HaveAGayOldTime: Curley's wife is referred to as "jail bait" a number of times, but she is not underage, it is used to mean that the workers are worried that she would accuse them of rape if they crossed her, and end up in prison.
* HeadsIWinTailsYouLose:
** According to Slim, this is what getting in fights with Curley is like. Because he's a trained boxer he often beats guys bigger than him, but if he picks a fight and loses, there's no glory in it for his opponent, and the guy who beat him often gets ostracized for beating up a small guy like Curley.
** Ultimately ''subverted'' when Curley picks a fight with Lennie. Lennie is (technically) a childlike GentleGiant with no stomach for fighting, and when he crushes Curley's hand it's in self-defense, and only because George told him to. Although Curley comes out of the fight physically disabled, possibly permanently, the sympathy of the workers rests solely with Lennie.
* HeterosexualLifePartners: It's very easy to mistakenly assume the two protagonists are brothers. George uses this to his advantage, telling everyone that Lennie is his cousin.
* HisStoryRepeatsItself: Lennie has a history of getting in trouble for touching soft things.
* HopeSpot: When George, Lennie and Candy club together to raise the money to buy the ranch George talks about. It doesn't last.
* ICouldaBeenAContender: Curley's wife claims this during her MotiveRant to Lennie in chapter 5, claiming she could have gone away and become a star in Hollywood, but instead she's stuck out in the middle of nowhere as the bored and lonely TrophyWife of a strutting, arrogant rooster of a ranch-owner.
* IJustWantToHaveFriends:
** Curley's wife is lonely and just wants to talk to the workers. They avoid her because they don't want to have trouble with her fiery-tempered bully of a husband.
** Crooks longs for companionship, although he's less open about it and masks his loneliness with surliness.
* INeverGotAnyLetters: Invoked as part of the Wife's MotiveRant in chapter 5; she wrote letters to the man who promised he could get her a role in Hollywood, but she never got any back, and she's convinced that her mother was stealing and hiding them.
* IronicName: Lennie is a giant of a man and his last name is Small. It's lampshaded (rather obviously) by Carlson, who finds this funny.
** A more subtle example is in George's name-- his surname is Milton, a reference to the author of ''Literature/ParadiseLost''.
* {{Jerkass}}: Curly, who's accusatory, belligerent, and arrogant personality gets on everyone's nerves.
* JerkWithAHeartOfGold
** Carlson is gruff and prickly, but not unlikeable.
** Crooks takes a great deal of joy in picking on Lennie. And then he's put on the receiving end of it by Curley's Wife who threatens to have him lynched. However, he seems like for the most part a normal, well-meaning, reasonable person.
** While George's frustration with Lennie is at times understandable, there are other times when he outright verbally abuses him. Despite this, he has always looked out for him and cares about him deeply. Their friendship is still deep and remain loyal to each other considering they all they have in the world.
* LaserGuidedKarma: When Curley picks on big guys, Lennie in particular, Lennie breaks every bone in his hand. When George and Lennie are nice to Candy, he offers them three hundred dollars to make their dream a reality. That seems to be the way it works around here.
* LethallyStupid: Lennie; because he's so dumb, he can't really keep track of how much force he's using, and because he's so strong, that means he can break a man's neck like a toothpick without meaning to.
* LetsGetDangerous: Lennie again. A really nice guy, only to turn around and just break Curley's hand effortlessly. Be afraid.
* LiteraryAllusionTitle: From Rabbie Burns' "To a Mouse". [[GeniusBonus If you know the rest of the poem]], you won't be expecting a HappyEnding.
* LoserFriendPuzzlesOutsiders: Everyone wonders why such a normal guy like George hangs out with a big dumb brute like [[CloudCuckoolander Lennie.]] George claims (falsely) that they're cousins to give people an easy reason to understand.
* ManChild: To Lennie, the CutenessProximity may as well be a mile wide in all directions.
* MercyKill: George shoots Lennie in the back of the head to spare him the agony of being killed by Curley, locked in a cage, or whatever else may have happened.
* TheNapoleon: Curley, who's small in stature, [[PintsizedPowerhouse a trained boxer]], and willing to fight almost anyone at the drop of a hat.
* NiceGuy: Slim, a worker at the ranch who is polite to everyone, including Curley's wife, and is the only person to console George after he kills Lennie
* NoNameGiven: Curley's wife; The Boss.
* PetTheDog: Curly's wife has a talk with Lennie, getting to bond with another human for the first time. It goes horribly after that however.
* RegalRinglets: Curley's wife has hair "coiled like sausages".
* ResentfulGuardian: George once laments early on that if not for having to spend money on Lennie, and his moments of stupidity interfering with his plans, he could spend his spare cash at [[TheOldestProfession the whorehouse.]] Then again, this was said in a fit of rage that Lennie caused, and once Lennie is killed, George is not happy about the future that awaits him, as a solitary migrant worker, with no partner to make the hardships more bearable.
* RevengeBeforeReason: Curley tries to beat up Lennie for laughing at him but fails to remember Lennie's reputation for being the strongest man on ranch despite his childlike intelligence.
* RuleOfSymbolism: Steinbeck's use of animals, particularly when describing Lennie in the narration. The animal metaphors are meant to symbolize Lennie's mental incapacities and simpleminded thinking.
* ShootTheDog: Literally! Roughly midway through the story, Carlson bullies Candy into letting him shoot the old man's worn-out old dog, simply because he thinks the dog is too old and too smelly. Somewhat subverted as Candy later agrees that it was necessary and says that he should have been the one pulling the trigger. Also, invoked in spirit when George shoots Lennie at the story's end.
* ShootTheShaggyDog: Steinbeck loves this trope. The whole story seems to be setting things up for George and Lennie and Candy to get that little farm of their own and live happily ever after... except, nope! Lennie commits murder due to being LethallyStupid DumbMuscle, George has to shoot him, that means he and Candy can't afford the little block of land, and so George just goes back on the road on his lonesome.
* SlidingScaleOfRealisticVersusFantastic: As realistic as modern literature can get.
* TheSmurfettePrinciple: Curley's wife is the only female character that physically appears in the book.
* SpellMyNameWithAnS: It's "Lennie" in the text, not "Lenny".
* SuddenlyVoiced: Free points in your essay for saying that the bit in the last chapter where Lennie visualizes his Aunt Clara telling him off is the first and only time we actually hear what the characters are thinking.
* SurvivalMantra: George's story about the farm with the rabbits is this for both him and Lennie. He's recited it so many times that Lennie has it memorized, but would rather hear it from George.
* TellMeAgain: Played for its usual purpose as {{Exposition}} in the first chapter, but justified since Lennie's mental disabilities affect his short-term memory.
* ThemeNaming: '''C'''urley, '''C'''arlson, '''C'''andy, '''C'''rooks... seems to be a lot of people around Soledad with names that start with '''C'''. Fittingly enough, the book is set in '''C'''alifornia.
* TooDumbToLive: Curley's wife. She's seen firsthand that Lennie is a simple-minded but powerful fool who was capable of ''crushing her husband's hand'', and that he has problems controlling his strength because he's dumb -- after all, he'd just killed his new puppy by accident when she came in. Yet she's still stupid enough to invite Lennie to start stroking her hair, and then panics when he won't stop. When he grabs her and tells her to stop screaming, she keeps on screaming, and he ends up accidentally breaking her neck in trying to make her stop.
* TragicDream: After Lennie accidentally kills Curley's wife, George concedes that their dream could never have been realized.
* UnusualEuphemism : "Pants rabbits." Apparently crab lice or some other type of parasite, also referred to as "greybacks" in the same scene.
* UnwittingInstigatorOfDoom: Curley's wife just wants to bond with Lennie and allows him to feel her hair. He ends up accidentally breaking her neck.
* VagabondBuddies: George and Lennie are this, due to the time-period forcing people to generally go on the road to look for work and because Lennie's stupidity prevents them from holding down long-term work.
* WhamEpisode: Chapter 5; Curley's wife interacts with Lennie, starts panicking, and he accidentally kills her as a result.
* WhosLaughingNow: Curley tries to fight Lennie when he mistakenly believes that Lennie was laughing at him but in reality Lennie was smiling about his, George's and Candy's dream home. The end result was Lennie breaking his hand while under George's command and had to be restrained by both him and Slim.
* YankTheDogsChain: The entire novel is built on this trope. From Candy being bullied into letting Carlson put his dog down, the tragic ending, the whole thing is just designed to yank your chain.
!!Tropes found in the 1939 film:

* ActionPrologue: Opens with George and Lennie running from [[TorchesAndPitchforks an angry mob]] from Weed and jumping a passing freight train. (And it all happens before the opening credits. This was one of the first Hollywood films, if not ''the'' first, to open this way.)
* NoodleIncident: Zigzagged. The film opens with an ActionPrologue involving George and Lennie fleeing from an angry mob, though we don't know why. However, it's eventually explained when George has a conversation with Slim; there was a pretty girl at the ranch they worked on in Weed who got too close to Lennie whilst wearing her new red dress. Lennie thought the dress was pretty and tried to touch it -- she screamed and, in his usual panic response, Lennie just held on tighter, until eventually she managed to rip free and ran off. Though unspoken, the obvious implication is that she thought Lennie was going to rape her and so George had to help Lennie escape before the mob lynched him.