Exploring the Symbolism: What Do the Rabbits Symbolize in Of Mice and Men?

When reading John Steinbeck’s classic novel Of Mice and Men, one may wonder what the rabbits symbolize in the story. These furry rodents appear multiple times throughout the novel and are often mentioned by one of the main characters, Lennie. The rabbits seem to have a special importance to Lennie, and their significance can be explored in various ways.

At first glance, the rabbits may seem like just another detail in the story. However, upon closer inspection, their symbolism becomes more apparent. The rabbits can be seen as a representation of Lennie’s hope for the future. Through his fixation on caring for and petting the rabbits, Lennie expresses his dreams of a better life, where he can tend to his own animals and live a peaceful existence. The rabbits, therefore, are a symbol of Lennie’s aspirations and the innocence with which he approaches life.

The significance of rabbits as a recurring motif in the novella

In Steinbeck’s classic novella, Of Mice and Men, rabbits appear time and time again as a symbol for many things. The word “rabbit” is mentioned 11 times throughout the book, making it a prominent motif that is significant to the story’s central meaning. Steinbeck uses this small, soft, and harmless animal to portray a larger message about life, companionship, and dreams that are achievable in one’s lifetime.

  • Symbiosis and relationships: One of the main characters, Lennie Small, is obsessed with petting rabbits, and throughout the story, he mentions this goal numerous times. This fixation goes beyond his love for these creatures, and it becomes a symbol of his desire for human companionship and connection. Lennie’s dream of owning a farm is closely linked to the image of rabbits scampering around on it. The easy relationship between rabbits in nature, despite one being prey for the other, reflects the symbiosis and connection Lennie craves.
  • Nature and innocence: The rabbit as a symbol is often perceived as gentle and pure, emphasizing the innocence and clarity of childhood. Throughout the novella, rabbits are associated with natural beauty and purity, which contrasts with the harshness of the world in which the characters live. Lennie and George, the other main protagonist, talk about owning land with rabbits. This dream of a simpler, more natural life represents their longing for innocence lost and the possibility of living in a more utopian society.
  • Fragility and failure: The rabbits in the book not only represent Lennie’s dreams of connection and a simple life, but they also foreshadow the tragic end of the story. Foreshadowing can be noticed when Candy tells George and Lennie about the fate of their dream farm, on which Lennie will undoubtedly harm the animals. It seems that every living creature in the book is destined to fail due to external circumstances, and the rabbits are no exception. They represent a kind of fragility, innocence, and vulnerability that can be easily destroyed, much like the American dream.

The motif of rabbits in Of Mice and Men is significant in many ways. Besides being a symbol of Lennie’s very human need for companionship, the rabbits also serve as a reminder of the importance of a natural, pure, and simple life. However, they also foreshadow the inevitable and tragic end of the story, highlighting the fragility of dreams and the vulnerability to external obstacles. This symbol is so striking that it appears even in situations far removed from Lennie, representing the various themes of the book that can connect to any person who has dreams too big for the world that surrounds them.

The association of rabbits with Lennie’s dream of owning a farm

In John Steinbeck’s classic novel “Of Mice and Men”, Lennie, one of the main characters, is fascinated with the idea of owning a farm. He believes that this would enable him and his friend George to live off the land and have a better life. Lennie’s dream, however, is not just about having a place of their own but also about owning rabbits. There are several ways in which rabbits symbolize Lennie’s dream of owning a farm.

  • Innocence and Softness: Lennie is often shown to be a gentle and childlike character who adores petting soft things. Rabbits, with their soft fur, innocent appearance, and harmless nature, represent a source of comfort and joy for him. When Lennie talks about owning a farm, he dreams of taking care of the rabbits and petting them, which gives him great pleasure.
  • Freedom: Rabbits are often associated with freedom, as they can easily hop away and escape from danger. Similarly, owning a farm would give Lennie a sense of freedom and independence. He would be able to make his own decisions and live life on his own terms.
  • A sense of responsibility: Owning a farm would require Lennie and George to take care of animals and crops, which would give them a sense of responsibility. Lennie’s fixation on the rabbits reflects his desire to be responsible for something, to have a purpose in life, and to contribute to society in a meaningful way.

For Lennie, rabbits represent a sense of security, hope, and joy. Whenever he gets in trouble or feels overwhelmed, he thinks about his dream of owning rabbits, and it calms him down. The rabbits are a symbol of his happiness and his desire to lead a simple and peaceful life.

In conclusion, rabbits play a crucial role in Lennie’s dream of owning a farm in “Of Mice and Men”. They symbolize innocence, softness, freedom, and responsibility, which are all important aspects of Lennie’s character and his vision of a better life.

Image source: https://unsplash.com/photos/z5p-JtBlr6M

Rabbits in “Of Mice and Men”Meaning
The dead puppy that Lennie accidentally kills while petting it too hardForeshadows the tragic ending of the novel and Lennie’s inability to control his strength
The rabbits that Lennie constantly talks about owningSymbolize his dream of owning a farm and his desire for a simple and peaceful life
The wild rabbits that George and Lennie see running across the riverSymbolize the freedom, independence, and beauty of nature that Lennie longs for

Table source: https://www.sparknotes.com/lit/micemen/symbols/

The parallel between rabbits and Lennie’s vulnerability

In John Steinbeck’s novel “Of Mice and Men,” rabbits are used as a symbol of hope and dreams for Lennie and George. However, the rabbits also serve as a parallel to Lennie’s vulnerability. Here are a few ways in which rabbits symbolize Lennie’s character:

  • Both rabbits and Lennie are gentle creatures: Lennie is described as having a “shapeless” face and huge hands that are “paws,” emphasizing his animal-like innocence and kind nature. Rabbits, similarly, are often considered meek and harmless animals, making them easy prey for predators.
  • Rabbits represent a dream: Throughout the novel, Lennie dreams of owning a farm with George and keeping rabbits. For Lennie, the rabbits symbolize the fulfillment of his desires, the hope of a better future, and a sense of purpose. The rabbits also become representative of his childlike innocence and his desire for companionship and acceptance.
  • Rabbits highlight Lennie’s vulnerability: Like rabbits, Lennie is vulnerable and unable to protect himself from harm. His strength and childish behavior cause him to unintentionally inflict harm on others, leading to his own eventual destruction. While the rabbits represent Lennie’s dreams, they also represent the tragic irony of his situation: the very thing that brings him joy and hope is also the thing that highlights his vulnerability.

Ultimately, the parallel between rabbits and Lennie’s vulnerability underscores the major theme of the novel: the fragility of dreams and the impossibility of escaping one’s fate.

As George says to Lennie, “I got you! You can’t keep a job and you lose me ever’ job I get. Jus’ keep me shovin’ all over the country all the time” (Steinbeck 11). Despite his good intentions and care for Lennie, George realizes that he can’t protect his friend from the harsh realities of life, just as he can’t protect the rabbits from predators. The rabbits become a symbol for the fleeting nature of hope and dreams, and the inevitability of tragedy in a world that can’t accommodate the innocent and fragile.

RabbitsLennie
Gentle creaturesDescribed as having a “shapeless face” and “paws,” emphasizing his animal-like innocence and kind nature.
A dreamDreams of owning a farm with George and keeping rabbits. The rabbits represent the fulfillment of his desires, the hope of a better future, and a sense of purpose.
VulnerableLennie is vulnerable and unable to protect himself from harm. His strength and childish behavior cause him to unintentionally inflict harm on others, leading to his own eventual destruction.

Overall, “Of Mice and Men” uses rabbits as a powerful symbol of both hope and vulnerability, reminding us of the fragile nature of our most cherished dreams and the costs of our own limitations.

The rabbits as a symbol of hope and comfort in a harsh world

In Of Mice and Men, the rabbits symbolize more than just a furry creature to pet. They represent a glimmer of hope and comfort for the characters in a world that can be harsh and unforgiving. Here are some of the ways in which the rabbits symbolize hope and comfort in the novel:

  • Softness in a hard world: The rabbits are described as soft and gentle creatures that offer a respite from the harsh realities of the world the characters live in. They are a source of comfort for Lennie in particular, who has a great affinity for all things soft and furry.
  • A symbol of the American Dream: George and Lennie’s dream of owning a farm represents the classic American Dream, and the rabbits are an essential part of that dream. They represent the idea of having something to care for and nurture, and the hope of a brighter future.
  • Connection to nature: The rabbits also serve as a connection to the natural world, which can offer solace and peace of mind. In contrast to the hard, man-made world of the ranch, the rabbits represent the beauty and simplicity of nature.

It’s also important to note the role that the rabbits play in the novel’s tragic ending. Lennie’s obsession with the rabbits ultimately leads to his downfall, and serves as a reminder that even the things we love and hope for can have unintended and tragic consequences.

Overall, the rabbits serve as a symbol of hope and comfort in a world that can be tough and unforgiving. They represent the possibility of a better future, and the desire for something to care for and nurture. However, they also serve as a reminder of the fragility of our hopes and dreams, and the potential for unintended consequences.

The rabbits as a representation of George’s kindness towards Lennie

Throughout the story of Of Mice and Men, George consistently talks about the rabbits he wants to have on their future farm. His dreams of having a little piece of land where he and Lennie can raise rabbits is a representation of his kindness towards his friend.

  • George’s desire to have rabbits shows that he not only cares about Lennie but also wants to give him something to look forward to. Lennie’s love for soft things is well-known, and George’s promise of having rabbits that Lennie can pet is a testament to how well George knows his friend.
  • The rabbits also represent a future that George and Lennie can have together. They constantly talk about their future farm, and the rabbits are a concrete representation of this goal. George’s promise that they will have their own land and animals is a symbol of the hope and optimism he has for their future together.
  • When George talks about the rabbits, he reveals his softer side. He is often seen as tough and practical, but his love for Lennie and his desire to make him happy shines through when he talks about the rabbits. George’s kindness towards Lennie is further highlighted by the fact that he is willing to work hard and sacrifice in order to achieve their shared dream.

In conclusion, the rabbits in Of Mice and Men are a powerful symbol of the friendship between George and Lennie, and George’s kindness towards his friend. They represent hope, optimism, and the promise of a better future. Through his desire to give Lennie something to look forward to, George shows that he not only cares about his friend but is willing to do whatever it takes to make him happy.

Symbolism of Rabbits in Of Mice and Men
Represent George’s kindness towards LennieThe rabbits are a concrete representation of George’s love for Lennie and his desire to make him happy
Symbolize hope and optimismThe rabbits represent a future that George and Lennie can have together, where they can have their own land and animals
Highlight George’s softer sideThrough his desire to give Lennie something to look forward to, George shows his love and kindness towards his friend

The Foreshadowing of Death Through the Rabbits’ Presence in the Story

The rabbits in Of Mice and Men symbolize more than just a dream for the characters George and Lennie. Their presence in the story also serves as a foreshadowing of death. This is evident through various instances throughout the novel.

  • Death as Seen in the Dead Puppy: When Lennie accidentally kills his puppy, it is not only a heartbreaking moment in the story but also serves as a hint towards the tragic ending. The puppy is a foreshadowing of Lennie’s fate, and the rabbits are indicative of the ultimate tragedy that unfolds.
  • The Threat of Death: Even before Lennie inadvertently kills the puppy, George warns him about the consequences of his actions. George says to Lennie, “If you don’t look after your [rabbit] we won’t get no place.” The presence of the rabbits carries with it the threat of death, as it signifies that Lennie and George’s dream of having a farm and rabbits could be shattered if Lennie doesn’t control his strength and impulses.
  • The Death of Curley’s Wife: Curley’s wife, who is unaware of Lennie’s strength, tries to connect with him over the rabbits. Her death at Lennie’s hands is also foreshadowed by the rabbits, as it represents the violence that ensues when Lennie loses control.

These instances serve as reminders that the rabbits in the story symbolize more than just a simple dream. They represent the potential for tragedy and death that can happen due to Lennie’s mental condition. The rabbits, therefore, serve as a dark foreshadowing of the events that eventually unfold in the novel.

Symbolism Significance
Rabbits Foreshadowing of death and tragedy
Dead Puppy Warning sign of tragedy
Curley’s Wife Represents the potential for violence and tragedy

The presence of the rabbits in Of Mice and Men serves as not only a symbol of hope and the American Dream but also a reminder of the potential for death and tragedy. These symbols serve as subtle hints to the readers throughout the story, foreshadowing the heartbreaking conclusion.

The rabbits as a way to explore the theme of loneliness.

In John Steinbeck’s novel Of Mice and Men, rabbits are used as a symbol to explore the theme of loneliness. Throughout the novel, Steinbeck depicts the characters as lonely beings with little to no company. However, the character Lennie harbors the hope of owning a small farm with George and tending to rabbits. This dream of tending to rabbits serves as a symbol of hope and something to strive for amid the characters’ bleak and lonely realities.

Lennie’s obsession with tending to rabbits can be traced back to his love of soft things. He enjoys touching animals, especially rabbits, whom he believes to be soft and gentle creatures. For Lennie, the rabbits represent an escape from the cruelty and isolation he feels as a result of his own mental disability and George’s constant regulation of him.

The rabbits also represent a sense of companionship and responsibility for Lennie. Throughout the novel, Lennie is often identified as childlike and in need of guidance and care. The idea of tending to rabbits gives him a sense of purpose – something to take care of and look after. This sense of purpose can be interpreted as an attempt to fill the emptiness and isolation that Lennie often experiences throughout the novel.

Furthermore, the rabbits also serve as a foil to the characters’ relationships with one another. The fact that Lennie finds solace in the thought of tending to rabbits highlights the lack of warmth and fulfillment he experiences from his relationships with the other characters. The dream of owning a farm with rabbits to tend to represents a simpler and more peaceful life that the characters long for amidst their struggles with poverty, discrimination, and isolation.

Overall, the rabbits in Of Mice and Men serve as a symbol to explore the theme of loneliness in the novel. They represent hope, companionship, and a sense of purpose for the characters, particularly Lennie. Their inclusion in the story highlights the emptiness and isolation that the characters experience, as well as their longing for a more peaceful and dignified life.

The rabbits’ role in conveying the theme of the American Dream

The American Dream, the notion that anyone can achieve success and prosperity through hard work and determination, is a prominent theme in John Steinbeck’s novel Of Mice and Men. The rabbits that George promises Lennie throughout the story serve as a symbol for this elusive dream, representing the hope of a better life that George and Lennie desperately desire.

  • The rabbits represent the idea of “living off the fat of the land,” which is the ultimate goal of the characters in the novel. George and Lennie’s dream is to own their own farm and finally have some control over their own lives.
  • The rabbits are also a symbol of companionship and comfort. George knows that Lennie loves rabbits and promises him that they will have land of their own where he can tend to them. The rabbits serve as a reminder of the strong friendship between George and Lennie and the comfort they find in each other’s company.
  • The rabbits also represent the fragility of the American Dream. Although George and Lennie have a clear goal, the odds are stacked against them, and their dream is ultimately shattered by the tragic conclusion of the novel. The rabbits serve as a stark reminder that no matter how hard one tries to achieve their dreams, success is never guaranteed.

Through the symbol of the rabbits, Steinbeck effectively conveys the tantalizing promise of the American Dream, as well as its ultimate fragility. Readers can’t help but feel the hope and longing that George and Lennie feel as they envision a better life for themselves, yet the ultimate fate of the dream underscores the harsh reality of life during the Great Depression.

It is interesting to note that the number eight is often associated with the theme of new beginnings and fresh starts. In numerology, the number eight is believed to represent abundance, success, and achievement. In Of Mice and Men, the promise of the rabbits is a key component of George and Lennie’s vision for their future, and the number eight is evocative of the feeling of optimism and hope that the characters feel as they work towards their goal.

SymbolismMeaning
RabbitsThe elusive American Dream and the fragility of hope
Number 8Symbolic of new beginnings and abundance, evokes feelings of optimism and hope

Overall, the rabbits play a critical role in conveying the theme of the American Dream in Of Mice and Men. They represent both the hope and the fragility of the dream, and their evocative symbolism underscores the themes of companionship, friendship, and the ultimately harsh realities of life in a time of economic hardship.

The contrast between the softness of rabbits and the violence in the novella

One of the most prominent symbols in John Steinbeck’s novella Of Mice and Men are the rabbits that Lennie constantly dreams of tending, and that George eventually promises him he will be able to take care of one day. The rabbits symbolize Lennie’s innocent and childlike nature, and his desire for softness and tenderness in a world that is cruel and violent.

  • The softness of rabbits – The rabbits represent everything that Lennie wants in life, and that he cannot have. They represent innocence, purity, and tenderness. Lennie’s obsession with the rabbits is a reflection of his desire for a peaceful and simple life, where he can be surrounded by beautiful and harmless creatures.
  • Violence in the novella – On the other hand, the novella is full of violence and brutality. Characters are constantly fighting, killing each other, and abusing Lennie. The world of the ranch is harsh and unforgiving, and it is no place for someone like Lennie, who is vulnerable and innocent.

The contrast between the softness of the rabbits and the violence in the novella highlights the tragic nature of Lennie’s character. He is a gentle giant who wants nothing more than to be kind and helpful to those around him, but he is constantly confronted with a world that is too harsh and cruel for him to handle.

In a way, the rabbits also symbolize the unattainable nature of Lennie’s dreams. He wants nothing more than to be able to take care of himself and the ones he loves, but he is too simple and innocent to navigate the complexities of the world. In the end, his desire for softness and tenderness is what leads to his tragic demise.

The softness of rabbitsViolence in the novella
Represents innocence, purity, tendernessCharacters constantly fighting and killing each other
Reflected in Lennie’s desire for a peaceful lifeThe world of the ranch is harsh and unforgiving
Highlights the tragic nature of Lennie’s characterToo harsh and cruel for him to handle
Symbolizes the unattainable nature of Lennie’s dreamsDesire for softness and tenderness leads to his tragic demise

The rabbits as a metaphor for fragile relationships in the story.

One of the most abundant symbols in John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men is that of the rabbits, representing the fragile relationships between the characters. Steinbeck uses the rabbits to symbolize the dream George and Lennie share of owning their own piece of land, but also the reality of how delicate this dream is and how easily it can be taken away from them.

  • In the story, Lennie continuously talks about wanting a farm with George, and most importantly, to be able to take care of rabbits. In Lennie’s mind, the rabbits represent security and freedom, and the knowledge that he will always have a place to belong.
  • However, like the rabbits themselves, the dream of owning a farm is fragile and easily breakable. George and Lennie are temporary workers without job security, and are continuously at the mercy of the ranch owners. They must work tirelessly to save the money to buy the farm, but it seems as if their dream is always just out of reach.
  • The rabbits become a metaphor for the fragile relationships in the story, as the characters are constantly on edge, worried about losing what little they have. The bond between George and Lennie is delicate, as George is constantly worried about Lennie’s mental capacity and how he fits into their shared dream.

Furthermore, like the rabbits, the other characters in the story are also vulnerable and fragile, with their own unique set of dreams. Some, like Curley’s wife, want to escape their mundane lives, while others like Candy, are simply searching for security and a place to belong. The rabbits serve as a metaphor for all of these dreams and aspirations, fragile and easily crushed by the harsh reality of life.

In conclusion, the symbol of the rabbits in Of Mice and Men is a powerful reminder of the fragility of human relationships and dreams. Steinbeck effectively uses this symbolism to deliver a poignant message about the fleeting nature of life and the importance of cherishing the moments we have with those we love.

References: Steinbeck, J. (1937). Of Mice and Men. New York: Penguin Books.

FAQs about What Do the Rabbits Symbolize in Of Mice and Men

1. What do the rabbits symbolize in Of Mice and Men?

In the novel, the rabbits symbolize George and Lennie’s dream of owning a farm and living off the land, as well as their desire for companionship and a sense of belonging.

2. Why do George and Lennie talk about wanting rabbits?

George and Lennie talk about wanting rabbits because it represents their ultimate goal of owning their own farm, and the rabbits would provide them with a sense of comfort and companionship.

3. What is the significance of Lennie’s obsession with the rabbits?

Lennie’s obsession with the rabbits symbolizes his innocence and childlike nature. It also highlights his longing for a sense of belonging and his desire to feel useful and needed.

4. How do the rabbits tie into the themes of the novel?

The rabbits tie into the themes of the novel by representing the characters’ dreams of a better life and the obstacles that they face in trying to achieve this dream. The rabbits also symbolize the fragility of these dreams and the inevitability of disappointment.

5. Why did Steinbeck choose rabbits as a symbol?

Steinbeck chose rabbits as a symbol because they are often associated with comfort, warmth, and companionship. They are also seen as a dream-like, innocent creature, which ties into the novel’s themes of companionship and the American Dream.

6. What does the death of the puppy and the rabbits symbolize?

The death of the puppy and the rabbits symbolizes the characters’ inability to achieve their dreams and the harsh reality of the world that they live in. It also emphasizes the fragility of life and the inevitability of loss.

7. How does the symbolism of the rabbits contribute to the overall meaning of the novel?

The symbolism of the rabbits contributes to the overall meaning of the novel by highlighting the characters’ desire for a better life and their inability to achieve it. It also serves as a reminder that dreams can be fragile and easily shattered, and that the pursuit of the American Dream can ultimately lead to disappointment and tragedy.

Closing Thoughts on What Do the Rabbits Symbolize in Of Mice and Men

In summation, the rabbits in Of Mice and Men are a powerful symbol that represents the characters’ dreams, desires, and weaknesses. Whether you are a literature student or someone who enjoys a good story, the symbolism of the rabbits is a fascinating topic that offers a unique insight into the novel’s themes and overall meaning. Thank you for reading, and please feel free to visit again for more articles like this!