14 November 2021
Major Project: Of Mice and Men Vision Board
“I hereby declare upon my word of honor that I have neither given nor received unauthorized help on this work.”
Word Count: 1,264 (Not including the title and information required for an essay)
The major paper/project is crucial to our comprehensive analysis of text and how disability studies play a role in that text. Of Mice and Men was a requirement during my freshman year of High School and we primarily focused on the idea of the correlation between race and socioeconomic status in the 1930s. With this novel being set in the 1930s, the idea of the American Dream seemed to lose its luster. Although in this class, we approach this book with a more in-depth analysis of disability aligned characters and how the surrounding environment impacts these characters. My project works to incorporate the shared, American dream of Lennie and George in the form of a Vision Board. In this write up, I will also describe the process of creating this vision board. In the novel the environment that is considered “disabling,” is founded in a perception of normalcy where flawed characters reflect trends within society. We will also discuss the Fries Test when it comes to deciding if our disability aligned characters pass or fail.
The shared American Dream of George and Lennie was focused on working unfulfilling jobs and making wages until they had enough saved to buy a couple acres of land. In my project, I set up the vision board like a timeline that portrays the influence of our characters’ physical surroundings and affects whether or not they achieve their dream. At the top of the project, I set up the end goal that George and Lennie wanted to achieve. I included quotes from when our characters discuss how they are different from everyone else, three-dimensional objects to bring the vision board to life, and photos and stickers that represent a progression and organization of events. In the process of creating this vision board, I used the images and footsteps to show how George’s personality is more detailed and goal oriented. In choosing objects, I hoped to show how Lennie is more free-spirited and enjoys nature specifically rabbits. Another reason I chose certain objects was because they appeal to Lennie’s sense of touch which is mentioned a various times throughout the book. I also included the environment and experience these characters must undergo by drawing their journey through an antiquated map image that shows a potential journey through the Midwest, beginning with them escaping Weed, going to the Ranch, and lastly the possibility of the farm.
In the top portion of my vision board, there are all different breeds of rabbits, alfalfa for those rabbits, a vegetable garden, striped cats, a smoke house, a kitchen orchard, chickens, and cows for fresh milk. The middle portion of my dream board shows the character’s time at the ranch. For this section, I wrote the names of the characters at the ranch, showed Candy’s Dog, the puppies (a sticker and a plush dog), and a picture of how hairstyles were done in the movies in the 1930s to represent Curley’s wife. Candy’s Dog is where we see the perception of age as disabling to what society validates as “the able-bodied employee.” I wanted to indirectly include this detail because it brings to light how complex disability in literature truly is and making assumptions can be damaging to the overall intent of disability studies.
As we see throughout the novel and what I tried to incorporate in my project was the idea that the socioeconomic environment of our characters can be considered “disabling” to the growth of our characters. In my vision board, I map out a potential route that Lennie and George took from Weed to the Ranch, and to their future place one day. Let’s address how our character’s environment could be damaging to Lennie and George. The journey that George and Lennie must take from Weed to the Ranch is one rooted in fear and hiding and this creates a negative atmosphere to begin with. Lennie even offers to live in a cave so George would not have to take care of him anymore. The role of George as a friend and some say caretaker is an incredibly important one because Lennie feels safe around George especially when they talk about their dream. Their time at the ranch in the viewpoint of George is a necessary evil because they need the money to get the farmhouse, but it is not a place that can be trusted. There is even an interaction between George and Lennie where Lennie tells him that he doesn’t feel safe here or doesn’t like it here. Both our characters throughout the novel are either concerned with the financial or physical security of this middle ground. Lennie feels safe in the instance of the puppies and how if he can take care of one, he will be able to take care of the rabbits but does not feel safe in his interaction with Curley. George feels a lack of security when it comes to their plan. He wants to ensure that every detail is set in place, their finances, leaving the Ranch, and including Candy in the plan. Since George is a friend to Lennie, we see him worry about how Lennie is perceived by outsiders and tries to reassure other characters that Lennie is not mean, he just doesn’t understand the impact of his actions. In this explanation, I am not saying whether this is right or wrong, but it is just how I comprehended this part of the book.
Lastly, we will discuss The Fries Test and how it relates to our story. As most of us know, the ending of the book can be perceived as tragic. Before I continue, there are spoilers ahead which I am sure most everyone in this class knows, our characters in this novel do not pass The Fries Test. I wanted to make a correlation between this novel and the seminar I attended with a keynote speaker being Kenny Fries. “The Fries Test,” focuses on what role characters who are disability aligned have within movies, tv, and literature. In our book, none of our characters passed this test; they were either killed off or used to move the story along. Lennie was killed and I subtly show this when the footsteps and yarn go off to the side. Crooks named for his disability brought up the intersection of race and disability in a brief interaction with Lennie, but there was not a significant amount of progress for his character. Candy who experiences a disability based on his age and injury hopes to participate in the dream of George and Lennie, but it never worked out. Finally, George killed someone he considered a friend and that is tragic in and of itself. If he was not a disability aligned character to begin with, hypothetically, he may be now due to the emotional and psychological toll of this action.
I will admit this was a significantly long write up for my project, but there is so much to unpack regarding disability that I hope I accomplished in my project. I wanted to present George and Lennie’s dream in a way that focused on both their personalities, their environment throughout the story, and how close they came to realizing their dream. Although, realizing their dream never happened due to societal expectations and how people with mental and physical disabilities were treated. I hope that I created a vision board that does their dream justice because Lennie and George should have been able to realize their dream, and I wanted to create a representation that shows how beautiful their dream was from the beginning.
Fries, K. (2021, October). Disability Awareness Month and Gender & Sexual Minorities & Allies cultural celebration. Keynote Speaker.
Steinbeck, J. (2010). Of mice and men. Distributed by Paw Prints/Baker & Taylor.