Of Mice and Men feels like an allegory, with each character possessing a specific trait that represents something or some group in society. So, is the book just a heavy-handed lecture about how nasty people are to each other. Are all of these wrongs (racism, sexism, discrimination) treated as equally evil? Or are the characters real, individual people, rather than being merely types/symbols?
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My overall answer would be both. Steinbeck's characters are both symbols and individuals. This certainly is an essay question, which is beyond the scope of this forum. I would check out the GradeSaver themes page which touches on your question.