Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck
“A few miles south of Soledad, the Salinas River drops in close to the hillside bank and runs deep and green. The water is warm too, for it has slipped twinkling over the yellow sands in the sunlight before reaching the narrow pool.”
A simple yet heartbreaking story about friendship, loyalty, and misunderstandings.
Of Mice and Men was John Steinbeck’s second novella, first published in 1937. Based on his own experiences working on a farm, it’s an easy-to-read book about two friends as they struggle to find work during the Great Depression.
Although a sweet and compelling story, it has been banned for a number of reasons. Most schools challenge it due to its vulgarity, others for its racist language, and some for its poor treatment of women.
George Milton and Lennie Small are migrant ranch workers living rough in California during the 1930s. George is intelligent but small, whereas Lenny is a giant but mentally disabled. They struggle to settle down anywhere due to Lenny’s many “accidents” as a result of his strength, but they dream of owning a cottage together. The story follows their short yet poignant stay at a farm just outside Soledad. There, they meet Curley, the boss’s aggressive son, Candy, an old ranch hand, and Slim, a kind respected worker, along with a myriad of other characters. Their fragile peace doesn’t last for long, and when Lennie’s strength gets the best of him, the consequences are more dire than anyone could predict.
Of Mice and Men is one of the most-loved novels in the world. It’s been adapted into numerous plays and films as a result.
- It’s a story about minorities, outsiders, and the misunderstood. This book focuses only on the outcasts of society. It humanizes them and forces the reader to consider those who are judged solely on appearance.
- Steinbeck has a unique and beautiful way of writing. He has total command over the English language and manages to convey emotions in single words. The novel is full of vivid descriptions, beautiful scenery, and brilliantly well-developed characters.
- It’s one of the most historically accurate depictions of the Great Depression in the U.S.A. at the time. Steinbeck creates a realistic and authentic setting and allows the reader to see that world through the characters point of view. You can become immersed in this time period without even realising it, as well as see the tragic consequences for the people who lived there.
- The main message of the novel is pessimistic. Dreams don’t always come true, you don’t always get what you want, and sometimes hard work just isn’t enough. It’s a harsh cold reality that awaits the characters in this story, and the ending is more bitter than sweet.
- There are two female characters in this entire novel, neither of whom are named. The first is a young woman who’s skirt was grabbed by Lennie. The second is ‘Curley’s wife”. She’s a vain, suspicious woman who does nothing but complains all day. Therefore, women are not actually characters in this story; they merely serve a function.
- The novel is undoubtedly racist, though this appears to be due to the time period in which the story is set rather than any prejudices on the author’s behalf. There is a single black character; named Crooks due to his twisted spine. He’s isolated from the other workers and forced to live on his own purely because of the colour of his skin.
Overall, I’d give John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men a four out of five. It’s a tragic tale about two outsiders trying to find their place in a cruel poverty-stricken world.
I’d recommend it for absolutely everyone. No matter what your age or background, this is a compelling novella about hopes and dreams, loneliness and outcasts, and finding the strength to carry on.
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