Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men is a touching tale of the friendship between two men–set against the backdrop of the United States during the depression of the 1930s.The book addresses the real hopes and dreams of working-class America.Steinbeck’s short novel raises the lives of the poor and dispossessed to a higher, symbolic level.
The novel opens with two workers who are crossing the country on foot to find work. George is a cynical, irresolute man. George looks after his companion, Lennie–treating him like a brother.
Lennie is a giant man of incredible strength, but has a metal disability that makes him slow-to-learn and almost child-like. George and Lennie had to flee the last town because Lennie touched a woman’s dress and he’d been accused of rape. They begin to work at a ranch, and they share their dream: they want to own their own piece of land and farm for themselves. They feel dispossessed and unable to control their own lives. The climactic moment of the novel revolves around Lennie’s love of soft things. He pets the hair of Curley’s wife, but she gets scared.
In the resulting struggle, Lennie kills her and runs away. The farmhands form a lynch mob to punish Lennie, but George finds him first. George understands that Lennie cannot live in the world, and he wants to save him the pain and terror of being lynched, so he shoots him in the back of the head. The literary power of Of Mice and Men rests firmly on the relationship between the two central characters, their friendship and their shared dream. These two men are so very different, but they come together, stay together, and support each other in a world full of people who are destitute and alone.
In a way, Of Mice and Men is an extremely despondent novel. The novel shows the dreams of a small group of people and then contrasts these dreams with a reality that is unreachable, which they cannot achieve. Even though the dream never becomes reality, Steinbeck does leave us with an optimistic message. George and Lennie do not achieve their dream, but their friendship stands out as a shining example of how people can live and love even in a word of alienation and disconnectedness.
Its powerful ending is climactic and shocking to the extreme. But, we also come to an understanding of the tragedy of life. Regardless of the sufferings of those who live it, life goes on. The book is great, highly recommended. There’s so much human nature in those few pages, it’s just amazing how Steinbeck managed to pack it all in so nicely. Many of the most major and fundamental principles of the human psyche are here – self-esteem, meaning to one’s life, loneliness, friendship, love. The book is a masterpiece.