Introduction: Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
Of Mice and Men was once a banned book and I think that we should have the freedom to read. This book by John Steinbeck is sometimes on the list of must-read books. I have been reading the classics and this is one of the books that I have read so far. I like reading the classics because they help to broaden your perspective on life, and also teach you to think critically. Of course, I will read a banned book simply because I am exercising my freedom to read.
Have you read?
What is Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck About?
The main characters in John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men are Lennie Small and George Milton who are polar opposites of each other. George is small while Lennie is huge. And George is the dreamer while Lennie listens to and mimics him. George is very protective of Lennie who appears to be simpleminded. Lennie is extremely strong and doesn’t realize how strong he is, and that ends up to be his downfall. Both are migrant American workers.
They have found work on a ranch, but for some reason George wants to wait before they go to work. While they are waiting, George shares his vision of the life he wants for the two, and he also coaches Lennie and tells him not to say a word, and instructs him where to hide if he ever gets into trouble. George knows that it’s only a matter of timebefore Lennie gets into trouble
The boss who owns the ranch where the two will be working is very annoyed because Lennie and George does not report for work in the morning. He takes their work slips and questions them about where they worked before. He tells them that they can start working later that day.
From Steinbeck’s description, you get a sense that the ranch owner is very proud of his status. “A little stocky man stood in the open doorway. He wore blue jean trousers, a flannel shirt, a black, unbuttoned vest and a black coat. His thumbs were stuck in his belt, on each side of a square steel buckle. On his head was a soiled brown Stetson hat, and he wore high-heeled boots and spurs to prove he was not a laboring man.”
Curley, boss man’s son is somewhat belligerent to Lennie. He likes to pick on larger guys because he is small, and was a fighter. You get a sense that he is going to pose a problem later. His wife has a roving eye, and flirts with the workers, especially with Slim, the jerkline skinner. She is referred to as a tart by Candy.
Lennie and George do not like life it at the ranch, but they cannot leave because they have no money therefore few options are available to them.
Slim who is in charge of the workers is very calm, and inspires confidence. George starts talking to him and it’s like the dam has burst open. He reveals why he and Lennie had to leave Weed so unexpectedly. Lennie is very loving and loves to touch everything. He sees a girl in a red dress, and he wants to touch it so he does, and the girl starts to scream. A normal person would let go of the person’s dress, but Lennie holds on until George hears the screaming and comes running and tells him to let go. The girl accuses Lennie of rape and a party sets out to lynch him. Lennie and George have to flee Weed.
Carlson, another worker, kills Candy’s old, ailing dog with his luger. Candy is heartbroken because he has had the dog since it was a pup. He faces the wall and tunes out from the rest. Once again Curley comes to the bunkhouse looking for his wife and then assumes that Slim is with his wife. The others believe a fight will ensue and leave the bunkhouse to watch. George decides to stay put and Lennie stays with him.
Because Candy is so quiet, the two forget that he is around and they once again begin to talk about their dreams for a 10-acre farm. Candy hears them and wants to be a part of their future plan and he has the money to make it closer to a reality. George encourages Lennie and Candy not to talk to anyone about their dreams.
Shortly after, the men return, and Curley is with them. He made Slim very angry accusing him about being with his wife, and now he is backing off. Lennie is still caught up in his dream of living on the ranch and is smiling. Curley sees the smile and misinterprets the situation, thinking that Lennie is laughing at him. The hot head attacks Lennie who does nothing to defend himself, and George tells him to defend himself. After much prodding, he grabs Curley’s hand and ends up crushing the bones. Lennie is never aware of just how strong he is. Some of the guys take Curley to see a doctor and threaten him to keep quiet about the incident.
Crooks, a black man, and another ranch worker, is bitter because of his isolation. He is not allowed into the bunkhouse because of his color and he craves companionship. When the other workers go out on a Saturday night to the saloon, Lennie goes to pet his dog and notices a light on in Crooks’ place so he enters. Crooks is angry at first and then they start to talk. Although George has told Lennie not to tell others about the plan to buy a farm, he blurts out their vision to Crooks. Crooks views it as a pipe dream, because so many have come to the ranch to work a short time to get money to buy land, but they never achieve their goals.
Shortly, Candy also enters Crooks’ room – he is seeking Lennie to talk about the rabbits they’ll have at their farm. It’s the first time that Crooks has had any visitors except for Slim and the boss man. Candy is talking to Lennie, but once again Crooks reiterates that it’s pipe dreams.
Curley’s wife also comes along, and as usual she is looking for her husband. She talks down to the three, and with indignation, Candy tells her about the farm that they can go to. He has bought into George’s dream, and thinks that they have options instead of working slavishly at the ranch. Of course she doesn’t believe them. Crooks tells her to leave his room or else he’ll tell the boss, she retaliates and calls him nigger, threatening and telling him what she can have done to him. Crooks shrinks smaller and smaller.
The next day, Lennie goes to visit the puppies and accidentally kills one. He wants to hide the dog because he knows that George will be upset with him. Curley’s wife enters the barn and finds Lennie. He doesn’t want to talk to her becauseGeorge has warned him that she is Trouble, with a capital T. But she refuses to leave and continues talking to him. She doesn’t really care about the dead dog, she is obsessed with herself and what could have happened in her life. She takes Lennie’s hand so that he can feel her soft hair, and he doesn’t want to let go. She starts to get angry and Lennie panics because he doesn’t want George to get mad at him. He accidentally breaks her neck.
He takes the puppy, hides it and leaves Curley’s wife half covered with hay. Lennie goes to the spot that George told him to go to if he got into trouble again. In the end, George kills him because another one of the men would. This tears out George’s heart, because he was always Lennie’s protector.
This is a very sad story and you’ll feel sorry for Lennie because he is very childlike, and doesn’t really understand the repercussions for his actions. And George has always sheltered him, so he has never had to pay the price for his wrong doings. It’s also interesting in Of Mice and Men, that John Steinbeck doesn’t name Curley’s wife, she is identified only as his wife. She doesn’t have an identity separate from him, and she isn’t that important. Even the way the men describe her suggests that she isn’t important.
Final Thoughts: Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
I’m really torn about recommending this book because it left me with this sickening feeling. That’s one of the setbacks of reading actively and getting caught up in the story. I’m ready to read some upbeat books now. The good news is that Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck is a short book so it will not take long to read.