17. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

Set in California during the time of the Great Depression, Of Mice and Men focuses on the relationship between two migrant workers, Lennie and George. Times are clearly hard, and the people in Steinbeck’s story seem hardened as a result. The bond between Lennie and George is exceptional, and their shared dream of freedom from the lifestyle of itinerant farmhands keeps them going.

Lennie is mentally handicapped in some way, and although George can be hot-tempered, he is also fiercely protective of Lennie, and their affection for each other is mutual. Described as a sort of simple-minded lumbering giant, Lennie loves to touch soft things, and George tells him off for carrying around a dead mouse in his pocket, just to stroke its fur. However, Lennie does not understand his strength, and George frequently cautions him to be gentle with small animals, and mentions that Lennie doesn’t want people to figure out what happened ‘before’.  It becomes clear that Lennie has accidentally hurt people in the same way that he has hurt animals before, and this puts both of their jobs as farm workers at risk.

With this in mind, George and Lennie are just starting out for a new job. They are trying to make and save as much money as possible in order to fulfill their dream of buying a farm together, raising some livestock and some rabbits for Lennie to take care of, to have a more carefree life, free from the hardened characters that they have come across on the job. Although George claims that this idealistic lifestyle is more to pacify Lennie than it is an achievable goal, he wants to create this life as much as Lennie does, and the two of them inspire some of their fellow workers to join them.

Clocking in at just over 100 pages, Of Mice and Men can be a quick read, but it’s not necessarily a simple one. Steinbeck muses on morality and friendship, and the tolls the Great Depression took on ordinary citizens. It’s definitely a book that I wanted to discuss with other people: to clarify the historical context and significance, and to look at its meaning for contemporary readers. The book has been criticized for its one-dimensional portrayal of women, men, and for its romanticized vision of male friendship, but I think that Lennie and George’s bond stands in stark contrast to the men they work with and their lonesome, selfish views of the world. Additionally, while women aren’t portrayed in a positive light, I don’t think most readers look to John Steinbeck for a positive portrayal of women during the Great Depression. Nonetheless, I thoroughly enjoyed the book, and it was definitely a nice return from reading Chelsea Handler.

Pages: 103/4400

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~ by lefaquin on August 29, 2012.

One Response to “17. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck”

  1. […] Clocking in at just over 100 pages, Of Mice and Men can be a quick read, but it’s not necessarily a simple one. Steinbeck muses on morality and friendship, and the tolls the Great Depression took on ordinary citizens. It’s definitely a book that I wanted to discuss with other people: to clarify the historical context and significance, and to look at its meaning for contemporary readers. Overall, I think I liked it quite a bit, and would recommend it to other people, but I’d put it between 3 and 4 stars, depending on your mood and what you’re looking for in a book. For more, check out the rest here! […]

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