Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

Steinbeck, John. (1993, 1937). Of Mice and Men. Bantam Books; New York. 

As the rains pour down outside my window, I sit down to pen a review of this short but poignant novel – and how appropriate the weather is! It is a dark story chronicling the story of George Milton and Lennie Small, two friends who are physical and mental opposites but remain tied together through a deep, unspoken bond of friendship.

I recall avoiding reading this book in high school, and am sorry that I missed its influence on my early self. It is a story about placelessness, persecution, wandering, and dreams of financial stability during the Great Depression in the United States. The characters are mesmerizing in their interactions, and the plot plays out quickly – it is technically only a ‘novella‘ and my copy is just under 120 pages. Since it contains profanity, violence, and offensive (particularly racist) language, it has been frequently banned in schools and libraries (e.g. with the American Library Association).

I felt the writing style of the novel brought out, quite starkly, the impassioned struggles of the characters. If you’re the kind of person who prefers other sensory forms of entertainment, the novel has also been adapted into films (produced in 1939 and 1992), plays (starring James Franco and Chris O’Dowd), and audiobooks. The original novel was critically acclaimed, and remains a classic piece of literature illustrating the human experience of loneliness, powerlessness, and violence.

John Steinbeck lived a fascinating lifestyle and published twenty-seven books – one of which is Cannery Row, a book with many similarities to Of Mice and Men (Wikipedia article). He takes an ecological stance in this novel, and maintains his adroit skill in writing about social issues and human interactions (Wikipedia article). He enjoys the use of animal imagery in many of his books, as well as in his oft-cited quotes (see BrainyQuote, 2014):

“I’ve seen a look in dogs’ eyes, a quickly vanishing look of amazed contempt, and I am convinced that basically dogs think humans are nuts.” – John Steinbeck

“Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen.” – John Steinbeck

If it’s raining where you are right now, Of Mice and Men might engross you and transport you away to the dusty, hot, confused, and troubled times of George and Lennie for a few hours. Highly recommended!

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