Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck
John Ernst Steinbeck, Jr. was born on February 27, 1902, in Salinas in California. He was of German, English, and Irish descent. Johann Adolf Großsteinbeck, Steinbeck's paternal grandfather, had shortened the family name to Steinbeck when he emigrated to the United States. The family farm in Heiligenhaus, Mettmann, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany, is still today named "Großsteinbeck."
John Steinbeck was an American author of twenty-seven books, including sixteen novels, six non-fiction books, and five collections of short stories. He is widely known for the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Grapes of Wrath (1939), East of Eden (1952) and the novella Of Mice and Men (1937). Steinbeck received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1962 "for his realistic and imaginative writings, combining as they do sympathetic humor and keen social perception".
Of Mice and Men is a tragic story of the complex bond between two migrant laborers in California: George Milton and Lennie Small. They know each other from childhood and they dream of one day owning a small farm. George (the smart one) acts as a father figure to Lennie (who is a very large, simple-minded man). George tries to rein Lennie’s immense physical strength but it isn’t that easy… Lennie doesn’t know his own strength.
- Main themes and personal opinion
- Friendship: The friendship between George and Lennie is a little bit weird but also touching. It’s like that Lennie is George’s kid. In the end Lennie has killed the wife of the boss. When the other laborers find out about this, they start a search for Lennie; they want to shoot him down… George knows where Lennie is and goes to him. Then he shoot Lennie before the others can do.
“’No, Lennie,’ said George. ‘I’ve never been angry, and I ain’t now. I want you to know that.’
The voices came close now. George raised the gun.
Lennie asked. ‘Let’s do it now. Please! Let’s get that place now.’
‘Sure, right now. I’ve got to. We’ve got to.’
And George raised the gun and brought it close to the back of Lennie’s head. The hand shook at first, but then his face and hand grew hard and still. He pulled the trigger. The noise of the shot rolled up the hills and down again. Lennie sat up, and then fell slowly forward to the sand. He lay still.”
This is one of the last paragraphs of the book. It is obvious that George wants that Lennie dies in a quiet way instead of a violent way (what would happen when the other laborers would have done it). After all he still loves Lennie and doesn’t want that Lennie has pain or is scared.
George and Lennie have a dream where they sincerely believe in. All they want is a small piece of land that they can call ‘their own’. George and Lennie's dream is the American dream.
John Steinbeck 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.
- Poverty, loneliness, race, sexuality,…
I have liked to read this novel. The plot is complex but the writing is not and that’s why the book is unique.
“The boss asked, ‘What’s your name?’
‘And what’s yours?’
George said, ‘His name’s Lennie Small.’
‘Where have you boys been working?’
‘Up around Weed,’ said George.
The boss laughed shortly and pointed a finger at Lennie. ‘He ain’t much of a talker, is he?’
‘No, he ain’t, but he’s a hell of a good worker. As strong as a bull.’”
This piece of text clearly illustrates how easy and childlike the book is written.
John Steinbeck uses a lot of comparisons:
'Don't you go yellin',' he said, and he shook her; and her body flopped like a fish.’
Another good thing about this book is that it is not long and does not drag on; which is great for readers who do not like to read long books and get bored when reading them.