Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
Of Mice and Men was written in 1937 and has been on my “must read list” for my entire adult life. I finally got around to reading it and was thoroughly unprepared for the powerful impact of this novella. Steinbeck doesn’t need a lot of flowery language, run-on-forever sentences, or page long paragraphs to get his point across. His writing style is primitive, minimal, and sparse, boding well with the hard-times depression era environment of Soledad, California where Of Mice and Men takes place.
Of Mice and Men is just four days in the life of George Milton and Lennie Small, traveling companions who roam from ranch to ranch in search of temporary migrant farm work. They don’t particularly like being drifters, in fact, they daydream of having their own little farm someday. But aside from being flat broke, they have one additional major obstacle. Lennie is mentally challenged. He has the mind of a young child, in the body of a giant. With his powerful body-building physique and George’s endorsement of reliability, Lennie has no trouble finding work, but keeping a job is something else. Lennie never means to cause trouble. He just fails to realize his own incredible strength and unintentionally, he often scares people.
Of Mice and Men explores a lot of fundamental issues that were prevalent during the early years of the twentieth century: discrimination, the roles of women in society, the dangers and consequences of being injured on the job, the unsophisticated judicial system, the lack of opportunity for upward mobility, and the cruel hardships of farm life. Above all, Steinbeck tackles the never-ending universal issue of human rights.
All ten characters are richly drawn, although some have just minor roles. The central themes are loneliness and unfulfilled dreams of success, happiness, security, and a bright future. But times were tough and the odds were against all of them.
I started reading late one evening and never put the book down until I finished the last page. Harsh, crude, powerful, dramatic….an endless list of adjectives could describe this classic. From the moment the story begins there is a foreboding of bad things to come. But never in my wildest imagination could I visualize the way this chilling story ended.
Rated 5 Stars
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