Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

I finished Of Mice and Men a while ago, and I just never reviewed it, so I did it now instead. And it sort of devolved in the beginning, and then I brought it back, sort of. It’s my style basically.

The book
This book is about George and Lennie, two drifters who trudge across America looking for work. They arrive at a farm in California, where they start working. Lennie Small is a man who is big in stature and who is very simple in the mind. He really likes soft things, like mice, puppies and bunnies, he likes touching them, but he keeps accidentally killing them. He also likes to touch other soft things, which gets him into trouble. George knows his aunt, so he’s looking after Lennie, and keeping him safe, and helping him out of trouble.

I read an excerpt of this when I was in school, and I think we analyzed it, so I knew the outcome of it when I read the whole book. I don’t remember what we talked about, so it clearly left an incredible impression on me. I do remember that we read the outcome, which seems a bit unnecessary. I mean it’s not a long book, but why would you put the very emotional and impactful end of it into an English course book? Are you just expecting that no one will read American Classics later, which is rude, or are you just thinking fuck ‘em. Or do you feel like it is important to put the most emotional and potent moment in the book because it might entice the most interesting discussion? Because I don’t think disinterested 15-year-olds will be more interested if the huge guy kills a girl than if the big guy kills a dog for instance. Also it was just this very small part of the book where Lennie kills the girl. We had no idea what else had happened in the book, we didn’t know why Lennie and George were together or that similar things had happened before. Or maybe the editors of the course book thought they needed to put the most dramatic moment in Of Mice and Men in the book because we’d never read it, and it would still expand our frame of reference, so we knew what happened in Of Mice and Men, which I assume is vital. I realize this review had quickly descended into me criticizing an English course book I had to read over a decade ago, but when I remembered this, it really annoyed me. There are other things we could have talked about. There are some delightful displays of racism in the book, that would have been more interesting, we could have discussed that, and the impact of slavery and racism in America. By which I don’t mean Steinbeck was racist, he might have been, but I mean he describes normal situations in the States in the times, so there was racism. This might have been a bit too ambitious for a ninth grade English class in Norway, but I’m annoyed. Maybe we should have been more ambitious.

Anyway. I really loved Of Mice and Men. It was beautiful, just like East of Eden. I think that in 2016 I will have to look into more Steinbeck. I love his writing, and his command of prose and I love him so much.

I love George, which sounds a bit out of the blue. But George is so beautiful and flawed and wonderful. He has been sort of made to take care of Lennie, although it seems like he does it happily. But he is also aware that if he didn’t have to look after Lennie he would have a completely different life, a life that might be normal, he could get a steady job, buy a house and get married. He might also, obviously, drink himself to death if he had no one depending on him. Because he knows this, he is sort of resentful towards Lennie and sometimes mocks him for his own pleasure. Because Lennie doesn’t pick up on it, it makes him feel guilty. He’s just complex and he seems so lonely. Because while he is always with Lennie, Lennie isn’t really a stimulating conversation partner. So when they arrive at the farm of Curley and his father George suddenly has this whole slew of people he can actually have meaningful conversations with. And while I think he loves Lennie he seems to really crave these other people.

George and Lennie have this plan. They will make enough money, then they’ll buy a farm house and live their lives there. It’s clearly something they dream about, and it’s something to talk about, and it feels like it is something that will never happen, but something that they’re happy to dream about and talk about.

It is sort of heartbreaking to read about Lennie. He is sort of intellectually challenged I guess. He seems to think more like a child than a grown man. He is a physically imposing man though, and he is strong and can learn, so when they go to farms he picks up on the work and he works hard and enough for like three men. In his time, of the 30s, he is just seen as a nuisance, and he is clearly seen as threatening because he is so big and imposing and doesn’t seem to understand how other people interact. He really loves soft things, animals, soft fabrics and soft hair, but he tends to kill his pets because he isn’t aware of how strong he is. This is something that has gotten them into trouble before, and it is obviously the important crux of the story. On the farm he and George are planning, Lennie’s job will be the care and feeding of the rabbits, and George uses this in an attempt to make Lennie careful. He tries to tell Lennie that he can’t look after the rabbits unless he is careful and doesn’t hurt anyone or anything else.

It is really nice to read about friendship. Because Lennie loves George, and George loves Lennie, and they don’t seem to have many other people in their lives. They have fled across the state, and they have to look after each other. Because if they don’t have each other, then they won’t have anyone. Loneliness is important in the whole book, not just with George and Lennie, but also with other people. There is Candy, who is an old farmhand at the ranch Lennie and George come to. He hasn’t really got anyone except his old, smelly, useless dog. And the dog is all he has, but it’s clearly in pain, and there is a horrible moment where the others convince him to put the dog down, which is the right thing to do, but it is so heartbreaking. There is also Curley’s wife, who is pretty much the only woman on the ranch. She’s not meant to be a farmer’s wife, and clearly doesn’t want to be one, and she is shunned by the workers, because Curley is extremely jealous and if she is just thought to have talked to someone they are in danger of losing their jobs and it leaves her isolated, lonely and even more desperate to reach out to people.


I think I should stop now. I’ve ranted about my English lessons from 13 years ago, and I’ve gushed about how much I loved this book, so clearly, this is a perfect review. I really know what I’m doing. I also realize that you can’t read tone in text, but I am trying to be sarcastic. Anyways, I love Steinbeck. He’s magic.