The book “Of Mice and Men” was authored by John Steinbeck in 1937. During his teenage life, Steinbeck spent a lot of time working and living in farm ranches within rural California. It is here that Steinbeck got fascinated with the families of the migrant farmworkers. He was particularly impressed with the interpersonal relationships amongst the immigrant workers. This is reflected in most of his works such as “The Grapes Of Wrath” published in 1940; “In Dubious Battle” published in 1936 and “Of Mice And Men” which was published in 1937. Steinbeck was very intimate about the plight of immigrant workers who triumphed spiritually regardless of the hardship and cruelty they faced in their lives. He looked at the relationships of the men in the group who only depended on one another for support and comfort. This paper shall focus on the review of the book by Steinbeck that was entitled “Of Mice and Men”.
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The characters of George and Lennie are mainly drawn from the early 1930s immigrant workers from Oklahoma State who migrated to California looking for employment and prosperity. The author is deeply fascinated by the friendship of men among the immigrant workers. The harsh economic conditions of the time led to the victimization of farm workers such as Lennie and George. Their search for land was obstructed by powerful forces beyond their reach. However, their lives’ tragedy was highlighted by unquestionable love and compassion.
The book “Of Mice and Men” is a story about two friends who are alienated by society. They work as farm laborers in ranches moving from one job to another across rural California. Lennie is huge but mentally retarded while George is small and intelligent. George takes it upon himself to guide and protect Lennie. He also relies on him for comfort and companionship. They share a common dream of owning their own ranch and keeping rabbits. However, this dream is never achieved. They get hired on a farm and make new friends. Nevertheless, this is all ruined by the farm owner’s son’s wife (Burns, 1993).
The title of the book was influenced by the work of Robert Burns in “The best-laid schemes of mice and men, go often awry, and leave us nothing but grief and pain, for promised joy!” (Buehl, 2011, p. 69). Steinbeck uses these lines in a very subtle way and ensures that the friends’ dreams do not materialize. Steinbeck’s narrative is strong and involves a lot of dialogue. This is emphasized by action and the descriptiveness in its approach. When reading this novel, one cannot help but sympathize with the characters. In this case, one would wish the characters to achieve their aspirations while knowing that this cannot happen. The plot is almost structured as a play, but the writing is simple.
In general, critics of Steinbeck’s work have always had mixed reactions based on the great emphasis that he placed on manhood and man relationships and style in which the two aspects were articulated. Steinbeck was hugely influenced by the works of Ernest Hemmingway. Many critics have labeled Steinbeck’s work as being too sentimental, superficial in approach, and overly moralistic. It has also been argued that his characters are one-dimensional. In addition, he over-relies on a deterministic plot. As a result, the lessons in the novel appear to be of great importance compared to the characters in the book (Burns & McGuirk, 1993).
Steinbeck continues to compare Lennie to animals. This foretells the impending danger that lingers over the life of Lennie. Most of the animals in the story experience sudden death. Tragedy in this book is inevitable especially considering Lennie’s state of mind. As much as Steinbeck tries to treat the lives of the less economically empowered with dignity, the book has majorly assigned women to basic roles. They serve as sex objects and home keepers. Female sexuality is viewed as a trap to ruin men. In the dreams of George and Lennie, they always imagined themselves as being alone without the distraction of women in their quest to achieve their goals (Steinbeck, 2000).
Steinbeck advances the theme of tragedy through foreshadowing with cases such as the killing of Candy’s dog that was shot dead. This is exactly what happens to Lennie later in the story. The way Lennie accidentally kills the mice foreshadows the killing of Curley’s wife. George confides in Slim that he has known Lennie since childhood and that they are not cousins. Candy claims he could never kill his dog; instead, he would rather let a stranger do it. However, later confides to George on how he wished to have killed the dog himself. This foreshadows how George finally makes his decision on killing his best friend and companion, Lennie (Steinbeck, 2000).
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When Lennie runs away from the burn, it becomes clear to George on what course of action he should take. Just like in the case of Candy’s dog, Slim suggests that killing Lennie would be the best decision. After Lennie’s death, Candy still holds on to the idealized dream. Nevertheless, George tells him that there is no room for dreaming.
Steinbeck shows the impossibilities of George and Lennie achieving their dreams. He also looks at the friendship, brotherhood and companionship among human beings. The author goes ahead to point out the strengths and weaknesses of these relationships among humans.
Buehl, D. (2011). Developing readers in the academic disciplines. Newark, DE: International Reading Association.
Burns, R., & McGuirk, C. (1993). Robert Burns: Selected poems. London: Penguin Books.
Steinbeck, J. (2000). Of mice and men. London: Penguin.