Of mice and men

John Steinbeck

He was born on February 27th, 1902 in Salinas, California. There he grew up and much of his work draws on his knowledge of life on the farms and ranches of the West. He worked as a reporter, chemist, and bricklayer until his first novel "Cup of Gold" (1921), was published. In 1930 Steinbeck married Carol Henning and they lived near Monterey. He was still a struggling, unknown writer and they were very poor, till he wrote the novel "Tortilla Flat" (1935) and "The Red Pony", which at least brought Steinbeck a degree of fame and success.

The novels "In Dubious Battle" (1936) and "The Grapes of Wrath" (1939) were typical for the realistic "proletarian" writing in this era. In 1940 he was awarded with the "Pulitzer Price". The novel "Of Mice and Men" deals with migrant workers in a California ranch background.

He was attracted to the theatre a number of times. In 1942 he made a play of his novel "The Moon is Down", a stirring melodrama about the Nazi's occupation of Norway. "Burning Bright" (1950) also appeared as a novel, but it seems to have been conceived as a play from the start.

His second wife gave him two sons. They were depicted in "East of Eden". This marriage also ended in divorce and in 1950 Steinbeck married his third wife, Elaine Scott. By this time he had left California and settled in New York.

Shortly after cpmleting "Cannery Row", Steinbeck began work on "The Pearl" (1947), based on a shot story he had heard on a expedition to the Gulf of California.

To overcome his sense of loneliness and frustration because he had divorced his second wife and lost his best friend, he involved himself in many projects. He did a lot of travelling and wrote filmscripts and articles for magazines, but had produced no major work since "The Pearl".

In 1962 Steinbeck was awarded the "Nobel Price" for litterature.On December 20th, 1968 John E. Steinbeck died in New York and is burried in Salinas, California, where he was born.


THE STORY:On their way to a new job, George and Lennie stop to spend the night on a riverbank. They have been moving together from one ranch to the next for many years. Lennie is unhappy at the loss of his dead mouse, but settles down to George's coaching on how he should behave the next day: he is not to say anything when they are interviewed; he is to avoid trouble and if he does something bad, he is to return to his place they are and hide in the bushes. Lennie promises to be good and wants to know something about their future. George describes the little farm they will have as soon as they save some money. Away from bosses and orders, they will have their own piece of land and if Lennie continues to be good Lennie will be prmitted to tend the rabbits.

Next morning they arrive at the ranch in Salinas valley and George and Lennie are shown their bunks in the bunk house. During the morning they meet a lot of guys: the boss, his son Curley, Curley's young wife, the swamper Candy, Slim, Whit and Carlson.

Lennie does not like this place and also George is afraid of getting problems with Lennie again, because Curley wants to fight with everyone he thinks he can beat. Candy warns the newcomers about Curley's wife, who will flirt with every man.

Curley's wife arrives, looking for her husband. Lennie is attracted to her, but George warns him to stay away from her.

Slim is happy to have two experienced workers in his team. He quickly understands the limitations of Lennie and George's desire to protect the child-man.George explains that Lennie had almost been lynched at their last job. He had touched a girl's skirt and when she tried to pull away, all he could do was hold on harder. The girl claimed he had tried to rape her and only by running away had they saved themselves.

Besides that Slim's dog has slung nine pups last night and Lennie is more than happy to get one of them. Now he has something that he can stroke. George warns him to handle it too roughly.

While Lennie is playing with the pup in the barn, Slim and Carlson can persuade Candy to shoot his old, blind, bad smelling dog so that he will not have to suffer anymore.

Believing they are alone, George once more begins telling Lennie about the plan for a farm. Candy offers all his savings if he can join them. Of course they can do it. Then Curley enters in a worse mood than ever. When Lennie laughes at him Curley starts hitting Lennie. George tells Lennie to "get him". The big man crushes Curley's hand. When it's over Lennie is only worried that George may not permit him to tend the rabbits.

Next evening, while nearly everybody is in town, Lennie visits his puppy in the barn, where he also meets Crooks, a black, who is usually treated by the others. After a while Candy appears, too and they speak about black and white people, friendships and about the land Candy, Lennie, and George are hopefully going to get. Curley's wife also appears, looking for his husband, disturbes the meeting.

Next morning Lennie realizes that he has killed his puppy. Once again, he had petted the animal too hard, and when it tried to bite, Lennie pinched its head. Curley's wife comes and flirts with him. Stroking her hair, he cannot control himself. When she starts to move away, he will not let her to go. She becomes frightened and when she cries out, Lennie breaks her neck. Lennie remembers about the hiding place near the river and flees. Curley wants to kill the murderer and rounds up some men for a search. George goes to the riverbank. He finds Lennie and George once again repeats the story of the wonderful farm and the rabbits. While Lennie sits, George moves behind him and shoots him through the head.


George Milton and Lennie Small are so called "real friends". George promised Aunt Clara to take care of the half witted Lennie. That's why he helps him in every situation. George would never be able to leave Lennie, leave him alone in this world, because he knows, that Lennie woulddie soon. On the other hand, Lennie can also not leave George through he knows that Milton would then be able to live alone. While George is small and stronghands, his opposite and shadow is Lennie. He is a huge man with large eyes and with wide shoulders. He is a guy who walks heavily, dragging his feet a little, the way a bear drags his paws. Lennie imitates George in every situation, he does exactly those things his friend makes. It seems as if George is something like a mother replace for Lennie. Lennie is not more than a baby, a kid that does not know how to handle with his strength. He behaves absolutely childishly.

He forgets nearly everything, lives in his dreams and wishes, has no own opinion. He is just looking for love, probably love he didn't get when he was a child.

George thinks and speaks for Lennie He protects him in every situation and punishes him for having done a mistake. Just those things that a mother has to do. But of course, George cannot really give love to him. As a result, Lennie receives it-love from the animals. But Lennie loves them to death, because he cannot control his strength.

Slim is a quiet understanding foreman. He understands Lennie's limitations.

Curley is the son of the boss. He is a small man and bad tempered. He is always looking for a fight. Curley's wife is dance-hall girl. She is disgusted with her suspicious, unpleasant husband. She is rather a naive, lonely woman.

Candy is an old, nearly senile laborer. Since he lost a hand he has been kept on to clean and do odd jobs. He lives in terror of being fired. Crooks is the hunchback Negro stablehand. The boss is the superintendent of the ranch.


There are two interpretations. First it's about plans demolished, of dreams destroyed. Not only George, Lennie and Candy dream about some wonderful place to settle down and escape the ugliness. Also Crooks and Slim have the same dream in different forms, but both agree that unlike most of the migrants talk about settling down, none do. George and Lennie have more than a dream. They have a specific plan.

A majorirony of the play lies in the clash between the good-hearted Lennie, with no intelligence to control his strngth and the vicious Curley, whose intelligence seems directed at destruction. Curley's desire for power triumphs over Lennie's hope for peace and security.

The title "Of Mice ans Men" tells the story of death of mice and men arising not only out of anger, but out of an excess of some kind of love. Lennie starts killing a mouse, but he stopps killing a human being. Lennie cannot help stroking anything soft, mostly animals, but his strength usually kills them. George loves Lennie in a different way, as if he were a stupid kid brother. He accepts Lennie as his responsibility. Lennie is a visible reminder to George of the farm of the future. He is also in a deeper sense a brother. This love leadsto death.

During the meeting between Crooks, Candy and Lennie does not just point out what a real friendship means and how it is to be lonely. He explains what it means to be black. Discrimination does not stop.


This story takes place where Steinbeck was born - in Salinas, California. It might have been at a time where black discrimination was no longer really actual, but still there.

The book is devided into six chapters. This story is told by an omniscent 3rd person narrator. The language is as "bad" as the lower class might have spoken. It's a kind of slang.

The story starts at the riverbank and finishes there, it has a beginning and an end. The story between has a climax and a retarding moment, because the hiding in the bush, the arrive of George and the continous telling about the rabbits make the reader believe in a hppy end. George and Lennie could escape and could make their dream come true. The ranch is the only thing Lennie never forgets.

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