Of Mice and Man

"We have a dream.
Someday, we'll have a little house and a couple of acres.
A place to call home."

The author
John Steinbeck was born on February 27th, 1902 in Salina, California. He died on December 20th, 1968 in New York. Steinbeck is one of the most famous American writers. He is an important exponent of the so - called sociocritical novel. He was a reporter in the Second World War and in Vietnam. In 1962 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature. His most important works are: Tortilla Flat (1935); Of Mice and Men (1937); The Grapes of Wrath (1939); Cannery Row (1945); East of Eden (1952); The Short Reign of Pippin IV: A Fabrication (1957).
There are several films based on John Steinbeck’s novels.

I. Summary, narrative structure...
The novel "Of Mice and Man" by John Steinbeck is set in California in the thirties. The author tells about the friendship of Lennie and George, two travelling labourers working on ranches. The two friends are a very extraordinary pair. George is small and quick and does all of the thinking and talking for them. Lennie is big, strong and has the mind of a young child. Most of the time Lennie acts as if he were George’s little brother. Lennie likes to pet soft things, e.g. mice or other small animals.
The two men have been travelling together for some time and have gone through several jobs. Lennie seems to get them into trouble all the time. The two had to flee from their last job because Lennie touched a woman’s dress. The dream of the two men is to earn enough money to buy a piece of farmland of their own.
At the beginning of the novel Lennie and George are on their way to a job loading barley on a ranch in California near the Salina river. George instructs Lennie about their new job and sets down some rules: Lennie must not say anything, he should avoid trouble and is to come back to the riverbank - the place where they slept the night before - whenever trouble arises.
During their first day (Saturday) on the ranch it turns out soon that the rancher’s son Curley is a dangerous man who tries to start a fight with Lennie. Another potential danger is Curley’s wife who starts flirting with George and Lennie right away. George wants Lennie to ignore Curley’s wife totally. George and Lennie make friends with Candy, an elderly ranchhand. When Candy comes to know about their dream he wants to join in. Candy has saved some money, so with his savings and George’s and Lennie’s money their dream comes into reach.
Candy’s dog is very old, blind, dumb and sick and the other labourers want to get rid of the stinking animal, but Candy is not able to kill his dog himself. For this reason one of the other labourers kills Candy’s dog with a revolver.
Lennie is given a small puppy by another ranchhand whose dog has had a litter of them. Lennie is very happy about that, but soon the puppy dies because Lennie pets it too much and too hard.
Curley starts a fight with Lennie. This time George allows Lennie to defend himself. Lennie wins the fight and breaks Curley’s hand.
At the end of the novel, during Lennie’s and George’s second day on the farm, a Sunday, Lennie meets Curley’s wife in the barn. When she learns that Lennie likes to touch soft things, she invites him to touch her hair. He does so, but as always he holds on too tight. The woman begins to struggle and yell, Lennie panics and accidentally brakes her neck like he did to the puppy. Lennie flees to the riverbank like George had told him.
When the other ranchhands come back and find the dead body, Curley insists on lynching Lennie. All of them run after Lennie but George separates himself from the others to get to Lennie’s hiding place before the others find him...

"Of Mice and Man" is told from a third person’s point of view and is written in chronological order. The story describes only two days in the lives of George and Lennie. Moreover it only sets at few places on the ranch and the river bank.
It is also remarkable that most of the novel consists of dialogue and that descriptions are rare. Because of this the characters are described quite implicitly and indirectly, i.e. most of the time the reader has to judge the characters by himself through their actions, behaviour and what they say. The readers’ s sympathy is always with George and Lennie.
The language in the description is quite formal and neutral but the dialogues are full of colloquial English, slang and even some substandard English, so many parts of the novel are written in the typical language of American labourers of that time. The sentence structure is clear and easy to survey throughout the story.
There are a lot of symbols in "Of Mice and Man": many events at the beginning of the story prepare events that happen later in the story, e.g. in the beginning Lennie causes the death of his puppy, lateron he accidentally kills Curley’s wife.
I think that "Of Mice and Man" is a very good book because the story fits well to the narrative structure and language:
The novel is about two "ordinary" labourers, so the story is not complicated or hard to understand and it is written in their "ordinary" language.

II. Commentary
To my mind "Of Mice and Man" is a very interesting book. I like it very much and have enjoyed reading it.
You get into the novel from the very first beginning. Soon you feel sympathy for George and Lennie and share their dream of having a piece of land of their own.
A lot of times I felt sorry for Lennie because of the mistakes he made and the others’ absence of understanding for him. I also felt happy with him when he dreamed about his own land with George and when he got his puppy.
Besides this I liked that most of the story consists of dialogues. This makes the story exciting and in my view the using of the language of the labourers involves you with the characters. I also think that because of the many dialogues the novel can be compared to a play.
Before I read "Of Mice and Man" I did not know much about how labourers used to live during that time. For me it has been interesting to learn about their conditions of living and to get an idea of the life on a ranch in the thirties.
Moreover I was fascinated by Lennie’ s view of the world and what kind of dreams he had.
To my mind the sociocritical aspect of the novel is very strong. The author describes the homelessness of poor people in California in the thirties with much realism. The reader is confronted with their hopeless situation which seems to change never in their lives, no matter how hard they work. All of this makes the novel very touching. It made me think about what it would have been like to have lived as a travelling labourer in those times.
The only thing I did not like about the novel is that it has such a sad ending because I am a person who likes happy endings.

Lennie and George at the riverbank

III. Recommendation
I think "Of Mice and Man" is an excellent novel that is very interesting to read. Although the book is more than 60 years old and belongs to the classics of American literature it is never boring, so I recommend it to everybody who just wants to read a good book.
To be more precise: I recommend "Of Mice and Man" to everybody who wants to find out about how life of American labourers on a ranch used to be in the thirties.
You also get to know the very interesting and extraordinary friendship between George and Lennie and the reader begins to understand in what kind of world people like Lennie live.
I would also recommend "Of Mice and Man" to everybody who is a dreamer and likes dreams because by them you really can get into the book and understand George and Lennie.
Finally I have to say that there is a very good film based on the novel by John Steinbeck produced in 1992. For me this motion picture is one of the very few films that are as good as the book they are based on.

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