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Of Mice and Men (Pocket Penguin Classics) Book
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John C28 February 2011
John Steinbeck's novella 'Of Mice and Men', published in 1937, derives its title from a couplet in Robert Burns' poem 'To a Mouse' - 'The best laid schemes o' mice an' men, Go aft awry - and, as the title would suggest, is a statement of belief in the precariousness of individual hopes and dreams that might also be considered a wider critique of the American Dream.
It is the story of George and Lennie, two migrant workers whose shared ambition is, through the collaboration of their wages earned as they travel from ranch to ranch across the State of California during the Great Depression, to purchase their own piece of farmland upon which they will live off the fat of the land, tending livestock and growing their own food, creating their own idyll in a world they find insidious and hostile to their well-being.
Early in the novella it becomes clear that Lennie, despite being a man of great size and strength, has an underdeveloped character of extreme naivety, and as such is entirely dependent upon George who frequently expresses the opinion that his life would be better had he not the responsibility of caring for Lennie, though you soon realise George is just as dependent on Lennie for the unconditional and devoted friendship he offers. Each man has, after all, little in this world but the friendship of the other.
The two men, fleeing from a previous ranch after Lennie's naivety had brought him into a situation which led to an accusation that he had attacked a woman, arrive at a new ranch seeking work, and here, among a number of other characters each of differing temperaments and intentions, they befriend an elderly, one-armed ranch worker named Candy.
Candy fears that, like his old and lumbering pet dog who the other ranch workers insist should be put out of his misery, he too is nearing the time when he will be cast aside as no earthly use to anyone and when he overhears George, at Lennie's insistence, telling longingly of this idyllic piece of land, he offers to contribute his monetary savings towards the cost of purchasing the land on the understanding that he will come and live on the farm with George and Lennie and share in their idyll. The offer is accepted, and for the first time the dream becomes a real possibility.
But the intentions of others aren't always quite so altruistic as the intentions of Candy, and when Lennie finds himself in a situation foreshadowed by the one which had caused him and George to flee their previous ranch, it seems both their dream and their friendship must be sacrificed in a moving and heartfelt ending...
In 1962 John Steinbeck received the Nobel Prize for Literature "for his realistic and imaginative writings, combining as they do sympathetic humour and keen social perception." And while 'Of Mice and Men' is a story much more concise than the generation-spanning stories of Steinbeck's other great novels ('The Grapes of Wrath' and 'East of Eden') which perhaps earned him his Nobel Prize, its impact on the reader, with moments of genuine pathos, isn't any less.
'Of Mice and Men' is most certainly a must read book.
Of Mice and Men tells the story of streetwise George and his big, childlike friend Lennie. A pair of drifters searching for work in the fields and valleys of California, they have nothing except the clothes on their back, and a hope that one day they'll find a place of their own and be able to live the American dream. George owning the land, and Lennie tending to the rabbits. But dreams come at a price. Gentle giant Lennie doesn't know his own strength, and when they find work at a ranch he gets into trouble with the boss's daughter-in-law. Trouble so bad that even his protector George may not be able to save him. John Steinbeck brilliantly brings 1920s America to life in this life-affirming tale of a special friendship.
Drifters in search of work, George and his childlike friend Lennie, have nothing in the world except the clothes on their back - and a dream that one day they will have some land of their own. Eventually they find work on a ranch in California's Salinas Valley, but their hopes are dashed as Lennie - struggling against extreme cruelty, and more.
John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men is a powerful and poignant story and a must-read classic for all teens.
John Steinbeck, Susan Shillinglaw
- John Steinbeck
- 26 January 2006
- Penguin Classics
- Paperback (Book)
- New Ed
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