Ban Steinbeck!

(Even if he's a Pulitzer and Nobel Prize winning author...)

Of Mice And Men first edition cover

Steinbeck, J. (1937) Of mice and men. New York, NY: Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

Of Mice And Men Synopsis

According to a novel synopsis on The National Steinbeck Center wesite, Of Mice and Men follows a pair of migrant field workers in California as they move South from Weed to work on a ranch in Soledad. The novella navigates between the everyday realities of George Milton and Lennie Small—gigantic in stature, well-meaning, but with limited mental capacity—and their dream of settling down on their own ranch, a dream that seems all the more tempting for its impossibility.

George often worries and acts with Lennie's well-being in mind, but he can't control Lennie's actions when they aren't together. Then Lennie makes a grave mistake and forces George's hand.

John Steinbeck and Of Mice And Men

It can be argued that John Steinbeck is one of the most renowned American literature novelist of all time. Of Mice And Men, a book he wrote based on his own experiences as a farm hand after he dropped out of Stanford University, is one of his most successful novels. And even 79 years after it was first published, it still finds itself on banned book lists well into the 21st century. This novel has recently appeared on the American Library Association's (ALA) challenged book list as the tenth most challenged book in 2004 and the second most challenged book in 2001. It is also part of the ALA's Banned Classics list.

The National Steinbeck Center states, "Despite its long-term popularity, Of Mice and Men was banned in many schools and libraries for vulgarity and what some consider offensive and racist language. The novella appears on the American Library Association's Most Challenged Books of the 21st Century. Nevertheless, Of Mice and Men is one of Steinbeck's works most frequently taught in school."

The Los Angeles Times Reports On A Recent Of Mice And Men Ban Attempt

In 2013, schools in Idaho received a request from several members of the community to ban Of Mice And Men from being taught in schools. This is an article from The Los Angeles Times.

An Exerpt Of A Teacher-Inspired Review on The School Library Journal

The following is a review of an app that made it's debut in 2013. This app provides the text for Steinbeck's novel and adds ancillary texts to enhance the student experience.

"When asked why he studies John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men with his students, Matthew Kalafat responds, “it get kids thinking—critically,” and notes that the debates that follow allow his 8th graders to become “more confident, more engaged readers.” Both Kalafat and Derrick Nelson are educators featured in Penguin’s recently released Of Mice and Men: Teacher’s Deluxe Edition ($11.99; Gr 8 Up), available on a variety of electronic devices. Along with video commentary from the two, the iBook contains the full text of Steinbeck’s novel, a lengthy introduction by Susan Shillinglaw; the Robert Burns’s poem from which the book title derives (“To a Mouse, On Turning Her up in Her Nest with the Plough, November 1785,”); and the text of Steinbeck’s Nobel Prize acceptance speech."

Teacher's quoted in this review go on to say that the novel prompts students to think of abstract ideas that still affect human interaction today, such as loneliness, a sense of belonging, and how to people with mental disabilities can be and are often treated.

Grabarek, D. (2013). Deluxe and Digital - Steinbeck's Of Mice And Men. School Library Journal. Retrieved from:

Editorial Review from

Of Mice and Men is a thriller, a gripping tale running to novelette length that you will not set down until it is finished. It is more than that; but it is that. . . . In sure, raucous, vulgar Americanism, Steinbeck has touched the quick in his little story.”—The New York Times

“Brutality and tenderness mingle in these strangely moving pages. . . . The reader is fascinated by a certainty of approaching doom.”—Chicago Tribune

”A short tale of much power and beauty. Mr. Steinbeck has contributed a small masterpiece to the modern tough-tender school of American fiction.”—Times Literary Supplement[London]

Teaching Value

As a ninth grade English I teacher, I read this novel to analyze underlying themes that surround the ideals of what it means to be a member of American society in this time, and how these themes are still relevant today. Some of the themes are loneliness, the value of the American Dream, the objectification of women in society, and the treatment of the mentally disabled. Furthermore, it allows for students to use these character interactions to provide an enlightenment of symbolism in the text and use critical thinking to correlate the plot in a story that surrounds ranch hands in the 1930s to students or society in 2016. Because the novel itself isn't too complex in reading level, a teacher can use a student's strengths in basic plot analysis to prepare a student to analyze this novel more critically. Ultimately, they will be able to acquire the skills they need to analyze other texts.

In addition to this novel lending itself for in-depth analysis, it also allows the student to study author's craft and style. Steinbeck weaves his lyrical descriptive style of writing with his more raw, controversial use of colloquialisms in dialogue. Parents may object to the use of vulgarity and profanity, but I would argue that this aspect of literature enables the student to evaluate and judge one of the hardest concepts present in standardized testing: author's purpose and author's craft.

Personal Review

I've always loved this story because of its unexpected, almost cruel and abrupt ending. I often search for stories that shock the reader because these are the ones that leave a lasting impression. When a student can make connections to literature so far away from what they can imagine, it is a win. I enjoy Steinbeck's use of language and how well he contrasts all aspects of imagery and figurative language. Few authors can do that at this Lexile level. I also like how it's slow paced for the struggling reader, and equally as effective, it allows the critical reader to search and decipher meaningful incidents that can be easily overlooked in the text. What shocks me the most is that Steinbeck dropped out of Stanford and lived this experience as a farm hand. He ultimately used how he lived and what he saw as an inspiration to his novel. No one can say he imagined it or that it isn't true. Experience is the best teacher.

Other Banned Steinbeck Books...

John Steinbeck also wrote Grapes of Wrath. This novel was highly controversial because it described the poor, vile, and degrading conditions that migrants of the 1930s were forced to work and live in. The contents of this novel were so controversial that John Steinbeck brought upon him the criticism of the farming conglomerates of California, along with some predominant members of Congress. This novel has been challenged and banned from school for similar reasons as Of Mice And Men.

Sharyland Independent School District's Instructional Materials Policy

Sharyland Independent School District includes procedures for any member of the community to submit a book challenge. As educators, it is important to be familiar with the policy. Reconsideration Policy

This is an excerpt regarding challenged materials.

Challenges to Materials

  • Policy Statement: The library promises to uphold the Library Bill of Rights. The bill of rights stipulates that the library should provide for the “interest, information, and enlightenment of all people of the community,” “should provide materials and information presenting all points of view on current and historical issues,” “should challenge censorship [in order to] provide information and enlightenment,” “should cooperate with all persons and groups concerns with resisting abridgement of freedom of expression and access to ideas,” the library should not deny a person’s right to use it “because of origin, age, background, or views,” and should make meeting spaces available to anyone “on an equitable basis.”

Adopted June 19, 1939, by the ALA Council; amended October 14, 1944; June 18, 1948; February 2, 1961; June 27, 1967; January 23, 1980; inclusion of “age” reaffirmed January 23, 1996.

  • Policy Specifics: The library acknowledges and respects the users’ right to question selection materials. To help the complainant understand the selection process, we are sending copies of the district’s

      1. Instructional goals and objectives

      2. Materials Selection Policy statement

      3. Procedure for Handling Objections

  • Procedure Lists:

    1. Should the complainant choose to pursue the complaint, the following form must be filled out.

Name ___________________________ Date ___________________________
Address _________________________ City ___________________________
State ___________________________ Zip ___________________________
Phone ___________________________
Do you represent self? ____ Organization? ____

1. Resource on which you are commenting:
____ Book ____ Textbook ____ Video ____ Display ____ Magazine ____ Library Program
____ Audio Recording ____ Newspaper ____ Electronic Information/Network (please specify):
Other ___________________________________________________________________
Title ________________________________________________________________________
Author/Producer _______________________________________________________________

2. What brought this resource to your attention?

3. Have you examined the entire resource?

4. What concerns you about the resource? (use other side or additional pages if necessary)

5. Are there resource(s) you suggest to provide additional information and/or other viewpoints on this topic?

Revised by the American Library Association Intellectual Freedom Committee, June 27, 1995.

    1. Please be sure to completely fill out this form. Only completed forms will be evaluated.

    2. If the complaint is resolved informally, the identity of the complainant will remain confidential.

    3. The governing bodies of the library, the campus administration, the district librarian, and the school board will evaluate this complaint and reach a formal solution.

    4. A report of the findings will be sent to the complainant.

    5. Should the complainant be dissatisfied with the verdict, the complainant has the right to appeal the decision of the committees to the superintendent of schools and the district school board.


Woolls, B. et al. (2013-12-09). The school library manager: Fifth Edition (Library and Information Science Text Series). ABC-CLIO. Kindle Edition.

Workbook for selection policy writing. (2013). Accessed on September 24, 2016

About Wenndy Pray

Wenndy Pray is a current graduate student at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas. She has been a teacher since 2008 and is currently teaching high school English for Sharyland Independent School District in Mission, Texas.