Of Mice and Men

By John Steinbeck

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Novel Summary

An unlikely pair travel together and work hard in the vegetable fields of California. These two men are Lennie and George, a large man who acts like a young child, and a small, quick man with a dark face. These two have a plan, and this plan is to own an acre of land, and a shack that they can call their own. The two had to leave the ranch they originally had been working on, due to Lennie being accused of rape. Lennie had grabbed onto a woman's dress, liking the way it felt, and the woman screamed. This frightened him, causing him to latch on even tighter. They had to leave, so that Lennie couldn't be caught and get in trouble. Luckily, they landed jobs on a ranch in the Salinas Valley. Candy overhears the two talking about their plans, and he wants in. With the help of Candy's money, they are so close to achieving their dreams. All they had to do now was finish their work, and they could be gone. They had to be careful of Curley and not stir up any trouble with him. Curley was a man who liked to start fights, especially with those who are bigger than him, such as Lennie. George warns him about Curley, and his rather flirtatious wife. He advises Lennie to stay away from them and not talk to them. Although, he cannot protect Lennie forever. Lennie finds himself in trouble with Curley's wife, a very persistent woman. She gets frightened by Lennie when he grabs onto her hair when she tells him to stop, causing him to be scared as well, and in fear breaks her neck, killing her. The other workers on the ranch are outraged, especially the woman's husband, Curley. They go after Lennie, to find him and kill him. George, unsure of what the others would do, made a quick decision. He stole Carlson's gun and ran after George. Once he found him, he told Lennie to look out at the beautiful river, he wanted Lennie to see this last. He started to talk about their plans, about their dream of owning land. Then he raised his gun to the back of Lennie's head, giving him a quick, painless, death.

Theme Analysis

The theme of the story "Of mice and Men" includes the struggle of man to find their place, a place that they can call their own, or "home." It shows you what is is to be human, and the harsh realities of life. The book touches on several themes, such as the nature of dreams, loneliness or isolation, injustice, and the uncertainty of the future. George and Lennie have a dream of owning a land of their own. Goals and dreams give meaning to our lives, something to strive for. Loneliness is also very present in the novel, and Lennie and George also struggle with this loneliness, being alone in the world trying to find their place- constantly getting new jobs, as they dream for a place of their own. The characters also seem shocked at the fact that they travel together, suggesting it is uncommon. Another example would be when Lennie goes into Crook's room, trying to find someone to talk with, and same with Curley's wife. Crooks once mentions that a guy can go crazy if he doesn't have anybody at all. Slim even mentions that after a long time, people tend to go cold, and "mean." Curley deals with the loneliness without his old dog when it is put down by being shot, Curley's wife is the only woman on the farm, being forbidden to talk with anyone else, and Crooks is isolated from the others because of his skin color, being the only black man on the ranch. He suffers the racial injustice, not being allowed in the bunkhouse with the others. Candy faces the injustices of being old, and handicapped, and is in fear of being thrown out, just as his dog was, in a sense. The novel also touches on the uncertainty of the future. Candy is uncertain of what will happen to him, fearing he will be kicked from the ranch soon, especially due to his injury. With this, he is uncertain what he will do for his future. George and Lennie also are uncertain, despite having a plan, because they do not know if they will ever reach their dream.

All of these are aspects of our lives, something we will eventually live through at one point or another. This books shows the reality of life, and the struggles that people go through.

Character Developement

"A guy needs somebody―to be near him. A guy goes nuts if he ain't got nobody. Don't make no difference who the guy is, long's he's with you. I tell ya, I tell ya a guy gets too lonely an' he gets sick" (Steinbeck, Of Mice and Men)

John Steinbeck Biography

John Steinbeck was born on February 27, 1902 in Salinas, California. The geography and demographics of Steinbeck’s hometown greatly influenced the majority of his novels and informed his characters’ strong identification with the land. In early adolescence, John Steinbeck showed a strong interest in writing. During high school, Steinbeck would work late into the night in his attic room in Salinas and write stories. Steinbeck enrolled at Stanford University in 1919 in order to sharpen his writing skills, majoring in English. Despite attending college on and off for 5 years, he left Stanford in 1925 without receiving a degree. Steinbeck made acquaintances that would greatly influence his writing and outlook. After leaving Stanford in 1925, Steinbeck worked a series of jobs while continuing to write. He briefly lived in New York, unsuccessfully attempting to support himself through writing. While working for Tahoe City fish hatchery in California shortly after finishing Cup of Gold, Steinbeck met Carol Henning, who he married on January 14, 1930. The early 1930s brought Steinbeck slow successes, as literary agents McIntosh and Otis became interested in To a God Unknown in 1931. Steinbeck's next few books, To A God Unknown(1933), and The Red Pony stories, written in 1933 and 1934, demonstrate the writer's growing talent for depicting the region of his birth. In 1935, Steinbeck enjoyed his first critical and commercial success with Tortilla Flat, chronicling the adventures of a group of friends modeled after stories Steinbeck had heard of the paisanos in Monterey. Shortly after marrying Gwyn Conger, Steinbeck was hired by the New York Herald Tribune to report on the war in Europe. He went first to England, then North Africa, and then accompanied the commando raids of Douglas Fairbanks Jr.'s Beach Jumpers programs in the Mediterranean, off the coast of Italy.After the end of the war, Steinbeck published The Pearl , an elaboration on a story he had heard in La Paz during his trip with Ed Ricketts to the Gulf of California. In 1962, Steinbeck was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature for his “realistic and imaginative writing, combining as it does sympathetic humor and social perception.” Throughout the mid-Sixties, Steinbeck’s health continued to decline. He suffered increasingly frequent episodes resembling mini-strokes, and eventually died at his home in New York City on December 20, 1968.
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John Steinbeck - A Historical Documentary
John Steinbeck - A Portrait - BBC - Radio
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