This is my first experience with Steinbeck, and it definitely will not be my last! Beautifully crafted, this short novel has every right to be called a classic. While researching the novel, I learned that the title is based on a Scottish poem “To a Mouse”“by Robert Burns. As you can see, this is where the famous line “the best-laid schemes of Mice and Men go oft awry” originated.
The story is about two migrant workers during the Great Depression-George, an intelligent but uneducated man, and Lennie, a big man with an even bigger heart but limited mental abilities. Traveling together and searching for work, they dream of settling down on their own piece of land and growing crops. For Lennie, the best part of this dream is having lots of rabbits to touch, as he loves soft furry animals. The problem is that Lennie doesn’t know his own strength and ends up killing them. George often feels burdened by Lennie’s deficiencies, but he also feels the need to protect him. After reading the novel, I can see Lennie as the mouse who is very present-focused with no understanding of past consequences of what the next day holds.
As I was reading this novel, I was swept away with Steinbeck’s writing, particularly the interactions between the characters. Steinbeck had a gift for being able to convey his characters thoughts and feelings with a subtle touch.Their voices and their actions spoke for them. In particular, I found myself extremely moved by a scene involving one of the characters being forced into giving up his beloved dog who had grown frail with old age. It is a very sad scene, and I dare you not to feel the powerlessness of it all. There’s also a great scene involving Lennie talking to the old stable hand Crooks.
This was a novel about daring to dream for something better against a harsh and demanding environment. Another theme is that of loneliness, as each character is looking for something that will help him or her feel like somebody. It was interesting for me to note how George felt the need to defend having a friendship with Lennie. It was viewed as strange for two men to stick together they way they do. Readers have questioned why George felt the need to stay attached to Lennie. For me, I think George needed Lennie’s childlike optimism in there being a better world for them someday. Sometimes our dreams for a greater tomorrow are all we have.
“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.”