Of Mice & Men – John Steinbeck

The reputation of this book precedes it.  One time in high school I had a chance to read this novel but I chose to read Shakespeare instead.  I can’t say that I regret this decision, but I wish it hadn’t taken me this long to read this novel  It’s short and sweet, but certainly packs a strong punch.


Since I haven’t been trained to look for these things I suppose that when I am reading a book I don’t look for themes.  Perhaps this also has to do with the fact that I generally only read books once, and therefore am reading for the story as opposed to reading for the literary aspects  Whatever the case, as I am writing this post I was reading up on this book in wikipedia and I did pick up on most of the themes that are mentioned: loneliness, dreams, etc, so I am rather proud of myself.


I can see some of the controversy in the book in the two deliberate killings that we see.  Carlson kills Candy’s dog out of mercy.  Is it possible that George killed Lennie for the same reason?  And if so, for whose mercy?  A the beginning of the story George goes on about how it would be better for him if Lennie weren’t still there and he repeats those words at the end, just before he shoots Lennie.  What would he feel more of after killing his friend: grief of relief?  And my question is, does it have to be mutually exclusive?  There was no doubt that having Lennie as a friend was costly for George, in terms of his dreams, his time and so forth.  Does that mean that he got nothing from the friendship?  I would guess that he did get something in return, otherwise why would he not allow Lennie to be carted of to a mental asylum?


Oh the questions, the questions . . .  I feel I could write a treatise on this very issue, and perhaps one day I will.


This is only the second of Steinbeck’s novels that I have read (the first being The Grapes of Wrath) but again I am struck by how vividly he can draw a reader into a given scene.  This story is much shorter than The Grapes Of Wrath so there is not as much room for description, however we can still see the California landscape as if we were standing there with Lennie and George.  I can’t recall to my immediate memory any writer who is able to personify and draw such a vivid picture of the landscape that his characters live on. This, I feel, makes Steinbeck on of the world’s classic authors.


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