‘’It’s all about friends’’, people say. You should have someone whose wishes you always have in mind. You should know that there’s someone out there dedicated to protecting you. This bond between you and that person, is greater than anything. In the novel ‘’Of Mice and Men’’ by John Steinbeck, we read about a true brotherly bond, crucial in an inhospitable world where humans become predators, as they try to oppress each other, whenever they feel weak themselves.
The book itself is divided in two parts. The first one, written by John Steinbeck’s own wife, tells us about John’s way of living while he wrote all of his books. The second part is the story written by John Steinbeck. As the story opens, we meet George and Lenny, who travel together as migrant field workers. But these friends aren’t as most friends. George Milton, who is small and clever, tries to look out after his huge companion and cousin Lennie Small, who is retarded but in possession of an incredible physical strength. When the two friends reach a ranch, they hope to stay there for a while and earn some money to make their big dream come true of having a ranch themselves one day. But from the beginning, they realise that this is going to be more difficult than they expected it would be. So George urges Lenny to change his attitude towards anyone on the ranch and lay low, due to the fact that it was Lennie who caused their departure from the last ranch they worked on. Even with all these precautions, George still can’t save his best friend.
John Steinbeck is perhaps one of the world’s most celebrated writers. With books like ‘’Of Mice and Men’’ and ‘’Cannery Row’’, his stories contain simplicity and unsentimental tragedy. There have also been made several films based on his books. For example, the novel ‘’Of Mice and Men’’ has been adapted three times to a film. John Steinbeck eventually won the Nobel Prize for literature for his ‘’realistic and imaginative’’ writing.
John Steinbeck in 1962
In what seems like a simple, straightforward story lies a deeper meaning. This counts for all of John Steinbeck’s books. ‘’Of Mice and Men’’ is actually a reflection of the predatory nature of human existence. The characters are portrayed as if they won’t rest until they oppress someone else who is weaker than they are. Crooks, the black man with a crooked back, soon frightens Lennie with the idea that George won’t come back for him, having just admitted his own vulnerabilities. And Curley’s wife seems much more happier after she has told Crooks she could easily have him lynched. Steinbeck’s story clarifies the fact that oppression doesn’t always come from the strong and powerful. In this novel oppression itself is born out of weakness. The novel also depicts the impossibility of the so-called ‘’American Dream’’. In this world it’s much more difficult to make such a dream come true and that’s why the characters, that the protagonists encounter, are all extremely pessimistic and bitter, who have given up hope of a better life. Unfortunately their bitterness influences George and Lennie’s way of thinking as well, who are still believing in making their big dream come true of having their own ranch.
The thing that makes this novel so outstanding is the way it’s been written. It shows the harsh and cruel world we live in. Steinbeck puts these thoughts in his book in the form of symbols. For example, the little vulnerable puppy, that is accidentally killed by Lennie, represents the victory of the strong over the weak. Like the innocent puppy, Lennie is unaware of the predatory and perverse powers around him. The swift language he uses can easily be read and it’s difficult to stop reading once you begin. This book is definitely to be recommended for it’s simple surface but complex meaning.
“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]
Steinbeck has really moved the world with this story of friendship and enmity. It has achieved remarkable success as a novel with just the right amount of symbolism thrown into the mix. Anyone who loves a well-crafted story, would be doing themselves a favour by picking this one up.