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{December 27, 2013}   {Review} Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

miceFrom Goodreads: Of Mice and Men takes us into the lives of George and Lennie, two farm workers set out to find their way to a new life. In true Steinbeck form, this short novel explores both loyalty and the transient nature of mankind.

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This novella is a classic in its own right, but I really hated it when I was a teenager.  I’m not sure if the idea of being forced to read it was why I disliked it, or if I just didn’t understand the true meaning underneath it all—but I do know that way back when, I was not impressed.  Now, I teach this novel to high school students, and while I’m not certain they truly enjoy it—though I know they love listening to me read it aloud due to all the cuss words—we do have some amazing philosophical discussions about George’s ultimate “sacrifice” at the end.  While I didn’t appreciate it as a student, and maybe not all my students appreciate it now, I do know that they love to debate the ending—is what George did a blessing, or pure evil?  And they debate this quite well.  In truth, I’m sort of stuck in the middle here, because there is a great case for both sides, and I’m just thankful that I’m not tasked with the same dilemma as George.

The life of a migrant worker in the 1920s/30s was not easy, and readers learn soon enough that both George and Lennie are unlike many migrant workers in that they travel together.  They are similar, though, in the respct that during this time period, they hold on to the great American dream—owning their own little farm and living off the “fat o’ the lan.’”

Steinbeck does an amazing job painting the scenery as we drop in on our two main characters, spying on their lives, listening to their dreams, and noting the deep familial love they have for one another.  It is also no secret that Lennie is “simple-minded” and incapable of caring for himself; hence, his strong, almost childlike obsession and fierce loyalty to George.  While it’s a short story, I will admit that I personally feel like it’s rather long, that there are some scenes that are just too descriptive and never ending, but in the end, much of it is needed to precisely characterize Lennie and George, and to foreshadow that which is to come at the end.  Many of my students, when I read the end section aloud, gasped and were immediately up in arms.  Some threw the book across the room (true story), and I understand their shock, their pain, but in the end, they too understand why Steinbeck did it, and what he was really trying to say, and that is a truly powerful thing.  Four stars.

4 stars

I own a copy of this novel.

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