of mice and men john steinbeck

It may be a meagre 106 pages long, but Steinbeck’s compelling tale packs a punch nonetheless.

Set in California in the 1930s, Of Mice and Men takes place at a time when America’s unemployment rate was at an all time high. With more than fifteen million unemployed residents, the Depression was certainly taking its toll. Under the Hoover administration, the message was pragmatic: “Patience and self-reliance [is] all Americans need to get…through this passing incident in our national lives.” No-one can accuse them of sugarcoating. Yet, Steinbeck’s exploration of the lonely and dispossessed gives some truth to Hoover’s no-holds-barred statement.

George Milton and Lennie Small are two impoverished outsiders in search of a better life. Having journeyed through countless towns, from job to job, the two finally find themselves in Salinas Valley, California, hoping to pocket another small sum of money. Patience and a dream are really all that George and Lennie have. A dream that one day they will have accumulated enough, paid their dues enough, to be able to “live off the fatta the lan”. A dream and a hope that their patience would someday be rewarded.

George is sensible, practical and sees his dream so clearly, sometimes it seems only a blink away. Lennie is his simple-minded companion with a childlike innocence that often lands the pair in hot water. Having made it to a ranch in Salinas Valley, George and Lennie appear to have taken another step closer to realising their dream, but in reality, they find themselves at the centre of misunderstanding, cruelty and a sea of jealousy.

As Lennie continues to prove somewhat of a liability to George, many may question the logic behind George’s unfailing loyalty to his helpless friend…but it’s simple really: friendship. It’s George and Lennie against the rest of the world. The dream at the end of the tunnel belongs to both of them. In a time when it seems as if all the odds are against them, their friendship is the one surety. It is a friendship to live and die by.

“If them other guys gets in jail they can rot for all anybody gives a damn. But not us…But not us! An’ why? Because…because I got you to look after me, and you got me to look after you…”

As true today as it was then, friendship is often the shining light in a seemingly dark world.

One of my favourite sayings that will forever ring true, is that friends are the family we choose, and how right it is.


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Book review - Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck