John Steinbeck (1902 – 1968) was an American author and the 1962 Nobel Prize in Literature winner “for his realistic and imaginative writings, combining as they do sympathetic humour and keen social perception.” His novella Of Mice and Men was highly acclaimed and deemed his best work to date when it was published.
Of Mice and Men is a novella written by John Steinbeck and published in 1937. The work is based on the author’s experiences working alongside migrant farm workers as a teenager. It describes life in California for poor migrants in the period before the “Okies” portrayed later in “Grapes of Wrath”. The title is from Robert Burns who wrote “The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men / Gang aft agley”. This book was challenged and subject to censorship for language and racism.
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1. Why does George “take so much trouble for another guy”?
2. Why does George shoot Lennie?
3. Why is the dream recited repeatedly?
4. What does Slim mean when he says, “A guy got to sometimes”?
5. Why does the book begin and end at the pond?
6. Why does Candy feel he should have shot his dog himself?
7. Is Curley’s wife to blame for Lennie’s death?
8. Why doesn’t Slim share in the other men’s dreams?
9. Why does Carlson get the last word?
10. What is the meaning of the book’s title?
Of Mice and Men is a novella in a trilogy by Steinbeck that included In Dubious Battle and The Grapes of Wrath.
The book details the relationship between two men who are different in every way except their devotion, in this case to the other person in the pair. George feels responsible for the welfare of Lennie, a retarded hulk of a man, and Lennie is loyal to and dependent on his more capable friend.
The story is one of sadness. Lennie the hulk envisions a life on a small farm that he and George will own. Lennie will work and care for animals which he loves but sometimes kills with unintended rough handling like the mouse he carries in his pocket and pets though the animal is dead. The reader knows this farm will never happen for Lennie and George does too in his heart. He reassures Lennie but he doesn’t believe.
The men in the bunkhouse live for the moment with no long-range plans or aspirations. A sick and “smelly” dog is taken out and shot in the head by one of the men in the bunkhouse. The owner couldn’t stop it but is the dog better off? Yes.
The cruelty of racism is exposed in the life of a black man who is forced to live in his own quarters and endure the abuse of language. The frustration of delusion is described in Curley’s wife who is never named. No one in this book is going anywhere.
When the cast of characters, who can be considered as a side show, are sorted out the book may come down to a single question. How do you deal with a situation tolerated by just one person and anathema to everyone else? That is the predicament of Candy’s “smelly” dog and George’s powerful and potentially dangerous friend Lennie. There is no viable path forward for either. The plight of the two is common. They were both shot in the head and by the same gun. In Lennie’s case the lethal act was committed out of love. For the dog out of spite.
The hopeful note in this book could be that Lennie died while in his own
mind the ranch was a reality.
By Gene Helveston
By Savvy Senior
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