Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck – Book Review
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck is a short novelette written as a response to the post-war “American dream.” It narrates the adventures of George and Lennie Small, two young displaced farm workers, who leave from their temporary farm residence in California to seek better employment opportunities in rural America in search of the big city. The couple’s journey takes them through many small towns and rural areas across the west and ends up in the small town of Yountville, where they live with their dog Fido. Of Mice and Men was published in nineteen thirty-one by John Steinbeck, who was one of the most famous writers in the American era of the late twentieth century. The novel, which remains today one of the best works of literature in the English language, has been criticized by some literary critics for having a shallow and superficial understanding of rural life in America in the early twenty-first century.
However, the majority of American readers today would probably find much value in this contemporary classic regardless of its literary merit. John Steinbeck obviously understood the plight of his contemporary American audience. He wrote this work at a time when he was still deeply influenced by the life stories of his parents’ and his own personal experiences living in a small town in California during the Great Depression. The novel is both a coming of age story and a chronicle of the couple’s travel and their life in that small town.
Early in this book we are introduced to George and Lennie Small. They are both working on a large scale farm, where they raise about two hundred acres of mostly grasslands. The farm is a great success, however, because of the loyalty and discipline shown by the couple. During one stormy night, a violent thunderstorm comes up, and only George and Lennie are able to remain calm.
Their calm is made even more difficult when the rain begins to pour. When the waters recede, George notices a mole that has tunnels under the ground. The discovery leads him to suspect that the man who committed the rape of his daughter was not just a part of the farm, but maybe an accomplice as well.
When the man comes home, George immediately accuses him of being guilty. Before he can do this however, a bullet from the man’s gun goes through the skull of his dog, killing it. George wonders how this crime has happened, but Lennie, fearing for her husband’s life, cannot bring herself to shoot her husband. The man then decides to run off with the woman he was supposed to marry, leaving behind his dog.
On the night of their return, George and Lennie have a very difficult conversation. She tries to convince him that he is not responsible for this, that it was not his fault that their marriage was doomed. His answer is that he had an affair with the woman. This shocks her to such a degree that she backs off completely. He then tells her that he has had an affair with many women and they need to live their lives differently because of it.
Soon after this, he gets another surprise when the man who was trying to kill him is killed by his own dog. He then figures out that the man who tried to kill him was in fact his long lost son. This leads him on a long chase throughout the city and he nearly loses his life. Then, one night while he is asleep on the couch, a mugger breaks into his house. Luckily, he recognizes the man and flees the scene.
Of Mice and Men follows the story of a young man who leaves his old home to go and find his birth father. His father is a renowned molester and he attempts to keep the boy locked up in a closet. As the boy grows up, he finds out that the man he was meant to protect is in fact his own father. This book is one of those rare books where the plot is the main event. Steinbeck covers many topics within a short period of time and because of his excellent imagination, this book is truly timeless.