Of Mice and Men

Of Mice and Men



The Pequod Review:

When John Steinbeck began writing Of Mice and Men, he intended it to be a book for children. As he put it in a 1936 interview:

I want to recreate a child’s world, not of fairies and giants but of colors more clear than they are to adults, of tastes more sharp and of the queer heart-breaking feelings that overwhelm children in a moment. I want to put down the way “afternoon felt” and of the feeling about a bird that sang in a tree in the evening… You have to be very honest and very humble to write for children. And you have to remember that children aren’t gay.

While Steinbeck’s ultimate novel would deal with mature themes of independence, friendship, and euthanasia, his narrative retained its childlike simplicity. The story centers on the physically strong but mentally disabled Lennie and his guardian George, two field workers who dream of owning their own farm and living a prosperous life. However, their present situation is bleak: they bounce from plantation to plantation, where they are subject to varying degrees of exploitation and indifference. It eventually becomes clear that their dream is hopeless and unobtainable. 

Lennie and George are two of Steinbeck’s most tragic characters, especially Lennie whose physical strength becomes a danger to those around him. But the book has underrated secondary characters too, including the ranch’s muleskinner (Slim) who provides much of the story's empathy and kindness. And Steinbeck’s political agenda, which would suffocate so many of his later books, lies safely in the background, adding depth without being dogmatic. Of Mice and Men stands apart from the rest of John Steinbeck’s work as his most purposeful, most experimental, and ultimately most successful novel.