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Of Mice and Men cover

A John Steinbeck novella written in 1937.

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A powerful exploration of loneliness and helplessness!

  • Feb 15, 2010
  • by
Rating:
+5
The tension and pathos in John Steinbeck's "playable novel", "Of Mice and Men" is palpable. It tells the story of George Milton and Lennie Small, two itinerant field workers in 1930s depression era California. Milton, a cynical, intelligent man, by a combination of habit, intent, solicitude, friendship, love, loneliness and, one might even say, bad luck, has allowed himself to become the surrogate father or brother for his companion traveler, Lennie Small. Small, (undoubtedly a name chosen by Steinbeck for its irony) is a retarded adult with the social skills and gracelessness of a young child, trapped in the body of an enormous and physically powerful man.

Forced to run away from their last job when Small was wrongfully accused of rape, Milton and Small have now found a quiet farm and a crew with which they hope they work long enough to accumulate a stake. They want to buy a small piece of property that they can farm for themselves. Lennie's sole childlike dream for retirement is to live with his friend George and "tend rabbits". But, once again, Small's complete lack of adult social skills and the failure to understand the magnitude of his own strength undermine their dreams when Curley, the owner's mean-spirited and small-minded son draws Small into a fight and his lonely wife uses her attractiveness and feminine wiles to draw him into a conversation that ends in tragedy.

"Of Mice and Men" is a short novella. At only 118 pages, it can be digested in a mere two to three hours. Written as a "playable novel", the story is told almost exclusively in dialogue with the intent that it would translate easily into a three act play. Such small bits of narrative and exposition as exist in the story actually serve more by way of stage directions and hints as to the scenery backdrop that might be used in the live stage production that Steinbeck envisaged when he wrote it.

But for all its simplicity and brevity, the power and pathos of the themes of helplessness and loneliness embodied in Steinbeck's story are not to be denied. As with so many other classic novels that I've finally had the good sense to read over the last two years, I feel like I've not only come late to the party but all of the other party-goers have already come and gone. Well, I'm sure I wasn't the only one but if you're one of the few people who read and enjoy classic literature in the English language, "Of Mice and Men" deserves a place on your must-read list. It will be a hard-hearted reader indeed who comes away from "Of Mice and Men" without a lump in the throat.

Highly recommended.

Paul Weiss

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More Of Mice and Men reviews
review by . June 30, 2010
Of Mice and Men is often required reading in many high schools and it is held in high regard for good reason. It stands among the best of Steinbeck's work and is also one of the best novellas around.       Though a short story it manages to tell a compelling tale of two men - George and Lenny - during the Great Depression on the west coast of America (eagle eyed Steinbeck fans will recognise that this is a common theme among many of his works) simply trying to find …
Quick Tip by . April 17, 2011
Good things come in small packages!  This book is a timeless classic. Considering the time it was written, and the fact that it covers class structure, euthanasia, the plight of the mentally challenged, prejudice, and roils all of them into a poignant and compelling story in such a tightly written package has never ceased to amaze me.
review by . September 13, 2010
George and Lennie are two itinerant farm workers moving from one California farm to another. The two of them move together in order to avoid the loneliness and misery that usually accompanies nomads. Lennie is an incredibly strong and hard worker who has a mind of a child. Unfortunately for him, his strength and child-like instincts oftentimes get him in trouble. George has known Lennie since he was just a kid, and is the brains behind this unlikely duo. George dreams of a bigger life for the two …
review by . August 03, 2010
A disappointing classic. And not just because of the outcome.       Set during the Great Depression/post-great depression era, the novel tracks the lives of two migrant workers. Lennie has a mental disability, but ungodly strength, which makes him priceless to many farmers. Unable to navigate the hiring process and daily living without assistance, George has taken Lennie under his wing and posses as his guardian. The two have a dream of one day purchasing their own land. …
Quick Tip by . October 08, 2010
For all its simplicity and brevity, the power and pathos of the themes of helplessness and loneliness embodied in Steinbeck's story about George and Lennie, two itinerant field workers in 1930s depression era California, are not to be denied.
review by . August 19, 2010
George and Lennie are two itinerant farm workers moving from one California farm to another. The two of them move together in order to avoid the loneliness and misery that usually accompanies nomads. Lennie is an incredibly strong and hard worker who has a mind of a child. Unfortunately for him, his strength and child-like instincts oftentimes get him in trouble. George has known Lennie since he was just a kid, and is the brains behind this unlikely duo. George dreams of a bigger life for the two …
review by . August 19, 2010
George and Lennie are two itinerant farm workers moving from one California farm to another. The two of them move together in order to avoid the loneliness and misery that usually accompanies nomads. Lennie is an incredibly strong and hard worker who has a mind of a child. Unfortunately for him, his strength and child-like instincts oftentimes get him in trouble. George has known Lennie since he was just a kid, and is the brains behind this unlikely duo. George dreams of a bigger life for the two …
review by . August 19, 2010
George and Lennie are two itinerant farm workers moving from one California farm to another. The two of them move together in order to avoid the loneliness and misery that usually accompanies nomads. Lennie is an incredibly strong and hard worker who has a mind of a child. Unfortunately for him, his strength and child-like instincts oftentimes get him in trouble. George has known Lennie since he was just a kid, and is the brains behind this unlikely duo. George dreams of a bigger life for the two …
review by . August 19, 2010
George and Lennie are two itinerant farm workers moving from one California farm to another. The two of them move together in order to avoid the loneliness and misery that usually accompanies nomads. Lennie is an incredibly strong and hard worker who has a mind of a child. Unfortunately for him, his strength and child-like instincts oftentimes get him in trouble. George has known Lennie since he was just a kid, and is the brains behind this unlikely duo. George dreams of a bigger life for the two …
review by . July 29, 2010
I really enjoyed this book, it starts of with George and Lennie looking for work, getting a bus out of a town but the bus doesn't go all the way, and drops them of on a road, their walking down a road, and Lennie ends up killing a mouse he has been petting. George asks Lennie to get rid of the mouse but Lennie doesn't want to. George and Lennie get to the ranch that they have heard there is work at. George and Lennie meet some ranch workers Candy, Slim, Crooks and Whit and the ranch owners …
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Paul Weiss ()
Ranked #16
   A modern day dilettante with widely varied eclectic interests. A dabbler in muchbut grandmaster of none - wilderness camping in all four seasons, hiking, canoeing, world travel,philately, … more
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Wiki

Of Mice and Men was written by John Steinbeck in 1937. The story takes place during the Great Depression in California and tells the tale of two displaced ranch workers, George Milton and Lennie Small, who aspire to own and tend to their own piece of land. Milton, a protagonist, looks after Small (also a protagonist) who suffers from a mental disability. Small's desires to touch "soft things" leads to his accidental killing of small animals and eventually the wife of an important townsman. Before an angry mob led by the deceased wife's husband reaches Small to kill him, Milton shoots Small in the back of his head to prevent his lynching by the townsmen.

Like many other Steinbeck books, Of Mice and Men explores dreams, loneliness, unfortunate economic circumstances, and fate. Because of the book's themes, graphic scenes, and use of vulgar language, it has been banned from many American schools. However, at the time of its writing, the book received high acclaim and has since been adapted into films numerous times.
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Details

Author: John Steinbeck
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Covici Friede
Date Published: 1937
ISBN: 0-14-017739-6
Format: Novella
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