Friday, February 18, 2011

Thoughts: Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

"A guy needs somebody - to be near him. A guy goes nuts if he ain't got nobody. Don't make no difference who the guy is, long's he's with you. I tell ya, I tell ya a guy gets too lonely an' he gets sick."

Have you ever met a girl who's still ridiculously beautiful without a single dash of make-up on her face, without putting on airs? I’m talking about a girl who’s so beautiful she could make a man fall to his knees, even if you take away her jewels and expensive clothes, and dress her in sackcloth. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck is a lot like that girl.

The plot is very simple. George is small and cunningly intelligent, while Lennie is big but more than a little stupid. They travel together, working odd jobs on ranches here and there. Lennie follows everything George tells him. If George tells him to jump off a cliff, he’s going to do it. The time comes, however, when a woman enters the picture, and Lennie follows George’s instructions a little too closely.

Of Mice and Men is the kind of book you’ll think about long after you’ve finished it. None of the characters, even the minor ones, feel like caricatures, and there are no heroes or villains in the story. There are only people who sometimes have to make tough decisions when, excuse the cliché, they’re stuck between a rock and a hard place. By the time I finished the book, I felt like I knew all the characters, George and Lennie in particular.

Aside from a few technical terms about horses and ranches, I never needed to look up a single word, but Steinbeck made everything sound so beautiful. He used one to two-syllable words to come up with breathtaking descriptions, and I love that. While reading, I felt like I was in Salinas with Lennie and George or watching a heron devour a water snake by the river.

In the end, though, I love Of Mice and Men, because it forced me to think about a lot of uncomfortable questions. Are some of the bad things we do necessary? Or are they only necessary because we have reasons to justify them? Of Mice and Men asks those questions, and a lot more. It’s a very short book, but it packs an emotional wallop.

Rating: 5/5

15 comments:

Bex said...

I didn't read this book till what felt like waaaay after everybody else I know. I think I benefitted, though, as they were all made to read it for school, whereas I read it on my own. The thing I loved most about it is that not too much happens throughout, until the last few pages. Everything happened so quickly at the end that I had to actually go back and reread it, as I was left a little bit winded! While not much happens, though, I thought that Steinbeck builds up tension really amazingly. Me, with my awful memory, read this book a good few years ago, and it was that good that I actually still remember it!!

fatbooks.org said...

great post. i haven't read "of mice and men" for years, but it's one of my favorites and the only book i've ever reread immediately after finishing.

if i remember correctly, "of mice and men" is also the only piece of literature in which i've ever seen a character blowing his nose the "natural way," ie without a tissue.

-- ellen

Red said...

I haven't yet read Of Mice and Men but I think it's about time I change that. It's a book that I feel like most everyone else read it for class. Not sure how I missed it. Nice review!

Kristi said...

I haven't read this for probably 15 years. I love Steinbeck so I'll have to revisit it. I'm glad you enjoyed it.

Amanda said...

I really need to read this. I simply can't remember if we read it in high school. I know we watched the movie but I can't remember if we read it too. If we did, I know I didn't get much out of it...

Teacher/Learner said...

I have to read this! As usual, I've seen the movie first (John Malkovich was a fantastic Lennie). Everyone probably read this in high school but me. Want to know a cliche that's worse than being stuck between a rock and a hard place? "Too many books, too little time" :D

Zibilee said...

If you enjoyed this book, I would highly, highly recommend East of Eden to you. I don't know if you've read it, but it was one of the best books I have read in a long time. I find that Steinbeck can be so accessible and his writing is so evocative and wonderful. I really need to read more of his work soon, and this one is going to the top of the list. Wonderful review!

Nymeth said...

The books that leave us with more questions than answers tend to be my favourites. I can't believe I haven't read this yet - clearly I need to fix that!

Allie said...

Excellent post!

I just finished this book today with two of my English classes and we had great conversations about the ending-and that choice between obligation and friendship. I didn't really like this the first time I read it, but after talking to my kids about it, I really do love it. There is just so much you can think about.

Trisha said...

I love the analogy you make here. You are so right about this book being like a naturally beautiful girl!

Brenna said...

Great review! This made me even more excited for East of Eden.

Monica said...

I taught this novel for years. It's still on the highschool lists in UK. It's a great work, but subtle, so the younger lot often need guidance as to it's poignancy.

Glad you enjoyed it.

christina said...

I read (and CRIED) over this book in high school. I remember it amazing me that such a short piece of fiction could induce such emotion. Especially when the word "classics" left a bad taste in my young mind.

I'd like to pick this up again. And Grapes of Wrath. I remember a couple of students refusing to read it in 9th grade because of the religious parallels.

Enbrethiliel said...

+JMJ+

What I found most moving about this novel is the way everyone who meets Lennie is attracted to the dream George is weaving for him, to the point that they believe in it, too, and ask to hitch their wagons to that star. I remember feeling so sorry for Candy. I think he wanted it even more than Lennie.

Avid Reader said...

This is such powerful story. Heartbreaking, but wonderful.

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