Friday, February 18, 2011
Thoughts: Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
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.