Of Mice and Men: Mouse-size novel probes man-size theme

Of Mice and Men is a perennial on high school reading lists; it is short, easy reading, well-plotted, and gruesome. It’s theme, however, is anything but adolescent.

George Milton and Lennie Small are itinerant farm laborers. George does the thinking for both of them. Unaware of his own strength, big, dumb Lennie has to be be watched constantly or his fondness for soft, silky things gets him and George into trouble.

The pair arrives at a remote ranch for harvest. The boss’s son has recently married a good-looking slut with a wandering eye. Her presence has everyone in the bunkhouse wishing for something to call his own. They see that George cares for Lennie as if he were family. Before long the other hands are asking George if they can’t join him and Lennie on the place they plan to buy where they can “live on the fatta the lan’ and have rabbits.”

The story’s climax is both shocking and inevitable.

John Steinbeck’s characterization rings true as well. The bunkhouse crew are losers. As individuals, they are totally forgettable.

When you close the covers of the novel, all you’re left with is the knowledge that sometimes love carries an awful responsibility.

Of Mice and Men
By John Steinbeck
#8 on the 1937 bestseller list
© 2007 Linda Gorton Aragoni

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Linda G. Aragoni

I make big ideas simple for learners. In eight sentences, 34 words, I taught teens and adults to write competently. Now I'm writing guides to turn willing volunteers into great nursing home visitors.

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