Of Mice and Men was the first “required reading” novel that I truly loved. I read it my freshman year of high school, and it’s not that I thought that all books I had to read for school were boring. It’s just that they didn’t usually turn out to be my new favorite book. But John Steinbeck changed all that.
I’m sure every is familiar with the plot in Of Mice and Men. Most of you probably had to read this for high school. Like most Steinbeck novels, it’s about transient farm workers in California during the Great Depression, in this case George and Lennie. Lennie is developmentally stunted and George takes care of him. They travel from ranch to ranch, working and saving money so that one day they can buy their own bit of land. They come to work on a ranch where the boss’ son Curley and Curley’s wife both prove troublesome. Curley, out of a rather large inferiority complex, despises Lennie, and Curley’s wife, because she is lonely, flirts with Lennie. All goes awry when Lennie accidentally kills Curley’s wife. To save his friend from the wrath of Curley, George takes Lennie away and shoots him himself.
It’s a tragic story in the end, but the theme of friendship runs strong throughout the book. George takes care of Lennie, but Steinbeck also constantly harps on the idea that men (and women) need someone they can talk to. Everyone needs a friend, and not everyone has one. Many people, like Crooks (the black stable buck) and Curley’s wife, are alone in the world. George and Lennie are lucky to have each other, even if it’s only for a while.
Steinbeck, who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1962, was known for his representations of workers in California during the Great Depression. His writing may seem plain compared that of Shakespeare or Dickens, but it’s honest and blue-collar, much like his characters. His themes are complex and deep, however. Of Mice and Men represents both the lofty aspirations of dreams and the bitter reality of life. It is not a long book, but it speaks effectively to the heart of the reader. Even it wasn’t required reading in high school, everyone should have to read this book.