Monday, September 30, 2013

Of Mice and Men

If I were to name the five most important American novels, I would list To Kill a Mockingbird, The Great Gatsby, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Little Women, and Of Mice and Men.

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck is a story of friendship, compassion, and survival.  Just as Gatsby strives to reach the light at the end of the dock, the hope for acceptance and a home, Lennie and George, as well as most of the other men on the ranch and even Curley's wife, dream of putting enough of their wages by to purchase the tiniest slice of the American pie.  Except for George, all of them know it is the longest of shots, but Steinbeck sucks you in with his gorgeous writing and masterful storytelling so that your heart breaks again when the dream goes bust.

Like To Kill a Mockingbird and Huck Finn, Of Mice and Men is about recognizing human dignity even when it is clothed in the shabbiest garments and is mocked and scorned and debased.  It's interesting how George and Boo Radley have much in common, and yet their story arcs are polar opposite.

This is the third or probably fourth time I've read this marvelous little novel.  It is simple, elegant, heart-breaking, and true to its core.  

While I was reading Of Mice and Men this time, I kept on thinking about the movie Midnight Cowboy.  I only watched it once, back when I was watching all the Academy Award winning movies in order about 15-20 years ago, so I don't remember a lot of the details, but the basic outline and theme is similar between the two.  I searched the internet and found that I'm not the only one who felt there was a connection between the two stories.

I didn't consciously set out to read Of Mice and Men in conjunction with Banned Books week (Sept 22), but it worked out that way.  I searched on whether it was indeed a banned book, suspecting it probably had been challenged many time, and discovered this great article: 
‘Of Mice and Men:’ Steinbeck’s controversial banned book for over 50 years.. 
I found a lot of interesting tidbits in the article, the most interesting being how part of this Looney Tunes show references Of Mice and Men insofar as having the Abominable Snowman thinking that Daffy Duck is a rabbit that he can pet, and hold, and squeeze and he names him 'George.'. 

I read Of Mice and Men as part of the Back to the Classics challenge--for the category Classic that prominently features an Animal (in title or story).  

Now I just need to finish The Vicar of Wakefield--on the last chapter--and I'll have completed that challenge for 2013!


  1. I agree with you. I don't necessarily love all of Steinbeck's novels, but I've always liked Of Mice and Men. And heartbreaking is definitely the word to describe it. Sometimes being a true friend means doing a really hard thing. Great post.

  2. "It is simple, elegant, heart-breaking, and true to its core." Absolutely! I was surprised by how much I loved this book.

  3. I really do need to read this one. I might have a slight aversion to doing so as in the back of my mind I have a notion that it might be a bit hard to take in terms of tragedy.

    Excellent commentary as always.

    1. I know that feeling of dread--I actually put off rereading it this year because I know how I feel when I read it, but it is so well written and the story is so powerful that I urge you to give it a go.

      That said, I did make sure I finished it before my recent vacation to Yellowstone because I didn't want to take it on vacation with me. I didn't want that somber mood when I was out enjoying the beauties of nature and not working!

  4. After East of Eden, Of Mice and Men is a close second of fav Steinbeck books - so sad though.

    1. It's been decades since I read East of Eden--it is definitely on the reread list, maybe next year!

    2. I just realized that the movie version is on this week. I loved the movie - just so sad tho.