Friday, September 30, 2011

Of Mice And Men by John Steinbeck

Of Mice And Men by John Steinbeck
112 pages
Originally published in 1937, republished in 1993 by Penguin Group
Source: bought it

Of Mice And Men is the story of an unlikely friendship between two men, migrant workers who endlessly dream of a better life. George Milton and Lennie Small have traveled from job to job, always hoping to be able to earn enough money to buy a small piece of land.

George, wise and patient, dreams of being able to live off of the land, to work only for himself. Lennie, large, strong and mentally slow, dreams only of being able to care and pet a hutch of rabbits.
Lennie is a hard worker, but because of his slowness, his tendency to overly love things, and his reaction when he becomes frightened, the pair are constantly having to move on before they can get the money together to make their dream come true.

In Of Mice and Men, George and Lennie are starting work at a new place with high hopes once again. George does everything he can to try to keep things calm but there is trouble brewing at this ranch. A lonely, lovely wife and her very jealous husband, who also happens to be the boss, make George nervous from the beginning...with good reason.

Banned Books Week crept up on me stealthily, on all-fours and I couldn't figure out how I was going to squeeze in one more book in order to rebel against those who want to tell us what we can and cannot read. Then last Monday I was in that store I hate to shop in and there sat this little bit of banned wonder. I'm not sure why, but I've never read Of Mice and Men before, never even watched one of the movie versions. In the end, once again I found myself wondering why I had waited so long to read something that so many have spoken so highly of for so long.

When I was pulling up the publication information for this book, I saw this in a review:
"I was not very impressed by this book. The story was simple, the characters sympathetic and, but for a few exceptions, well drawn out, and the final twist of events was emotionaly impactive [sic]. But that's about all I can say that's good about this book."
Really? "The characters were sympathetic, the story was well drawn out and the final twist was emotionaly impactive" [sic]--and that's not enough to make a book good? No? Well, that's definitely not all I can say that's good about this book.

In only 112 pages, Steinbeck manages to craft a marvelously touching friendship, surround his lead characters with a fully drawn supporting cast, and build a feeling of tension all while creating a landscaping and settings that come to life.
"A far rush of wind sounded and a gust drove through the tops of the trees like a wave. The sycamore leaves turned up their silver sides, the brown, dry leaves on the ground scudded a few feet. And row on row of tiny wind waves flowed up the pool's green surface."
The reviewer I quoted above had a problem with the fact that most of the ambiance of the book comes at the beginning of each chapter after which Steinbeck focuses on the story itself. I hadn't even realized that was the case until I read this review; I was so taken with the both the descriptions of the settings and the story of the men on that ranch. It didn't matter to me than one took precedence over another at any one time.In researching this book, I found that Steinbeck had intentionally done this to make the book something that could be read as a novella or as a play. Which may account for why this book came alive for me.

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