Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Rosy's scrawled book recommendation: Of Mice And Men by John Steinbeck

Of Mice And Men
John Steinbeck


They are an unlikely pair: George is "small and quick and dark of face"; Lennie, a man of tremendous size, has the mind of a young child. Yet they have formed a "family," clinging together in the face of loneliness and alienation.
Laborers in California's dusty vegetable fields, they hustle work when they can, living a hand-to-mouth existence. For George and Lennie have a plan: to own an acre of land and a shack they can call their own. When they land jobs on a ranch in the Salinas Valley, the fulfillment of their dream seems to be within their grasp. But even George cannot guard Lennie from the provocations of a flirtatious woman, nor predict the consequences of Lennie's unswerving obedience to the things George taught him.

Covici Friede


Rosy's scrawlings on Of Mice And Men
The story, despite being very short, has a slow and ponderous pace. It spans only a couple of days but draws upon the many years George and Lennie were together, their back story slowly forming out of conversations between them and others. Lennie is what once would have been called a simpleton. He has a limited understanding of the world, places his trust in George implicitly, reacts with emotion and tries only to please. Still, he manages to cause harm wherever he goes for all the impossible orders he must obey and for simply being too strong. He is, in this way, an over sized dog: loyal, trusting, obedient and still an animal capable of wielding his strength without control or complete knowledge of the consequences. George, on the other hand, is like a somewhat smarter working dog owner. At first he abuses his power over Lennie, getting him to do unreasonable things only to watch Lennie forget and forgive, but over the years George slowly comes to realise his responsibilities and the value in having Lennie's company. George, not really comprehending just how careful he has to be when giving orders, unfortunately seals both their fates by giving one too many orders, one that was impossible to follow considering it meant saying and doing nothing towards a woman who just wouldn't take no for an answer.
The story is bewitchingly beautiful at times, particularly in the descriptions of scenery and animals, which carries the lazy feel of nature calmly going about its business. At other times, the story is utterly disturbing for it reveals so many of the twisted thoughts and behaviour of men capable of being so much more than they are. There is a mention of smart men being crueler and unhappier than those like Lennie and for a while this seems true. The level of happiness though, is eventually revealed to be fairly evenly divided as while George struggles with his responsibilities and what he's given up to be with Lennie, Lennie struggles  to follow all orders and to deal with the unexpected consequences of utilising his strength. Lennie never does anything to be mean but he suffers greatly anyway. George frequently did things to be mean, and despite his mellowing, he suffers knowing the cruel things he has and does do to Lennie.
Of Mice And Men is an exploration into human relationships that is a must read for everyone, as long as they are suitably old enough to deal with the subjects addressed. There's a lot to be gleaned from the story even though it isn't spelled out for the reader, many of which are lessons on cruelty, impossible dreams, loneliness, power, relationships and the humanity that is rather than what we'd all prefer it to be.

I'd recommend this book to: everyone from teens and up.

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