Author: John Steinbeck
Source: Birthday Gift
Excerpt from Goodreads:
The compelling story of two outsiders striving to find their place in an unforgiving world.
Drifters in search of work, George and his simple-minded friend Lennie have nothing in the world except each other and a dream–a dream that one day they will have some land of their own. Eventually they find work on a ranch in California’s Salinas Valley, but their hopes are doomed as Lennie, struggling against extreme cruelty, misunderstanding and feelings of jealousy, becomes a victim of his own strength.
Tackling universal themes such as the friendship of a shared vision, and giving voice to America’s lonely and dispossessed, Of Mice and Men has proved one of Steinbeck’s most popular works, achieving success as a novel, a Broadway play and three acclaimed films.
Review by Joe:
This is the second book I am reviewing since “reading again” but I have read this book at least 3 times over the years. I was a bit surprised to find out that it is banned from a lot of schools since it was mandatory reading in my school days of the 70’s. When I started rereading it, I realized why. There is a lot of profanity, racial slurs, and sexual references throughout the novel, but none of this is meant as shock-value, rather it is meant as an honest, true reflection of the period in time and group of people that the book is about.
To me it seems a bit too cautious to ban such a book written by such a great author as John Steinbeck. If you are one of those who haven’t read John Steinbeck because of the reasons mentioned above, I urge you to start with this book, if you are at least a Junior or Senior in high school.
Steinbeck has a gift of using fewer words to get his point across. This ability draws you into the setting immediately, with descriptions of the Salinas Valley and all its splendor. As I read more of the book, I feel as if I am right there with the characters, almost part of the story.
The main characters are George and Lenny. The time is the 1930’s in Salinas Valley, California. The setting is a ranch, with most of the story set around the migrant worker’s living quarters or the bunk house.
George and Lenny are two migrant workers, going from place to place, with not much more than the clothes on their backs and a few scant possessions, but they are not just a couple of regular guys. George has more brains than brawn and almost seems too smart to be doing manual labor. Lenny on the other hand, has the perfect, huge, and muscular build but is way short on common sense, logic and learning ability. Today we would call him mentally challenged.
These two guys are in the middle of the Depression. They work all day busting their backs for a small paycheck, a few free meals, and a smelly bunk house they call home, but George aspires for a better life and has Lenny right there with him, dreaming of good things to come. We learn early on of the dream and Steinbeck reminds us of it all through the story. There are many ‘road blocks’ along the way as we are pulled along with the story. If, when you are reading this book, you get drawn in, then Steinbeck has done his job.
We all like cheering for the under dog in anything and this story is no different. I can’t help but wonder how many similar situations occur today with the migrant workers out there. How many pull themselves out of a hard existence?
The story ends at the same place it started, along a creek overlooking the valley. But do George and Lenny realize their dream? I again feel like I’m right in the story, next to George and Lenny, thanks to Steinbeck’s descriptive writing.
At this point I can say that this book should be a top read for just about anyone, high school and above. The story has drama, hope, fear, suspense, and maybe even tragedy. It has so much for such a short writing, but that’s the Steinbeck gift.