John Steinbeck is by far the most artistic storyteller the American soil has ever produced. His books have had an impact and won him accolades, including the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1962. He wrote his book, Of Mice and Men in 1937, soon after the Great Depression. His compendium constitutes a number of fiction and non-fiction, and two short storybooks. He is popularly known for his Great Depression masterpiece, “The Grapes of Wrath”.
The story, Of Mice and Men, follows a touching tale that revolves around the lives of two ordinary men, Lennie and George, who are looking for a job. Like any ordinary man, they have dreams of building a farm in which they could live happily ever after. Apart from their dreams, they share camaraderie and treat each other like brothers. At times George gets angry at Lennie for his childish behavior. because Lennie, despite having a muscular and giant body. It has a mental disability that makes his behavior almost like a child. And it is because of this behavior that they flee the last town. because Lennie has touched a woman’s dress and has been accused of rape. George, like a true friend, always comes to rescue Lennie whenever he gets into trouble.
To achieve their dreams, they begin to work on a ranch. However, men like George and Lennie coming from the lower strata of society – find themselves lost and dispossessed of anything extraordinary. All they desire is to buy land and grow crops in it. But just as characters in Thomas Hardy’s novels, they are unable to control their fates and lives seem utterly ridiculous. Certain events that take place where difficult decisions need to be made change. The course of the entire narrative and the reader is shaken to the core.
Lennie’s penchant for soft and delicate things compels him to touch the hair of Curley’s wife. Nevertheless, she gets scared and in a desperate attempt to calm her down. Lennie kills her and heads for the hills. A lynch mob is formed to punish Lennie. However, George finds him and realizes he will not be able to live in this world. And keeping in mind the pain and misery of being mob lynched, kills him.
The main peculiarity of this book remains the camaraderie and companionship between two different people. Who come together and stick together through thick and thin. George and Lennie are poles apart but their friendship allows them to survive the adversity of life. Especially during the post Great Depression era. Their desires and dreams typify the very American dream that prevailed at that time for which people craved.
Where this novel celebrates the friendship of George and Lennie, around the same time. It sheds light on the everyday life of America and the society in which this novel has set. The novel brings to fore the underlying racism and sexism in the lives of American people. And their prejudicial attitude towards people with disabilities.
Steinbeck has treated all these themes with his touch of class and brilliance. He has done what he does best: he has made characters out of humans and placed humanity above all else. He has also narrated the story from an unbiased point of view. And observed the lives of characters as they happen. Perhaps that is the charm of
“Of Mice and Men” that makes it one of his masterpieces.