Author: John Steinbeck
Publisher: New Longman litterature
Year of publication: 1937
Number of pages: 156
”Guys like us, that work on ranches are the loneliest guys in the world. They got no family. They don’t belong no place… With us it ain’t like that. We got a future… because I got you to look after me, and you got me to look after you”
This is a sentence often said by George Milton, one of the two main characters in this novel by John Steinbeck.
The novel is a tale of the extraordinary friendship between two migrant agriculturel labourers George Milton and Lennie Small.
They work on ranches, they do not have any family, and they are very lonely, but they have each other. They also have one big dream, a small ranch of their own.
The story starts when George and Lennie rest in a clearing by the river, on their way to a nearby ranch where they expect to sign on for temporary work. The time is in the harsh depression years of 1930’’in Salinas, Northern California. They have just left their previous job in a hurry because the larger of the two men, Lennie was accused of attemted rape. As always, when he gets in trouble, and this time too, it was just because he likes to stroke ”nice things”.
Lennie is a giant of a man, but has the mind of a young child. He often gets into trouble, but never because of meanness. He is often misunderstood and when he wants to be nice, careing and loving by stroking ”nice things”, he usually ends up killing them because of his physical strength and menthal immaturity.
George is short of stature, intelligent and projects self-confidence. It is not told why, but he has for some reason taken on the responsibility of looking after Lennie. He always has to ”stand up” for Lennie and protect him of himself and others.
There, resting by the river, George asks Lennie to familiarise himself with the location of the clearing by the river where they are resting. George tells Lennie to return to this spot if he gets in serious trouble again.
The next day they arrive at the ranch, and they go to the bunk-house ( the house where the workes live) where they meet most of the other main charaters in the story.
Candy is an ”old swamper with only one hand, Curley is the boss’ son, and the boss, who is suspicious that George will not let Lennie speak up for himself. Curleys beautiful young wife is also there. She likes to fliert with the other men. She is also a lonely person who married Curley in an attempt to escape from her miserable life with her mother. Curleys wife cannot escape from the sexual image that the other men have of her. Therfore when Curley fail to satisfy her, either emotionally or physically, she is lead to seek company with the other men, even those at the bottom of the sosial hierarchey of the ranch.
Carlson is one of the established workers. He keeps a Luger pistol under his bed.
Slim is the ranch owners number one worker. He is the foreman. He is very much liked and respected by the other workers and he is also friendly towards George and Lennie.
Crooks is the only black person in the novel. He does not live with the other men in the bunk house. He is isolated in his own room in the barn. This is because he is black, and black people’s position at that time in America was low. We also gain insight of this in an episode where Curleys wife attacks him verbally, using her superior social status as a white woman.
Curley is a bully and an ex-boxer, and soon after Georg and Lennie arrive at the ranch, he provokes a fight with Lennie. Lennie don’t want to get into trouble, so at first he let Curley beat on him. When George tells Lennie to get him (Curley), Curley’s hand is crushed by Lennie’s uncontrolled strength. Slim persuades Curley that to avoid further humiliation, it would be in his best interest to pretend that his hand got caught in allmenn machine.
Slim’s ”bitch dog” has recently given birth to puppys, and Lennie begs George to ask him if he will give one to Lennie as a pet. Lennie gets the puppy, and spends much time in the barn, right next to the new born puppies.
George, at Lennie’s insistence, describes to him again, and again their dream farm, where they will have vegetables, cows and rabbits. Lennie is excited about having rabbits because they are nice and soft, and George promise him that he will be responsible for looking after the rabbits when they get their own farm. They only have to ”get the jack together” first. (save up the mony). One day when George is telling Lennie about their dream farm, Candy who is listening in, also becomes enchanted by the idea of getting their own place.