Title: “Of Mice and Men”
Author: John Steinbeck
Illustrated by: Michael Rothenstein
Number of pages: 163
Publisher: Cow & Wyman Ltd.
Publishing year: 1937
”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, in this novel.
George Milton is one of the main characters together with Lennie Small. They are two guys looking for work on ranches, who don’t have any family, but the friendship the two of them have is extraordinary. Besides that they have one common goal, and that is to one day have their own little ranch.
Lennie is small and thin but he is very self-confident and intelligent. Lennie, for some reason, looks after George and tries to find work for both of them.
George is Lennies opposite. He is physically very strong, but he has the mind of a child. He often gets into trouble, but never because of malice. He is also very often misunderstood and when he wants to be nice, caring and loving by stroking “nice things”, he usually ends up killing them because of his physical strength and mental immaturity.
The story takes place in the harsh depression years of 1930 south of Soledad (Northern California). The story is told in 3rd person and the only things the author know is what the characters say and do.
It all starts of by the two of them resting by Salinas River, on their way to a nearby ranch where they expect to sign up for temporary work. They have just left their previous job because Lennie was accused of trying to rape. (One example of the kind of trouble he gets into because of his passion for stroking “nice things”.)
While they are resting, George asks Lennie to familiarise him self with the place, so that if he gets into trouble again he can return to the place. On their way to the ranch George tells Lennie to keep quite and let him do the talking.
When they arrive the ranch the next morning, Candy, an old “swamper,” or handyman, with a missing hand and an old dog meets them. He shows them the bunkhouse (the place where the workers live) and here they are introduced to most of the other main characters in the story. One of them is Curley he is the boss’s mean-spirited son, and he is newly wedded to his flirtatious wife. Once George and Lennie are alone in the bunkhouse she appears and she starts flirting with them. Lennie thinks she is “purty” but George senses the trouble that can appear if they get too much involved in her or her husband, so he warns Lennie to stay away from her. When the other workers come back from work, Lennie and George are introduced to the rest. One of them is Slim; he is a highly skilled driver that can be characterised as the farms “counsellor”. He also has a huge impact on the boss. Another worker that Lennie and George meet is Carlson; he is one of the really established workers and keeps a pistol under his bed.
Crooks is the only black person in this novel, and because of that he is isolated from the rest of the workers and he has his own room in the barn. Blacks’ position in America at time was very low. One example of oppression is when Curleys wife attacks him verbally, using her social status as a white woman.
One day when most of the men are outside throwing horseshoes, Lennie is in the barn where he accidentally killed his puppy that he got from Slim. Curley’s wife comes into him and starts flirting with him and he confesses to her that he likes to stroke “nice things”. She invites him to stroke her hair, but as the stroking gets harder she panics. The harder he strokes the more she panics and in the end he ends up breaking her neck. Lennie understand that he is in trouble and he returns to the place where he and George had agreed to meet each other if Lennie got in trouble.
It’s now the story begin to reach its climax. When the other workers find the dead body Curley ordered everybody to find Lennie and shoot him. And since George now where Lennie is, he decides to shoot him. Because if he don’t do it Curley will, and he would probably make the killing worse then he needs to, and George don’t think that Lennie deserve that. Therefore George finds Lennie, talks to him a little about the ranch they will have together and then he shoots Lennie in the back of his head. And both the action in the story and the story ends right after the “shooting-episode” with George leaving the ranch and heading for the road to Soledad.