Of Mice and Men review, characters and summary

Of Mice and Men

Introduction

The novella, Of Mice and Men, is about two good friends who travel together looking for jobs during the US’s great depression. It was written by John Steinbeck and published back in 1937.

About The Author

Speaking of the author, John Steinbeck was born on the 27th of February, 1902, and passed away on the 20th of December, 1968. Having attended Stanford University, he won the 1962 Nobel Prize in Literature.

Characters

The two main significant characters of the novel are George Milton and Lennie Small. Both of them are migrant workers. Lennie has a mental disability and is dependent on George; plus, he is also large and a kind-hearted man. As for George, he cares for and protects his friend and is smaller in size.

Then there is the mule team’s leader, Slim, who is a good ally of the protagonists. He also helps when Lennie gets in trouble with the ranch owner’s son Curley. Speaking of Curley, he has a wife and also a thoughtless ranch hand, Carlson.

Other characters in the book are Candy, an elderly man with a missing hand, Crooks, an African-American worker with a misshapen back, Curley’s father, the ranch’s boss, and Andy Cushman, George, and Lennie’s schoolmate.

Summary

The story begins with George and Lennie, who are going towards a ranch with harvesting jobs. Since Lennie is mentally disabled, he is led by his friend George. They decide to spend their evening at a stream. Well, Lennie got in trouble in the last town as he touched the soft dress of a girl as he loved petting soft things. For that reason, in his pocket, he has a dead mouse which George takes away.

As smart as George is, he tells Lennie not to talk to anyone on the ranch and return back to the stream if any problem arises on the ranch. George then thinks about the difficulties of taking care of his friend when for the second time, he has to take the mouse away. Then George makes a promise of finding a puppy and shares their dream of owning a farm. Lennie even knows the story by heart, as George has said it a couple of times.

After spending the night there, Lennie and George head to the ranch the next morning. During the meeting, only George responds and replies. Seeing that, the boss becomes suspicious regarding Lennie’s silence. Later George states Lennie’s problem but says he is a hard worker. There, the friends also meet Candy and his sheepdog, Crooks, Curley, his wife, and Slim. As Lennie seems to be fascinated with Curley’s wife, George asks him to stay away from her and her husband.

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Later that night, Carlson offers to kill Candy’s arthritic and old dog, to which he agrees. After a while, George and Lennie become alone in the bunkhouse as all leave for the barn with the hope to see Slim and Curley fight over Curley’s wife. When Lennie asks to hear their farm story again, Candy convinces George to be a member of the plan after overhearing them. Furthermore, George also asks them to keep quiet and not let anyone know.

Moving on, Carlson returns and makes fun of Curley as he backed down from the fight against Slim. As he is infuriated, Curley incites a fight with Lennie and brutally beats him. Well, after George tells him to fight back, Lennie breaks Curley’s hand’s bones. Furthermore, he is afraid, thinking that he did a bad thing and George won’t let him adore rabbits. On the way to a doctor, Slim gets Curley’s promise to state that a machine did that deed to save his friends.

After a week, Crooks says that he’d like to be a part after hearing Lennie’s plan of buying a farm. While the two are conversing, Curley’s wife enters, to which Crooks asks her to leave the room. Eventually, George comes back and tells her to go. Remembering his situation, Crooks draws back his offer dejectedly.

Thereafter, Lennie is in the barn thinking how to explain about the dead puppy to George. During that, Curley’s wife enters. The duo talks about their liking of touching soft things. As she allows Lennie to touch her hair, he messes it up after stroking it too hard, which makes her angry. As she tries to get away, Lennie’s hands don’t leave her hair, and she screams. Unfortunately, Lennie ends up breaking Curley’s spouse’s neck while holding her tightly. He then goes to the stream to hide, knowing he did something wrong.

Later, Candy goes for George after finding Curley’s wife’s body, and they know what happened. George steals Carlson’s luger before calling others. Then Curly comes to see his wife murdered and vows to give a slow and painful death to Lennie.

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Then all go out to search for Lennie. George separately goes to the stream to find Lennie there. As Lennie realizes he did a bad thing, he expects his friend to lecture and scold him. That’s not the case, though. In order to save Lennie from Curley’s wrath, George does something unthinkable. He asks Lennie to think of their farm and look across the river, and as Lennie smiles thinking about their farm, George shoots his dear pal’s neck at the back. When the other men reach the scene, George lies, saying he shot in self-defense as Lennie already had the gun.

As Slim understands the situation, he goes for a drink, taking George.

Themes

One of the book’s major themes is friendship which is throughout the book and can be seen in the bonding between George and Lennie. Furthermore, fear is another constant theme in the book. It is well presented in Candy’s fear of sharing the same fate as his dog, Crooks fear of being lynched as threatened by Curley’s wife, then there is fear of Curley of losing power, and almost all are afraid of Curley.

Other themes are human existence’s predatory nature, the American dream’s impossibility, the nature of dreams, powerlessness, fate, and loneliness.

Strength and Weakness

In the novel, the author has portrayed the friendship between Lennie and George pretty well. Despite being different in many ways, they both share the same dream. Furthermore, the story’s plot structure is simple and written as a play and can be adapted on stage easily as well.

One of the novel’s weaknesses is that there are no female characters apart from one, Curley’s wife. In addition, Lennie, one of the main characters, is characterized by negative qualities, including insanity.

My Take on The Book

Despite the book having an unexpected and tragic ending, the overall story and the narration are magnificent. Furthermore, it gives us a fact check that not all things end in a good way. With a rating of 5/5 from Common Sense Media and 3.9/5 from Goodreads, Of Mice and Men has many themes to look into and enjoy.

Of Mice and Men