‘’Of mice and men’’
The book ‘’Of Mice and Men’’ was authored by John Steinbeck in 1937. During his teenage life Steinbeck spent a lot of time working and living in farm ranches in rural California. It is here that Steinbeck got fascinated with the families of the migrant farm workers. He was particularly impressed with the interpersonal relationships amongst the immigrant workers and this is reflected in most of his works such as The Grapes Of Wrath in 1940, In Dubious Battle in 1936 and Of Mice And Men in 1937. Steinbeck was very intimate about the plight of immigrant workers who triumphed spiritually regardless of the hardship and cruelty they faced in their lives. He looks at the relationships between the men in the group who only have each other for support and comfort.
The characters of George and Lennie are mainly drawn from the early 1930s immigrant workers from Oklahoma State who made their way to California in such of jobs and prosperity. The author is deeply fascinated by the friendship of men among the immigrant workers. The harsh economic conditions of the time lead to the victimization of farm workers like Lennie and George. Their search for land was obstructed by powerful forces beyond their reach, but their lives tragedy was highlighted by unquestionable love and compassion.
Of mice and men is a story about to friends who are alienated by society. They work as farm laborers in ranches moving from job to job across rural California. Lennie is huge but mentally retarded while George is small and intelligent. George takes it upon himself to guide and protect Lennie and also relies on him for comfort and companionship. They share a common dream of owning their own ranch and keeping rabbits. This dream however is never achieved. They get hired on a firm, make new friends, but it is all ruined by the owners son`s wife (Burns, 1993).
The title of the book is borrowed from the works of Robert Burns in ‘’To a Mouse’’ which reads: “The best laid schemes of mice and men, go often awry, and leave us nothing but grief and pain, for promised joy!” Steinbeck uses these lines in a very subtle way and ensures that the friends’ dreams do not materialize. Steinbeck’s narrative is strong involving a lot of dialogue, emphasized by action and is very descriptive in its approach. When reading this novel one can not help but sympathize with the characters, wanting them to achieve their dreams while at the same time knowing that this will not happen. The plot is almost structured as a play but the writing is simple
Generally critics of Steinbeck’s work have always had mixed reactions based on the great emphasis he places on manhood and man relationships and the style in which they are articulated. Steinbeck was hugely influenced by the works of Ernest Hemmingway. Many critics have criticized his work as being too sentimental, superficial in approach and overly moralistic. It has also been argued that his characters are one dimensional and that he over relies on a deterministic plot, as a result the lessons in the novel appear to be more important than the characters in the book (SparkNotes Editors. 2007).
Steinbeck continues to compare Lennie to animals which foretell the impending danger that lingers over the life of Lennie. Most of the animals in the story from Candy`s dog all experience sudden death. Tragedy in this book is inevitable especially considering Lennie`s state of mind. As much as Steinbeck try’s to treat the lives of the lees economically empowered with dignity, the book has majorly assigned women to basic roles; sex objects and home keepers. Female sexuality is viewed as a trap to ruin men. In the dreams of George and Lennie, they always imagined themselves of being alone without distraction of women in their quest to achieve their goals (Steinbeck, 2000).
Steinbeck advances the theme of tragedy through foreshadowing with cases such as the killing of Candy`s dog with a shot to the back of the head. This is exactly what happens to Lennie later in the story. The act of Lennie accidentally killing mice foreshadows the killing of Curley`s wife. George confides in Slim that he has known Lennie since childhood and that they are not actually cousins. Candy claims he could never kill his dog; he would rather let a stranger do but later confides to George that he wished that he had killed the dog himself. This foreshadows how George finally makes his decision to kill his best friend and companion Lennie himself (Steinbeck, 2000).
When Lennie runs away from the burn it becomes clear to George on what course of action he should take. Just like in the case of Candy`s dog Slim suggests that the best option would be to kill Lennie. After Lennie death Candy still holds on to the idealized dream but George tell him that there is no room for dreaming.
Steinbeck shows the impossibilities of George and Lennie achieving their dreams and looks at the friendship, brotherhood and companionship in human beings, going ahead to point out the strength’s and weaknesses of these relationships.
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