“Of Mice and Men” by John Steinbeck is the kind of book that fills you with hope, makes it stay for a while and then reveals the true nature of men and the world we live in, shattering the hope that it started off with.
I had heard a lot about this book and also own it. (It is there somewhere. I cannot seem to find it though.) I thought I would eventually read it and I did not tell I borrowed a copy from the library and finished it in a single sitting. If you do decide not to read it in a single sitting, take it from me, this book will haunt you. It will not let you be till you have completed it. Now to the plot.
Of Mice and Men is the story of two alienated men who work as farm labourers, drifting from job to job in California. Lennie is a gentle giant (who is a little slow). George guides and protects him and depends on him for companionship. They dream of owning a farm one day and tend rabbits. This however is not meant to be. They arrive at a new farm; work with new people, make friends, till the owner’s son’s Curley’s wife ruins it all for them.
The title of the book is from a poem by Robert Burns, “To a Mouse”, which goes: “The best laid schemes of mice and men, go often awry, and leave us nothing but grief and pain, for promised joy!” Steinbeck draws on these lines in the book very subtly, making sure that the plans do not go as they dreamt of, because after all that is the story.
The narrative is strong and descriptive as is the case in most books written by him. I remember reading East of Eden in a period of two days. I just could not get off the book. Of Mice and Men flows with dialogue and action. The scenes happen so quickly in the book that it sometimes takes the reader by surprise.
You feel sorry for the men. You want them to achieve what they wanted and you know that will not be possible. The writing is so strong that you empathize with them and that’s how a book should be written. The plot is complex but the writing is not and that’s the wonder of the book. Steinbeck almost structured the novel as a play and may be that is why it has been so easy to convert it to play and three movies I guess.
Steinbeck depicts the impossibility of dreams being achieved and explores brotherhoods in humans – the strengths, the weakness in man and sometimes the angst. Of Mice and Men is a classic in every sense that should not be missed. I am glad that I finally read it.
Here is the trailer of the movie starring John Malkovich and Gary Sinise: