“Of Mice and Men” is a novella written by John Steinbeck. It is one of three books in a trilogy about agricultural labor in California. It was published by “Penguin Books” in 1937. The title comes from a poem named “To a Mouse” written by Robert Burns.
The book begins with George Milton and Lennie Small walking towards a Ranch near Soledad, California. George is smart, caring and always knows what to do. Lennie is bad at remembering things, impulsive and loves to stroke soft things like fur on animals. As they are walking, George tells him about what happened in Weed where they worked before the incident happened.
Lennie had seen a woman wearing a red dress which he wanted to touch, because it looked soft. As he touched it, the woman screamed and Lennie got frightened. All he could think of was holding a firm grip. That’s when they had to run for their life and find a new place to work at.
As it gets darker and darker, George notices that they won’t make it to the ranch before nightfall. They decide to camp beside a river. After a few minutes, Lennie begin to nag at George and tries to make him tell about their dream.
George and Lennie actually have great plans for their future. When they get enough money they wish to buy a place for themselves, get some land and Lennies best part: They are going to get some rabbits which he is going to tend all by himself.
After he is finished telling Lennie about their dream, he tells him that he is not allowed to speak to anybody and to remember the place they are camping at in case he gets into trouble. He also tells him that he is going to get him a pup.
They arrive at the ranch early in the morning. There they meet Candy and his old dog. Candy takes them to their boss. Then Candy shows them where they are going to sleep. While he is talking, a girl arrives. Lennie gets sexually aroused by her, but George tells him to stay away because he thinks she is trouble. After the girl is gone, Curley (the bosses’ son) walks in asking for the girl which happens to be his wife. He gets mad at Lennie because he is tall and remains silent letting George doing all the talking. He shouts to Lennie and tells him to speak when he is spoken to. After dinner, they begin to work together with their supervisor Slim and a bunch of others. Lennie does twice the work everybody else does and nobody can keep up with him. When Lennie finds out Slim has pups, he begs George to ask Slim if he can have one of them. Slim tells him that it is okay. After that, Lennie spend most of his leisure out with the pups. One night, when Candy and his old dog lies down to rest, everybody tells him that the dog stinks and he have to shoot it because it is no good to itself. Candy won’t, but after a while they manage to persuade him. Carlson takes the dog out at shoot it.
A few nights later when George and Lennie are talking about their dream Candy interferes, but instead of telling he takes great interest in their dream and contributes with money. Later the same night, when Curley’s wife is mysteriously gone, Curly walks into the bunkhouse and asks if anybody has seen her. When someone makes a funny comment and Lennie chuckles, he blames Lennie. He raises his hands and begins to beat him. George urges him to fight and Lennie crushes Curley's hand. Afterwards they make up a cover story which was: “He got his hand stuck in a machine”.
The next day, while the other guys are playing “the game of horseshoes,” Lennie is in the barn crying over the dead pup he is holding in his hands. It turns out he has petted it a bit too hard. He tries to hide the pup in the hay because he think George is going to get angry at him, but unfortunately Curley’s wife finds him and the pup while he is hiding it. She tells him that she isn’t going to tell George, she only wants somebody to talk to because she can’t talk to Curly about feelings. As they continue their conversation, Lennie let it slip that he loves stroking soft things. The girl offers him to pet her hair, but when she tries to make him let go, Lennie uses force and break her neck. He knows he has done something wrong and leap to the place George told him to.
Later, Candy find Curley’s wife lying in the hay. He tells George at once. George makes a plan and tells Candy to wait until he is back at the bunkhouse before telling Curly about his wife. When Candy tells the bad news to Curly, he gets mad at once and tells everybody to get their rifles or guns and follow him on a hunt for Lennie. Nobody is allowed to shoot him; he wants to do it himself. While everybody is fetching their guns, Candy tells George that his dog should have been shot by himself, not Carlson. George sets out and finds Lennie. Lennie asks if he is mad, but George tells him he is not. George then starts telling Lennie about their dream. Midways in the story, he pulls up a gun he has brought with him and shoots Lennie.
The theme is clearly divided into multiple parts. First we have the typical American dream (George and Lennie dreams about having a place of their own and no boss to tell them what to do), then we have loneliness (Candy’s only companion and friend, his dog, is killed) and at last we have a very strong friendship between Lennie and George which is so strong that George out of kindness shoots his best friend instead of Curly making him suffer a painful death.
I think the book “Of Mice and Men” is a well written novella about an interesting relationship between Lennie and George. It takes up problems which even exist in our modern world and breaks it down to as simple as two guys working on a ranch.
I would give this book a 5. Although it is interesting, the language used is difficult and you will need to study this book more than once to get all the meanings the author intended out of it.