Of Mice and Men is a novel by John Steinbeck, published in 1937, which tells the tragic story of two hard workers during the Great Depression in California and considers such concepts as dream, guilt, and empathy. The book is based on the personal experience of Steinbeck’s, who worked in agriculture in 1920. The title is taken from a poem To a Mouse, on Turning Her Up in Her Nest, with the Plough by Robert Burns.
The plot tells about two friends George Milton and Lennie Small, who roam the roads of California, working as seasonal ranch workers. George and Lennie have always shared the same dream of owning a small farm one day, to live “like rentiers” and raise rabbits. Lennie cherish his childish dream. Featuring a great physical strength, he cannot control his power out of the ordinary. He is also intellectually deficient and constantly going for a “silly.”
This ends up causing him trouble especially with Curley, the boss’s son and his beautiful young wife. Indeed, when she offers Lennie to touch her hair, everything goes wrong.
The story is inspired by a verse of Robert Burns: The best laid schemes o’mice an’men gang aft a-gley. The story also looks a lot like Moosbrugger (Chapter 18 of the Man Without Qualities by Robert Musil published in 1930), of which it appears to be an expanded version. Through a serious and monotonous writing, it expresses the human misery and loneliness. Given the enthusiastic reception of his novel, Steinbeck made a theatrical adaptation, which was presented the same year.
In the first and last chapters, the action takes place in a forest a few miles south of Soledad. The rest of the novel takes place on a ranch in Soledad. Steinbeck writes with great accuracy and objectivity. The reader can clearly imagine the scene but he does not feel sentimental value or the pleasure that the narrator seems to see in the scene. The description is a bit “cold” and reader can feel a little tense atmosphere, as well as he do not see scenes through the eyes of the characters.
The “scenes” provide a realistic dimension to the novel and the coldness based on the objectivity of the novel.
The story was made into a movie by Lewis Milestone in 1939 and by Gary Sinise in 1992.
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