Mark’s #23 – Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

In my continuing effort to read the books I should have read in high school, today I read this short classic during typhoon Songda today.  Earlier this year I read Steinbeck’s East of Eden novel, which I thoroughly enjoyed, and which is about 900 pages longer than this one.

Once again, like a well trained artist, Steinbeck vividly paints each scene and character.  This would be a good short introduction to Steinbeck and his literary prowess esteemed by english teachers.

Of Mice and Men is the story of George Milton and his mentally disabled but extremely powerful and large sidekick Lennie Small.  As Migrant workers during the great depression, the two have dreams of one day owning their own small farm and “livin off the fat of the lan!”  Their plans, however, keep getting sidetracked as they are constantly on the move because Lennie keeps “doing bad things”.

Lennie loves to pet mice, and puppies, and one time a little girl’s dress. Both the mice and puppy are eventually manhandled to death by the imbecile.  These incidents all foreshadow the death of a young promiscuous wife on the farm.  In her flirtatious way, she allows Lennie to stroke her soft hair.  He likes it, she freaks out, and as she pulls away Lennie gets scarred and squeezes and shakes her to death in the hopes that she’ll be quite.   In the end, his friend George is forced to shoot and kill his friend in the back of the head – which was the same fate of an old dog earlier in the book.

As you can tell, the storyline is dark, without any redemption in the end.  It leaves the reader sad… we’re so used to the stories that have a rise, a fall, and a redemption, that when we read otherwise it seems like something is wrong.   Indeed, apart from the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the grand story of Creation would end like Steinbeck’s novel.

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