Of mice and men

Published:

The relationship between these two men is never explained, but the reader may get to the conclusion that they were relatives or just friend from the same village or town. The differences between both of them are very patent in the story. Lennie is bungling and fool. He shows childish behaviour, once he gets surly when George scolds him. Lennie is light-headed, immature and sometimes moony. He has a fixation for soft things and likes to touch everything he likes, the reason why he always pet small animals in his pocket, to fondle them. George is rational end responsible for Lennie. He cares a lot about is companion and always forgives him when he does silly things. George intelligent and a hardworking man who fights for a dream of having his own farm.  The contrast of these two characters is also evident in their outside traits. Lennie is big, and as strong as a bull, but is brain is as small as a pea. George is thin and smaller than Lennie, but is a lot more logical and reasonable.

Setting

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The action takes place in Northern California, USA. The plot is inserted in a period of economic recession, after the collapse of New York Wall Street stock market in 1929. It was a period of harsh poverty, unemployment, migration and bankruptcy of banks and companies. In these circumstances many men were forced to migrate from all over USA to California to work at ranches, the only thing that survived to the monetary calamity. They travelled from ranch to ranch, usually alone, in short-term employment and poor payment. This way, workers hoped to find the “promised land” and fulfilling the “American Dream”.

Plot

The book tells the story of two men who travel together, trying to find another job, after having left their old one. George and Lennie have a common dream: earn and save money to raise their own ranch. This way, they can have a calm and secure life without poverty and hunger. The story starts with Lennie and George camping in a clearing as the night comes in. Lennie is reprimanded by George for having brought a mouse in his pocket and having killed it innocently, during their journey. This affection for petting something makes Lennie seem a morose child all the time. Lennie usually forgets about what people say, so George has to be always repeating the same thing time and time again. George warns Lennie that if someday, somehow he gets in trouble, he should come and hide in that clearing. Lennie seems not paying attention to that, and his fellow asks him to repeat it to make sure Lennie wouldn't forget.

George finds a job for both in a ranch, but as the relationship of these two friends become suspicious to the boss's son, Curley, he almost immediately starts a fight with Lennie (that doesn't like him either). George calms things down and shows that they're willing to work in any task, valuing also Lennie's physical strength. The boss lets them stay in the ranch. They're offered two beds in a dirty space where all workers sleep. They start working the next day, bucking barley. While their working, Curley's new wife goes by the workers and all of them start looking at her and commenting on how beautiful she is. But at the same time Curley comes and the workers pretend they weren't talking about anything. Curley's wife shows lack of attention of her husband and everybody comments that she only married Curley to escape the monotony of living with her mother. That night, in workers bedroom, Slim, one of the workers, announces that his dog had had puppies and Lennie immediately wants to keep one. George hesitates, but he allows his friend to have one. Later on, Lennie strokes the puppy as he did to other animals unintentionally.

What until then had been a secret, the dream of the two friends, becomes public, when Lennie talks about it to Crooks and to Old Candy. These two men decide to join to the dream, and all together they can have almost all the money they need to buy a little ranch. So they decide to stay in Curley's ranch just until they can get the money to buy their own property. Crooks, as a negro, gives up the idea of possessing land, fearing even more discrimination.

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One night, George goes with other workers to a bar in the town, and leaves Lennie in the ranch with Candy. Lennie decides to go to the barn to see the rest of the puppies and suddenly Curley's wife comes in. Lennie gets scared, but soon they start talking and get to be friends. Lennie tells Curley's wife his dreams and she tells him her sorrows about her husband. In the middle of the conversation Curley's wife complains her husband doesn't even notices her soft hair, and says Lennie to touch it. Knowing the affection Lennie has for soft things he can't let her hair go, and struggles it stronger and stronger. Curley's wife begs Lennie to stop, but he is so scared that does the opposite. After hurting so much the woman, she doesn't resist and dies strangled. After having noticed the seriousness of what he had done Lennie runs and leaves the dead body in the barn.

The next morning Crook, finds the body and informs George that immediately figures out it must had been Lennie who did it. After the shock, George tells the rest of the people what happened, and Curley gets to know it. Then Curley sends all his men looking for Lennie and wait for him when someone had found him. Curley wanted to be himself shooting Lennie. George was shocked with this decision, but he had no other option than doing what Curley wanted them to do. All the worker grabbed guns and started looking for Lennie, but only George had a clue where he could be hidden.

George distanced from all the others and went to the clearing where he had ordered Lennie to hide if something went wrong. And there he found his friend, hidden exactly in the bush he had told him to. Lennie realised the gravity of George's eyes. After the usual conversation about their dream and how they would do it, George promised Lennie that they would fulfil the dream soon, very soon, they would run away from there in that moment. Lennie was very happy, but the same didn't happen in George's expression. George told Lennie to stare at the other side of the river, and he would stand behind him. As they kept talking about their dream, George took his gun out of his pocket and after promising Lennie that they would always have each other, he pulled the trigger. In no time, Curley and his men got to the place and, seeing Lennie dead, cried in triumph. George was still standing looking at his friend, completely shocked. Slim comforted his colleague and drove him back to the ranch.

Personal Opinion

I knew about this book because I had to read it as part of an English Exam. When I started reading it, I found it a little bit strange because of its type of language. It is written in a very particular way, close to verbal language. It's clearly written in an American English version and we can find lots of expressions from USA. It's an abbreviated language, almost like if it was written exactly as a person speaking in a familiar connotation. This immediately draw my attention. I had never read a book written in such a way, so it was a different and amazing experience also because I could have get in touch with different accents and different “Englishes”. This specific English is characteristic of poor people, with poor earnings and a very low education level. In my opinion, and as it was the first time I've read something like this, this characteristic of the book is the most important.

Another thing very particular about the book is this cultural and social context. It tells us not just the simple story of two travelling men, but makes the portrait of an entire generation. After the World War II and the crash of USA economy, many people had to look for new jobs and the ones available were almost exclusively in agriculture. So this story isn't simple as it seems, it criticises poverty, racism and the social inequalities that existed in that time. The way the author describes the country back then and the characters features enriches the reader.

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I really loved this book mainly because it was very peculiar and it was funny. The way characters speak and the things they say sometimes about each other are really comical. The character I most liked was Lennie. He was a little childish, but a very pure person and although immature, he was a very kind heart. The value of friendship in this book was very deep too. Although George kills Lennie in the end, it was like if he was “saving” him from something worse.

I would definitely recommend this book.

Favourite Passages

* “ 'George, you want I should go away and leave you alone?' ‘Where the hell could you go?' ‘Well, I could go off in the hills there. Some place I'd find a cave.' ‘Yeah? How'd you eat? You ain't got sense enough to find nothing to eat.' ‘I'd find things, George. I don't need no nice food with ketchup. I'd lay out in the sun and nobody'd hurt me. An' if I foun' a mouse, I could keep it. Nobody'd take it away from me.' ”

* “ ‘Guys like us, that that work on ranches, are the loneliest guys in the world. They got no family. They don't belong no place. They come to a ranch an' work up a stake and then they go inta town and blow their stake, and the first thing you know they're  poundin' their tail on some other ranch. They ain't got nothing to look ahead to. With us, it ain't like that. We got a future. We got somebody to talk to that gives a damn about us. We don't have to sit in no bar room blowin' in our jacks jus' because we gotno place else to go. If them other guys gets in jail they can rot for all anybody gives a damn. But not us.' Lennie broke in ‘But not us! An' why? Because... because I got you to look after me, and you got me to look after you, and that's why.' He laughed delightly. ‘Go on now, George!' ‘You got it by heart. You can do it yourself.' ‘No, you. I forget some a' the things. Tell about how it's gonna be.' ‘OK. Someday - we're gonna get the jack together and we're gonna have a little house and a couple of acres an' a cow and some pigs and...' ‘An' live off the fatta the lan' ', Lennie shouted. ‘An' have rabbits. Go on George! Tell about what we're gonna have in the garden and about the rabbits in the cages and about the rain in the winter and the stove, and how thick the cream is on the milk like you can hardly cut it. Tell about that, George.”

* “ ‘George - you asleep?' ‘No. Whatta you want?' ‘Let's have different color rabbits, George' ‘Sure we will,' George said sleepily. ‘red and blue and green rabbits, Lennie. Millions of' em.'  ”