“Of Mice and Men” by John Steinbeck
(First publication: 1937 / This edition: Penguin Books, Steinbeck Centennial Edition 2002)
Taken during a coffee break this past weekend—”Rocket Fuel” cold-brew coffee.
No, Lennie. I ain’t mad. I never been mad, an’ I ain’t now.
That’s the thing I want ya to know. (p.101)
This is probably the most well-known Steinbeck, or at least the one that most people have read, since it’s a required reading in high school. The first time I read this was back in either 9th or 10th grade for English class. Since I read “East of Eden” (my review here) just a few weeks ago, it made me want to go on a Steinbeck-spree; I decided to re-read this classic.
I remember i enjoyed in back in high school, but it wasn’t my favorite. I guess it’s with any book—when you’re “studying” it instead of just reading and enjoying it, the experience is different. Also, since it’s quite a short book (103 pages), it’s much more intense and memorable to just read it in 1-2 long sessions, instead of spaced out for a couple of weeks with assignments in-between—which often led to assistance from SparkNotes, which kind of takes the beauty out of the experience.
This time reading it—I love it.
I love it.
It’s definitely a favorite now.
I feel like back in high school, we had to read this to understand the historical and cultural side of it more than the actual plot—and well, to “analyze” and all better, too. And while this time, I enjoyed reading it with the “dialect” and picturing all the farmlands, the Salinas River, and the Great Depression vibes, I mostly focused on the emotions and the dialogues between the characters. I felt so much for George, Lennie, Slim, and Candy. I even felt sorry for Crooks and Curley’s wife, because I empathized with them—I think that’s the beauty of Steinbeck’s writings; he emphasizes on everyone’s “humanness” and makes you understand and “forgive” them. Reading it in long sessions also made me able to remember and piece all the symbolism, foreshadowing, and connections together better—because I’m feeling so much throughout the read. I was almost in tears at the end when George had to kill Lennie, and I was just as sad when Carlson took Candy’s old dog out to kill.
Another thing that made me get this “heavy” feeling in my chest was the whole “existentialist” side of things, even though it feels like a lesser important theme. I feel George, Candy, and Crook’s desperation and hope to get out and be able to live life the way they want to, and to be able to stop “wasting” all these years. And to be able to dream but all the while feel hopeless about it—it’s just heart-wrenching. It feels like time is running out but they’re just stuck and have given up.
I also love the friendship and loyalty between George and Lennie. It’s a sweet relationship, and it’s such a treasure. The way they look out for each other and share their dreams just makes this story so special. Reading the conversations between them whenever George has to calm Lennie down or just repeats old stories or dreams just to make Lennie smile—Steinbeck just did it all so beautifully.
I’m assuming most people have already read this back in high school, but I’d recommend to re-read it. I think being 7-8 years older has definitely changed my views and feelings in this story and made me see better the beauty of this masterpiece.
Here are some of my favorite lines from the book:
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 jack jus’ because we got no place else to go. If them other guys gets in jail they can rot for all anybody gives a damn. But not us. (p.13)
A guy sets alone out here at night, maybe readin’ books or thinkin’ or stuff like that. Sometimes he gets thinkin’, and he got nothing to tell him what’s so an’ what ain’t so. Maybe if he sees somethin’, he don’t know whether it’s right or not. He can’t turn to some other guy and ast him if he sees it too. He can’t tell. He got nothing to measure by. I seen things out here. I wasn’t drunk. I don’t know if I was sleep. If some guy was with me, he could tell me I was asleep, an’ then it would be all right. But I jus’ don’t know. (p.69)