Rereading, John Steinbeck’s short novel, Of Mice and Men, is like revisiting a master at work. The opening scene presents the two characters in an idyllic backdrop of nature beside the Salinas River: George, a simple migrant worker, with his protégé, Lennie, strong and built like a bull, but with the mind of a four year old. This is a privileged glimpse of the two simple characters as they relax and talk of their dream of buying a small house on an acre of land with their earnings on a job they’re going to in the Salinas Valley. The characterization is powerful; within a page or two of dialogue, George and Lennie become full-fleshed characters ready to confront the real dog eat dog world at the ranch. Steinbeck gives us a harsh portrait where the mentally and physically challenged are bullied and exploited; where women are sexual objects, and tough love is a way of life. The weak and sickly are cast aside in this world—survival of the fittest is the way to go.
Plot and imagery are tightly woven as the characters lead us to the inevitable ending. Just as Candy, the elderly workhand, regrets not having the courage to do the right thing by his dying dog, George must take a similar stand with Lennie.
A touching story told in a masterful voice.