'Of Mice and Men' is published

'Of Mice and Men' is published


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John Steinbeck’s novella Of Mice and Men, the story of the bond between two migrant workers, is published. He adapted the book into a three-act play, which was produced the same year. The story brought national attention to Steinbeck’s work, which had started to catch on in 1935 with the publication of his first successful novel, Tortilla Flat.

Steinbeck was born and raised in the Salinas Valley, where his father was a county official and his mother a former schoolteacher. A good student and president of his senior class in high school, Steinbeck attended Stanford intermittently in the early 1920s. In 1925, he moved to New York City, where he worked as a manual laborer and a journalist while writing stories and novels. His first two novels were not successful.

In 1930, he married Carol Henning, the first of his three wives, and moved to Pacific Grove, California. Steinbeck’s father gave the couple a house and a small income while Steinbeck continued to write. His third novel, Tortilla Flat (1935), was a critical and financial success, as were such subsequent books as In Dubious Battle (1935) and Of Mice and Men (1937), both of which offered social commentaries on injustices of various types.

In 1939, Steinbeck won the Pulitzer Prize for The Grapes of Wrath, a novel tracing a fictional Oklahoma family as they lose their family farm in the Depression and move to California seeking a better life.

His work after World War II, including Cannery Row and The Pearl, continued to offer social criticism but became more sentimental. Steinbeck tried his hand at movie scripts in the 1940s, writing successful films like Forgotten Village (1941) and Viva Zapata (1952). He also took up the serious study of marine biology and published a nonfiction book, The Sea of Cortez, in 1941. His 1962 nonfiction book, Travels with Charlie, describes his travels across the United States in a camper truck with his poodle, Charlie. Steinbeck won the Nobel Prize in 1962 and died in New York in 1968.


The 1937 production opened while the novel was still on best seller lists. [1] At the time, George S. Kaufman was the top director in the country. [2] While the play follows the novel closely, Steinbeck altered the character of Curley's Wife, perhaps in response to criticisms from friends. In the play, Curley's wife does not threaten to have Crooks lynched, and in her final scene she talks of her childhood and her father trying to run away with her. This has the effect of softening her character, portraying her as lonely and misunderstood. [3]

George, an affable migrant farm worker, and Lennie, a towering simple-minded pleasantly humble young man, are the subjects. They are bound by George's devotion and Lennie's "pathetic helplessness". George's guardianship keeps Lennie out of trouble, but we soon see this is a slippery slope. Lennie's displays of love result in several deaths ranging from mice and puppies to a beautiful woman. Eventually, in the face of a lynch mob, George kills Lennie to put him out of his misery. [1]

Steinbeck adapted the play from the novel. [4] [1]

The play had its world premiere circa October 1937 by the San Francisco Theatre Union [5] The play premiered on Broadway at the Music Box Theatre on November 23, 1937 and closed in May 1938 after 207 performances. Directed by George S. Kaufman, the cast starred Broderick Crawford as Lennie and Wallace Ford as George. In 1939 the production was moved to Los Angeles, still with Wallace Ford in the role of George, but with Lon Chaney, Jr., taking on the role of Lennie. Chaney's performance in the role resulted in his casting in the movie.

There have been several revivals, the most recent produced in 2014, directed by Anna D. Shapiro with James Franco (George), Chris O'Dowd (Lennie) [6] and Leighton Meester (Curley's Wife). [7]

By the Book Theatre's production won 6 Brickenden Awards including Outstanding Drama, Director, Set Design, Actor, Supporting Actor, and Lighting Design. [8]

Theatre Opening Date Closing Date Perfs. Details
Music Box Theatre, Broadway November 23, 1937 May 1938 207 [4] Broadway debut
Brooks Atkinson Theatre, Broadway December 18, 1974 February 9, 1975 61 [9] Broadway revival
Union Square Theatre, Off-Broadway October 7, 1987 December 6, 1987 67 [10] Off-Broadway revival
Longacre Theatre, Broadway April 16, 2014 July 27, 2014 118 [11] [6] Broadway revival

The following tables show the casts of the principal original productions:

Role Music Box
1937 [4]
Brooks Atkinson
1974 [9]
Union Square
1987 [10]
Longacre
2014 [12]
George Milton Wallace Ford Kevin Conway John Savage James Franco
Lennie Small Broderick Crawford James Earl Jones Jay Patterson Chris O'Dowd
Candy John F. Hamilton Stefan Gierasch Edward Seamon Jim Norton
Slim Will Geer David Gale Mark Metcalf Jim Parrack
Curley Sam Byrd Mark Gordon Clifford Fetters Alex Morf
Curley's wife Claire Luce Pamela Blair Jane Fleiss Leighton Meester
Crooks Leigh Whipper Joe Seneca Roger Robinson Ron Cephas Jones
Carlson Charles Slattery Pat Corley Matthew Locricchio Joel Marsh Garland
Whit Walter Baldwin James Staley Ron Perkins James McMenamin
The Boss Thomas Findlay David Clarke Joseph Warren Jim Ortlieb

The production was chosen as Best Play in 1938 by the New York Drama Critics' Circle. [13] The 2014 production earned two Tony Award nominations at the 68th Tony Awards (O'Dowd—Leading Actor and Japhy Weideman—Lighting Design). [14]

Brooks Atkinson of The New York Times wrote that "Steinbeck has caught on paper two odd and lovable farm vagrants whose fate is implicit in their characters." [1]


'Of Mice and Men' Overview

"Of Mice and Men" opens with two workers who are crossing the country on foot to find work. George is a cynical, irresolute man. George looks after his companion, Lennie, and treats him like a brother. Lennie is a giant man of incredible strength but has a mental disability that makes him slow to learn and almost child-like. George and Lennie had to flee the last town because Lennie touched a woman's dress and he'd been accused of rape.

They begin to work on a ranch, and they share the same dream: they want to own a piece of land and farm for themselves. These people, like George and Lennie, feel dispossessed and unable to control their own lives. The ranch becomes a microcosm of the American underclass at that time.

The climactic moment of the novel revolves around Lennie's love of soft things. He pets the hair of Curley's wife, but she gets scared. In the resulting struggle, Lennie kills her and runs away. The farmhands form a lynch mob to punish Lennie, but George finds him first. George understands that Lennie cannot live in the world and wants to save him the pain and terror of being lynched, so he shoots him in the back of the head.

The literary power of this book rests firmly on the relationship between the two central characters, their friendship and their shared dream. These two men are so very different, but they come together, stay together, and support each other in a world full of people who are destitute and alone. Their brotherhood and fellowship is an achievement of enormous humanity.

They sincerely believe in their dream. All they want is a small piece of land that they can call their own. They want to grow their own crops and breed rabbits. That dream cements their relationship and strikes a chord so convincingly for the reader. George and Lennie's dream is the American dream. Their desires are both very particular to the 1930s but also universal.


American Experience

Published in 1937, Of Mice and Men has long been a fixture of high school English curriculums. Author John Steinbeck used his own experience as a bindlestiff to tell the story of two migrant workers, one of whom is developmentally disabled, living and working in Depression-era California. Lenny and George dream of acquiring their own piece of land, but are thwarted by forces beyond their control.

The book debuted to instant acclaim, and was soon adapted for the screen and stage. But that didn’t insulate it from censorship challenges in fact, Of Mice and Men is amongst the most challenged books of the last few decades. Challenges have included complaints about “profanity,” “morbid and depressing themes,” and the author’s alleged “anti-business attitude.” Others have called it “derogatory towards African Americans, women, and the developmentally disabled.”

Jodie Scales teaches English at Wapahani High School, in Selma, Indiana. She’s taught Of Mice and Men for the past five years. American Experience spoke to her about her experience.

Why do you teach this book?
It tackles moral and ethical issues within the structure of a story. The students really relate to the characters. For example, we have a really strong special education program at our school. We have a lot of kids that are very protective of those students that have special needs. I think when they start to read Lenny’s character, they think about some of the kids with special needs in our school — they think about what could happen if they aren’t protected. I’ve never had a student making fun of Lenny.

Jodie Scales

Does it surprise you that it still gets challenged?
If a parent is just seeing the language, or hearing some of the topics, and they haven’t actually read the book themselves, or sat down with an English teacher and talked about why this is such a good book to teach — then I guess I could understand how it might be challenged.

There’s a lot in there that might make parents say, “I don’t think my kids are ready for this.” But once they see the purpose — that we’re not throwing something at their kids for the shock value, then it becomes a safe environment to discuss issues that the students are going to deal with in life.

This interview has been condensed and edited for length and clarity.

Read an interview with Robert P. Doyle, editor of the American Library Association’s Banned Books, a collection of thousands of titles that have been subject to censorship challenges.


Of Mice and Men - Critical Reception

Published in 1937, Of Mice and Men is remembered as one of Steinbeck's most important and influential novels. Chronicling a few days in the lonely lives of two migrant workers, George Milton and Lennie Small, Of Mice and Men shows the devastating impact that the Great Depression had on many American's ability to succeed financially. Like Steinbeck's other work written during the Great Depression, The Grapes of Wrath (1939), Of Mice and Men comments on the elusiveness of the American Dream and the false hope of material prosperity that is often dangled in front of the lower and middle classes. Steinbeck took the title of his novel from a line in Robert Burns' poem " To a Mouse ": "The best laid schemes o' mice and men/ Gang aft a-gley/ An' leave us naught but grief an' pain/ For promised joy" (Burns). According to critic Michael Meyer, writing for the modern Literary Encyclopedia , Steinbeck "especially liked the parallels suggested by the poem's story-line which depicts the random destruction of a mouse's home by a plow." Meyer further asserts that Steinbeck felt that there were striking similarities between "the fate of the mouse and humanity [. . .] that human efforts and dreams for the unattainable are ultimately as futile as a rodent trying to protect his home from the more powerful blade of a plow." The near impossibility of attaining the American Dream in the face of huge and random challenges, like natural and economic disasters, became the central theme of Steinbeck's novel.

As Megan Chaudet points out in "20th Centrury American Best Sellers," many of the contemporary reviews of Of Mice and Men "were extremely positive and considered the new novel well up to par with [Steinbeck's] previous novels." The novel was also highly anticipated, selling "117, 000 copies [. . .] in advance of the official publication date, February 25, 1937" (Meyer). It was also a selection for the book of the month club. Biographer Jackson Benson reports the novel "[. ] hit the best-seller lists almost immediately. Both Hollywood and Broadway were quick to see the novel's dramatic possibilities" (351). Hollywood began pressuring Steinbeck for a screenplay and the first stage production of the novel was underway right after the text was published (Benson 351). According to a 1937 review by the New Republic, Of Mice and Men "[. ] has that common denominator of most good imaginative writing, a shadow of the action that means something beyond the action" (qtd. in Chaudet). Furthermore, the New Republic states, "[t]he book is well contrived and effectively compressed, driving ahead with straight and rapid movements, as magnificently written as Steinbeck's other four California novels" (qtd. in Chaudet). Many reviewers lauded Steinbeck's ability to make such a poignant and important statement about humanity and its persistent struggle to rise above its own shortcomings in so brief a text. James Brown of the Saturday Review of Literature wrote in 1937, "The story is simple but superb in its understatements, its realisms which are used not to illustrate behavior, but for character and situation" (qtd. in Chaudet). Tom Cameron of the Los Angeles Times wrote in 1939 that Of Mice and Men is a quintessential example of the "vividly striking realities with intellectual patterns" that characterize Steinbeck's best work, which he argues was lost upon Steinbeck's move to New York in 1939 (qtd. in Fensch 18).

While overall the reception of Of Mice and Men was overwhelmingly positive, staunch debunker of Steinbeck, Edmund Wilson, criticized the novel for "Steinbeck's preoccupation with biology," which "led him 'to present life in animal terms'" (Meyer). He saw Of Mice and Men as a simple social representation of Darwin's theory of survival of the fittest. Lennie must die as he represents the weak in society who are unfit for survival. An early review in The Book Review Digest expressed a similar sentiment accusing Steinbeck of creating characters who are incapable of thinking rationally for themselves: "it is rather that each of them follows some instinct as a bull follows the chain which runs through a hole in his nose, or as a crab moves toward its prey" (qtd. in Chaudet). Some critics were disappointed that Steinbeck did not give his audience the typical happy ending customary for literary underdog characters like George and Lennie. Steinbeck instead chose to show the realities of life and the flippancy of fate through Lennie's death and George's loss.

Though there has been some negative criticism of the novel over the last 70 years, and it has been both censored and banned for its use of offensive language, Of Mice and Men is "still considered influential internationally" finding great success in Japan and the United Kingdom in particular (Chaudet). It has been translated into numerous languages and is still enormously popular in the United States. Like many of Steinbeck's works, Of Mice and Men has the unique ability to capture an important period in American history while containing values that transcend specific time frames and cultures. Moreover, the characters in Of Mice and Men show a difficult truth about loneliness and an unreachable dream--something that most people, no matter their nationality or social station, can identify with.


JOHN STEINBECK’S “OF MICE AND MEN” (1937) – A CRITICAL ANALYSIS

When he was writing Of Mice and Men in early 1936, and even during the period between the novel’s completion and its publication, John Steinbeck’s expectations for the book were low. It was typical of Steinbeck to doubt the quality of his work after it was finished. Additionally, Steinbeck had experimented with novel form in Of Mice and Men and he was unsure about how readers would react to this. The book’s positive reception was, then, a surprise for the author, who seemed to put such little stock in his product. Of Mice and Men was selected as a Book-of-the-Month Club main selection in January’ 1937. In less than a month after its February debut, 117,000 copies were sold, and the reviews were, for the most part, encouraging. The novella was and still is a success, both commercially and critically, and has a somewhat interesting history. Initially titled Something That Happened, Steinbeck claimed he was writing the book for children. But the action and themes of the finished novel show a clear change from this original purpose. Also, early in the spring of 1936, Steinbeck’s setter puppy tore up half of the novel’s manuscript. A second writing was completed in mid-August 1936. The history behind its production attests to the appropriateness of the novel’s final title, taken from Scottish Poet Robert Burns’s “To a Mouse,” advising that “the best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men/Gang aft a-gley,” or “go oft awry.” Regardless of what might have occurred during production, Of Mice and Men has become one of Steinbeck’s most read, most studied, and most beloved works. Ironically, this story originally intended for children has also become one of the ten most frequently banned books in America.

SETTING, PLOT, AND STRUCTURE

The setting Steinbeck chose for Of Mice and Men was a familiar one for the author. The novel recreates the landscape of his maternal grandfather Samuel Hamilton’s ranch in King City, California, where Steinbeck spent time as a youth, and a place to where Steinbeck would again return his readers in the stories of The Long Valley and in East of Eden. The ranch to which George and Lennie go for work is more specifically modeled after the ranches in the California Salinas Valley owned by the Spreckles Sugar Company where Steinbeck worked during breaks and absences from Stanford University. The descriptions of the work and of the workers, the stable hands, and the roving bindlestiffs come from Steinbeck’s recollections of his own experiences as a ranch worker.

The plot structure of Of Mice and Men reflects Steinbeck’s intention of writing a novel that could be played on stage without extensive adaptation. Only three settings are created for the six chapters of the novel, with each chapter confining its action to a single setting or scene, and each setting used for only two chapters. The story is framed by Chapters 1 and 6, both set in a closed-in area around a “narrow’’ pool where the river “drops in close to the hillside bank’’ and where branches from the sycamore trees “arch over the pool (3). The pool and its surrounding area are secluded and motionless, creating a scene of security reinforced by George telling Lennie, in Chapter 1, that if there is any trouble at the new job to which they are traveling, Lennie is to make his way back to this pool where George will find him. These instructions foreshadow the final scene of the novel. The four interior chapters equally divide the action between the ranch’s bunkhouse in Chapters 2 and 3, and the barn in Chapters 4 and 3. It is when George and Lennie must interact with other characters that the most conflict occurs and, thus, the novels main conflict occurs in these four interior chapters.

In addition to introducing the story and setting up the plot’s frame, Chapter 1 establishes the objective, dispassionate narration that Steinbeck continues to use through the final pages of the story. In describing the physical setting, Steinbeck writes of “leaf junctures” and “recumbent limbs” (3), terms not unfamiliar to the author who spent a great deal of time studying the natural sciences. Those readers who can discern the naturalism resulting from this language in these early pages will forsee a bleak ending for the novel.

The story’s main characters, George and Lennie, are introduced as they walk to the pool in the opening scene. The path they follow’ is heavily traveled. Lennie drops to his knees to drink from the pool and is quickly chastised by George, who warns him that the stagnant water may be bad. This immediately establishes Georges paternal relationship with Lennie, who is mentally challenged. The remainder of Chapter 1 reinforces the roles of each character. George decides they will finish their walk to the ranch the next morning after sleeping under the stars he tells Lennie to get rid of the dead mouse he’s been carrying around in his pocket because it is old he prepares their meal, warns Lennie about what to do if they face trouble at their new job, and prepares Lennie for sleep by sharing with him, once again, their dream of the little house they will someday own, complete with cows, pigs, rabbits, and a garden. Steinbeck’s intentions of making this novel a play are evident as this opening scene comes to an end, with two sleeping bindlestiffs next to a fire from which “the blaze dropped down” and “the sphere of light grew smaller” (17).

Chapter 2 introduces the other characters in the story and further prepares the reader for later action in the novel. George and Lennie arrive at the ranch and are taken to the bunkhouse by Candy, an old, lame maintenance man who is followed around by an even older, lamer dog. The unnamed ranch boss enters wearing “high heeled boots and spurs to prove he was not a laboring man” (21). He is angry because George and Lennie arrived too late to put in a morn­ing’s work, and according to Candy, he has already taken out his anger on the black stable hand. The two are next confronted by Curley, the boss’s bitter son, who positions his small body in a fighter’s stance as he surveys the new workers. George and Lennie learn from Candy that Curley is newly married, and that his wife’s “got the eye” (28). This information, coupled with the fact that George and Lennie left their previous work because Lennie had been accused of assaulting a woman there, foreshadows Lennie’s later trouble with Curley’s wife. George quickly anticipates the potential for trouble and warns Lennie to stay away from Curley. At the same time, he tells Lennie to defend himself if Curley attacks him, but reminds him of their prearranged meeting spot if trouble does occur. As if instinctively able to predict inevitable danger, Lennie tells George, “This ain’t no good place. I wanna get outta here” (32).

The tension of George and Lennie’s introduction to the ranch is eased somewhat by the appearance of Slim, the ranch foreman, who appears in the novel as the kindly leader with kingly characteristics. After speaking with George, he offers his approval of George and Lennie traveling together and, at the same time, offers a philosophy that punctuates for the reader the atmosphere at this ranch, and in retrospect, at the places George and Lennie have already worked and lived. Slim comments on the rarity of bindlestiffs traveling together and contemplates the reason. “Maybe ever’body in the whole damn world is scared of each other” (34). The comment points to a general condition of humanity but perhaps more specifically to a specific condition created by the circumstances of 1930s America, where jobs were scarce because of the depression, and even scarcer in California where, following empty promises, a large migrant force fleeing the drought and decay of middle America has congregated in search of livelihood.

The next two characters to enter the bunkhouse present an opposition to the kindliness displayed by Slim. Carlson highlights the rarity of Slim’s concern for human feelings, especially among these itinerant workers. Carlson asks about Slims dog, which has just had nine puppies, and suggests they give Candy one of the puppies and convince him to shoot the old, lame dog that stinks up the bunkhouse. As Chapter 2 closes, Curley comes angrily to the bunkhouse looking for his wife, and he and George size each other up as George tells him she had been there earlier looking for Curley. Slim’s theory about humans basing their actions on fear is represented in this encounter and in Georges statement to Lennie that I’m scared I’m gonna tangle with that bastard myself. I hate his guts’’ (37).

The bunkhouse is again the setting in Chapter 3. The conflict continues to mount between the possibility of George and Lennie fulfilling the dream of their own home, on the one hand, and the potential for trouble on the other. In the beginning of the chapter, Lennie is in the barn with a puppy Slim has given him, and George and Slim again are discussing the relationship between George and Lennie, a conversation that adds to the mounting sympathy for Lennie. George tells Slim, who is now described as having “Godlike eyes” (40), that Lennie is dumb, but he is not crazy. Slim offers that Lennie is “nice” (40) and tells George that intelligence is not necessary to be pleasant. Indeed, according to Slim, intelligence is often a prerequisite for meanness. Slim’s understanding compels George to confess what led him and Lennie to leave their last job. Because of Slim’s approval, there is a sense that George and Lennie may have a chance of fulfilling the better life defined by their dream. The comfort of such a possibility, however, is quickly upset by the next occurence in the bunkhouse.

Carlson and Candy enter the bunkhouse with Candy’s dog. Carlson tells Candy he should shoot the dog because it suffers all the time, because it has no fun, and because it stinks. There is no indication that Carlson is intellectually capable of connecting those conditions to the many men around him, including Lennie, who fit his requirements for destruction. Candy agrees to allow Carlson to shoot the dog. After doing so, Carlson comes into the bunkhouse to clean his gun. There is no discussion from the other bunkmates about the discomfort that this display may cause Candy, nor is there any indication that such feelings would matter in the natural course of events. The dog’s death illustrates the naturalism in the novel. It is just “something that happened.” The reader begins to understand that the same could happen to any of the other suffering characters in the novel.

Juxtaposed with the killing of Candy’s dog and its interpretive significance is the building of the hope represented by George and Lennie’s dream. Candy hears the two discussing their plans and expresses his interest in participating. This is when the reader learns that there is substance to the dream George has already located a property, and its owners are desperate to sell for the price of $600. With Candy’s announcement that he contribute his savings of $350, the dream is transformed into real possibility.

The fulfillment of any plan requires some control by the planners, and Steinbeck quickly points out that people like George and Lennie have little power to control their environment and thus the outcome of their lives. Ear­lier, Curley had come into the bunkhouse once again looking for his wife and was suspicious that Slim was in the barn. As they later re-enter the bunkhouse, Curley is apologizing to Slim for being suspicious, and Carlson calls Curley a coward. Lennie is still smiling about plans for the farm, and Curley mistakes his smile for ridicule, attacking Lennie. Lennie is afraid to fight back until George tells him to, and then Lennie quickly and uncontrollably gets the better of Curley, whose hand is crushed in the fight. To protect Lennie, Slim tells Curley to tell everyone he got his hand caught in a machine otherwise, they will tell the truth and embarrass him. Slim is able to control this situation because of his status and because of his wisdom, but it is clear that none of the others, including George, has any power to control the hostile environment.

In Chapter 4, the setting of Of Mice and Men moves to the barn, the home of Crooks the stable hand. Crooks is set apart from the others by place, but also by his color and the permanency of his job at the ranch. The chapter opens and closes with Crooks alone, rubbing liniment on his back. The scene is one of loneliness, emphasized by the books and eyeglasses in Crooks’s bunk area. Lennie, also a figure of loneliness since George and the others have gone to town, appears at Crooks’s doorway but is told he is not wanted there because Crooks is not wanted in the bunkhouse. Crooks relents, however, because of Lennie s “disarming smile” (68) and goes on to reinforce the importance of friendship earlier introduced by Slim. He tells Lennie that the talking George and Lennie do is important even if Lennie does not understand what George is saying. “It’s just bein’ with another guy. That’s all” (69). He punctuates this idea by telling Lennie how different it would be if he did not have anybody, if he could not play cards in the bunkhouse. It is clear that Crooks is talking about his own isolation, creating a parallel between Crooks and Lennie, both forced into loneliness by the cards that nature has dealt them, one by the hand of color, the other by the hand of mental disability. When Crooks learns about the men’s plan to buy the farm, he first dismisses the dream and then asks if he can come work for them in exchange for room and board. His request makes it even clearer that none of these men wants to remain the way he is, lonely and isolated. They all want to participate in a community, even if it is a community of those cast out by the rest of society.

When Curley’s wife enters the barn looking for Curley, the other characters’ dismissal of her leads her to observe openly that none of them will talk to her if more than one is around. She supports Slims earlier claim that they are all afraid of each other, and she defines it further by pointing out that each is afraid the others will “get something on you” (75). She refuses to leave when Candy, who has joined Lennie and Crooks in the barn, tells her she is not wanted there. Her description of married life with Curley, along with Curley’s rejection, actually serves to include Curley’s wife in the building classification of humans to which dreamers belong. She is lonely even with a husband. Candy’s claim to her that they have friends, and that is why they will get their own farm, is the one way it is clear she will never be like these men as long as she is on this ranch. She will never have friends. With this realization, the scene closes with Crooks, alone and again lonely, rubbing liniment on his back.

The barn continues as the setting of Chapter 5 and represents a place of loneliness. The chapter opens with Lennie holding his puppy, lifeless because Lennie holding his puppy, lifeless because Lenny has stroked it too roughly. Lennie seems to be more worried about the consequence of the puppy’s death—that George will not let him have rabbits to tend—than the actual loss of the puppy, an important indicator of Lennie’s mental capabilities. As he is trying to hide the puppy, Curley’s wife enters the barn and expresses her own loneliness. She asserts her right to recognition, supporting this by saying she could have been in the movies. Instead, she has married Curley, whom she admits she does not like, and has come to the ranch seemingly to find refuge from a world where no men have been nice to her. With this, the parallels between Lennie and Curley’s wife are made evident. When Curley’s wife asks Lennie why he thinks so much about rabbits, Steinbeck is able to provide an explanation for Lennie’s obsession and to introduce the climactic action of the story. Lennie moves closer to Curley’s wife and tells her he likes to “pet nice things” (87), mostly rabbits, but mice when he cannot find rabbits. She invites him to feel her hair, to feel how soft it is, but soon tells him to stop because he is messing it up. She jerks away, but Lennie is unable to process her quickly changing commands and his own desires, so he panics. She screams and he covers her mouth and nose with his hand. He gets angry. “And then she was still, for Lennie had broken her neck’ (89).

Just as he did with the puppy, Lennie tries to cover her with hay, confirming the foreshadowing of her death by Lennie’s earlier killing of the puppy. He then takes his dead puppy and leaves the barn to hide, as instructed by George, in the brush by the pond. The narrator’s description of Curley s wife in death provides a new clue to the coming action. She is described in death as having lost all the pain and manipulation from her face, which is transformed into a picture of peace and beauty. Knowing the consequences of Lennie’s actions will be extreme, the reader begins to feel hope that he will find a similar peace in death.

While the action of the story continues to occur chronologically, Steinbeck imposes a modern treatment of time over the events. After describing Curley’s dead wife, the narrator reports a stoppage of time. “As happens sometimes, a moment settled and hovered and remained for much more than a moment (90). Sound and all movements occurring in a moment also stop. The idea that the action has been removed from the limits of human time brings to the story a sense of ancient or sacred time, confirming death as a release from all human limitations. The surreal halting of time is quickly interrupted by Candy’s entrance into the barn.

After seeing what has happened in the barn, Candy goes to get George, w ho says they will have to find Lennie and turn him over to the police otherwise, he will starve to death, alone and running. At this moment the dream disappears. George tells Candy he knew from the beginning it would never materialize and that now’ he will just live like the other bindlestiffs, making money, drinking, playing pool, and visiting whorehouses. He tells Candy he will not let Curley and the others hurt Lennie, and asks for some time before Candy tells the others so they will not think he w’as in on the killing. After a few minutes, the others come in and Curley stirs them to action. Carlson finds that his gun is missing and believes Lennie has stolen it. George convinces them Lennie would have headed south, and they leave, except for Candy who stays behind and continues to express anger at Curley’s wife for ruining their dream. The ambiguity of the chapter’s final line, Candy’s muttering the words “Poor bastard’ (96), reinforces the parallel between Curley’s wife and Lennie, to either of whom Candy could be referring.

Chapter 6 returns the story’s action to the pool where Steinbeck first introduced George and Lennie. The objective and scientific description of the natural setting adds further to anticipation of the events to follow. The pond in the afternoon is still, and a snake glides across the water only to be eaten by a “motionless heron” (97). The description exemplifies the idea of the strong surviving at the expense of the weak. Lennie appears at the pool alone and, because he is alone, left to his own irrational thinking, he is unable to retain his sanity. His dead Aunt Clara appears to him, chasing him and telling him that he always does bad things, that he never thinks about George and all the nice things George has done for him. Aunt Clara disappears, and Lennie immediately sees the men’s plan to buy the farm, he first dismisses the dream and then asks if he can come work for them in exchange for room and board. His request makes it even clearer that none of these men wants to remain the way he is, lonely and isolated. They all want to participate in a community, even if it is a community of those cast out by the rest of society.

When Curley’s wife enters the barn looking for Curley, the other characters’ dismissal of her leads her to observe openly that none of them will talk to her if more than one is around. She supports Slims earlier claim that they are all afraid of each other, and she defines it further by pointing out that each is afraid the others will “get something on you” (75). She refuses to leave when Candy, who has joined Lennie and Crooks in the barn, tells her she is not wanted there. Her description of married life with Curley, along with Curley’s rejection, actually serves to include Curley’s wife in the building classification of humans to which dreamers belong. She is lonely even with a husband. Candy’s claim to her that they have friends, and that is why they will get their own farm, is the one way it is clear she will never be like these men as long as she is on this ranch. She will never have friends. With this realization, the scene closes with Crooks, alone and again lonely, rubbing liniment on his back.

The barn continues as the setting of Chapter 5 and represents a place of loneliness. The chapter opens with Lennie holding his puppy, lifeless because Lennie holding his puppy, lifeless because Lenny has stroked it too roughly. Lennie seems to be more worried about the consequence of the puppy’s death—that George will not let him have rabbits to tend—than the actual loss of the puppy, an important indicator of Lennie’s mental capabilities. As he is trying to hide the puppy, Curley’s wife enters the barn and expresses her own loneliness. She asserts her right to recognition, supporting this by saying she could have been in the movies. Instead, she has married Curley, whom she admits she does not like, and has come to the ranch seemingly to find refuge from a world where no men have been nice to her. With this, the parallels between Lennie and Curley’s wife are made evident. When Curley’s wife asks Lennie why he thinks so much about rabbits, Steinbeck is able to provide an explanation for Lennie’s obsession and to introduce the climactic action of the story. Lennie moves closer to Curley’s wife and tells her he likes to “pet nice things” (87), mostly rabbits, but mice when he cannot find rabbits. She invites him to feel her hair, to feel how soft it is, but soon tells him to stop because he is messing it up. She jerks away, but Lennie is unable to process her quickly changing commands and his own desires, so he panics. She screams and he covers her mouth and nose with his hand. He gets angry. “And then she was still, for Lennie had broken her neck’ (89).

Just as he did with the puppy, Lennie tries to cover her with hay, confirming the foreshadowing of her death by Lennie’s earlier killing of the puppy. He then takes his dead puppy and leaves the barn to hide, as instructed by George, in the brush by the pond. The narrator’s description of Curley’s wife in death provides a new clue to the coming action. She is described in death as having lost all the pain and manipulation from her face, which is transformed into a picture of peace and beauty. Knowing the consequences of Lennie’s actions will be extreme, the reader begins to feel hope that he will find a similar peace in death.

While the action of the story continues to occur chronologically, Steinbeck imposes a modern treatment of time over the events. After describing Curley’s dead wife, the narrator reports a stoppage of time. “As happens sometimes, a moment settled and hovered and remained for much more than a moment (90). Sound and all movements occurring in a moment also stop. The idea that the action has been removed from the limits of human time brings to the story a sense of ancient or sacred time, confirming death as a release from all human limitations. The surreal halting of time is quickly interrupted by Candy’s entrance into the barn.

After seeing what has happened in the barn, Candy goes to get George, w ho says they will have to find Lennie and turn him over to the police otherwise, he will starve to death, alone and running. At this moment the dream disappears. George tells Candy he knew from the beginning it would never materialize and that now’ he will just live like the other bindlestiffs, making money, drinking, playing pool, and visiting whorehouses. He tells Candy he will not let Curley and the others hurt Lennie, and asks for some time before Candy tells the others so they will not think he w’as in on the killing. After a few minutes, the others come in and Curley stirs them to action. Carlson finds that his gun is missing and believes Lennie has stolen it. George convinces them Lennie would have headed south, and they leave, except for Candy who stays behind and continues to express anger at Curley’s wife for ruining their dream. The ambiguity of the chapter’s final line, Candy’s muttering the words “Poor bastard’ (96), reinforces the parallel between Curley’s wife and Lennie, to either of whom Candy could be referring.

Chapter 6 returns the story’s action to the pool where Steinbeck first introduced George and Lennie. The objective and scientific description of the natural setting adds further to anticipation of the events to follow. The pond in the afternoon is still, and a snake glides across the water only to be eaten by a “motionless heron” (97). The description exemplifies the idea of the strong surviving at the expense of the weak. Lennie appears at the pool alone and, because he is alone, left to his own irrational thinking, he is unable to retain his sanity. His dead Aunt Clara appears to him, chasing him and telling him that he always does bad things, that he never thinks about George and all the nice things George has done for him. Aunt Clara disappears, and Lennie immediately sees a huge rabbit speaking in Lennie’s voice. The rabbit tells Lennie he is not fit to tend to rabbits, that George is going to beat Lennie and then leave him. As Lennie begins to cry for George, his friend appears, and Lennie’s nightmare visions stop. With George, some sanity returns to Lennie’s life.

For a few moments George and Lennie return to normal, with George talking about their friendship and about how they are different from the other bindlestiffs who have nobody in the world. When George tells Lennie to take his hat off and look across the river, he tells him again about the house and the rabbits, creating for Lennie once again the impossible dream. The dream transforms into a description of afterlife as George prepares to shoot Lennie. He tells Lennie that everyone will be nice to him and there will be no more problems for him to face. George defines death and what comes after in terms that Lennie will understand. As Lennie begs to go to this place George is describing, George fires Carlson’s gun, shooting Lennie in the head.

Steinbeck intends to show that the dream has finally become reality for Lennie, but that it is only possible in death because in life things will always happen, out of human control, to destroy those dreams. As George walks away with Slim, it is clear the manager is the only one who understood the friendship between George and Lennie. That Curley and Carlson cannot understand what is bothering George and Slim, and thus cannot understand the importance of friendship, casts the last clement of tragedy on Of Mice and Men.

In Of Mice and Men, Steinbeck manages to present a cast of characters who are vivid and compelling, as well as complicated. Only George Milton develops in the course of the novel, and that development occurs as a result of actions he takes in response to the actions of the other major character, Lennie, who does not develop in the story.

George is a small, single man with no social position and an uncertain employment future, yet he is presented early in Chapter 1 as a man with “sharp, strong features’’ (4) who displays characteristics of leadership and parental responsibility. As George and Lennie first appear, walking single file to the pool, George is leading, establishing his position in the hierarchy of this twosome. Shortly after reaching the pool, this leadership is reinforced by Lennie’s exact mimicking of George’s movements and posture as he sits down. George’s sense of responsibility for Lennie becomes clear as the two discuss the job to which they are heading. George must remind Lennie where they are going, and he is carrying both of their work tickets. He instructs Lennie to keep his mouth shut once they reach the ranch so that the boss will not deny them work. It is evident here that George is not speaking out of meanness, hut out of concern for Lennie. This distinction is reinforced when George takes away the dead mouse Lennie has been carrying in his pocket, again, not out of meanness, but because the mouse “ain’t fresh” (11), and additionally when he gives Lennie instructions about what to do if they have trouble at the new job.

George’s parental role in his relationship with Lennie is necessary because of Lennie’s apparent mental disability. This difference between the two men would naturally lead to an assumption that George will present a rational contrast to Lennie’s inability to reason. Yet George’s development in the novel occurs with his transformation from dreamer to realist, and his actions result from moral rather than reasoned decisions.

One would not expect bindlestiffs, the men who traveled from one California ranch to another seeking work, to be dreamers, especially during the depression era. The work was hard, compensation was slight, life was lonely, and there was little on which to base any dreams of change. Literary convention, however, creates the expectation of such a character developing from hardened realist to dreamer. Many factors make George different from other bindlestiffs. Even though he is single, George does have responsibility for another human being. Caring for Lennie fulfills a promise George made to Lennie’s Aunt Clara before she died. Because he is always with Lennie, George is not a solitary figure. Most bindlestiffs found only temporary companions among the other workers at their temporary jobs. Because he is not alone, George is not completely lonely. Even his need for occasional female company is balanced by his concern about leaving Lennie unsupervised, so he does not regularly visit the whorehouses with the other bindlestiffs.

These traits that make George different from the other roaming ranch workers, as well as his need to make Lennie happy, make it possible, while not necessarily natural, for him to be a dreamer. This characteristic results from his association with Lennie, specifically from his need to appease Lennie. Lennie needs to hear often about the farm George and Lennie will one day own, a place where he will nor be singled out and persecuted for his difference. Simply satisfying Lennie’s need to envision a better world would not be enough to show that these dreams were real for George also, however. Because of Lennie’s belief, the dream becomes a real possibility for George. As long as Lennie is there, as long as there is a reason for the fulfillment of the dream, then for George the dream is possible.

George’s development occurs when the dream is erased, and he must come to terms with the inevitable reality that justice is absent from the world, and justice is a requirement for a fulfillment of their dream. George and Lennie’s roaming has already illustrated the world’s injustice. Lennie is tormented at each place to which they move in hopes of a peaceful working environment, and George, only a bindlestiff, has no authority to claim justice for Lennie. He can continue taking him to new places where the same treatment is bound to occur. Their dream of a farm of their own is created in reaction to these experiences. With a farm, they would be able to build their own small world and, consequently, separate from the unjust society. This world would be larger than just George and Lennie. As the novel progresses, the dream begins to include both Candy and Crooks. Since these men arc also lame in the eyes of society, Candy for his age and his broken body and Crooks for his color, their inclusion reinforces the idea that this dream farm would be a place of justice. That George seems to be the character capable of facilitating the dream makes him likable.

When, at the novel’s close, George recites to Lennie one last time the dream, it has changed from a dream of a farm to a dream of peace in death. George presents a place of extreme goodness and extreme justice, not just for Lennie, but for everybody. By doing so George makes true justice a possibility only in death, thus eliminating it as something to ever be found in life. This is how the reader knows that, even with Lennie gone, George will never attempt to buy the farm in order to give Crooks and Candy a safe haven from the world. George now knows the justice earlier represented by the farm is impossible in earthly life.

So George performs his own act of justice in reaction to the understanding that Lennie, who has killed Curley’s wife, will never be treated justly. Curley would not allow Lennie to go to jail instead, he would want to kill him, and jail would be a cruel punishment for a person like Lennie. Even letting Lonnie escape, George realizes, would be wrong. Lennie would starve or find more trouble without Georges protection.

With his final act of shooting Lennie, George becomes a man without dreams. He is a realist, not only about the world, but also about his own life. He will always be a bindlestiff to be anything more socially would require family and friends, and through his relationship with Lennie he learns that people arc no more lasting than dreams. Even his relationship with Slim, bound by shared knowledge of what really happened when George shot Lennie, is temporary. Slim will stay on to run the ranch, but George will have to move on to the next job.

Of Mice and Men requires both George and Lennie because it is a story of friendship, and while these two are an unlikely pair, their relationship is the story’s hope its loss is the story’s tragedy. The friendship between George and Lennie is characterized by its balance. George’s ability to think and plan balances Lennie’s mental disability. George’s reason keeps Lennie’s passions in check. George’s experience in the world is softened by Lennie’s innocence. Most importantly, George’s sanity keeps Lennie’s insanity at bay.

While Lennie is important as the balance to George, and as the force behind George’s actions, he is not a developing character in the novel. Indeed, Lennie seems incapable of developing, of changing or growing. Lennie’s significance as a character is that he represents the motifs and themes of the novel. Lonnie’s experiences in the world illustrate the injustice with which George must come to terms. Lennie’s fear of losing George enables Steinbeck to present friendship at an unconditional level. Finally, Lennie represents dreams and their importance in a world of unbending realities.

Lennie appears to be characterized by qualities often considered negative: insanity, overwhelming passion, and innocence. Yet, through Lennie, Steinbeck presents these qualities, often associated with the mentally disabled, as positive. Lennie experiences the world with his senses rather than his mind. He is driven to the feel of soft things, of fabrics and women’s hair and dead mouse fur. Lennie loves the taste of ketchup. As compelling as these sensations are to Lennie, he is willing to give them up to preserve his relationship with George, perhaps the most satisfying and certainly the safest passion in his life. In this, Lennie’s instinct for survival is made clear.

ROLE OF MINOR CHARACTERS

All of the remaining characters in Of Mice and Men are minor characters. Their functions vary some merely represent types and are stock characters, while others carry more symbolic importance.

Curley and Carlson are both stock characters, characters that represent a recognizable type. While many stock characters are routine and predictable, Steinbeck has an interesting way of presenting these characters and the role they serve. Steinbeck presents the character of Curley by showing the reader who Curley is and also by telling who he is, which serves to guide the reader in an evaluation of the character. When he first appears in the novel, Curley s glance at George and Lennie is described as cold and calculating. His body is positioned in a fighters stance, curled almost as if to explain his name. Curley is characterized before he participates in any action. His treatment of Lennie and of his wife shows the reader further that Curley is a small, weak, and insecure man who uses his position of authority to make others feel smaller than himself, a type widely represented in fiction and in other media.

Carlson’s role in Of Mice and Men is rather narrow. He is the vehicle through which Steinbeck presents the Darwinian ideas of survival that apply both to Candy’s dog, which Carlson manages to rid the bunkhouse of by substituting a more fit dog in its place, and to the characters who represent weakness through their various differences as contrasted to Carlson’s seeming fitness. He is physically and mentally fit, and he belongs to a socially accepted race, making him different from Lennie, Candy, and Crooks, a difference necessary to reinforce the novel’s theme.

It is the difference from the norm that Candy and Crooks represent that makes them symbolically important. Their mistreatment by society for their differences, including the abuse by other characters in the novel, forces the reader to consider the experiences of all those who appear to deviate from the accepted standard. The reader is less surprised by the actions taken against Lennie because Steinbeck has already shown how easily a lame old man’s dog can be taken from him and how easily a black man can be locked out of a white world. Lennie’s story is tragic, but by placing Candy and Crooks into a similar social category, Steinbeck abstracts Lennie’s tragedy to a universal level, forcing the reader to consider an even larger tragedy.

Slim, while also representing a type, that of the wise man, is presented in more detail, or more roundly, than the other minor characters. He is important because he is the voice of the author. His understanding and approval of the relationship between George and Lennie creates further sympathy for their circumstances. Because of the description Steinbeck gives Slim, the reader is compelled to accept his observations and philosophies. He is both physically godlike, a more expert jerkline skinner than any other, and spiritually godlike Slim is ageless and omnipotent. He knows why people live and act the way they do, but his knowledge has not made him sour he is a kind man. What he sees is what Steinbeck would like the reader to see—his kindness is Steinbeck’s hope for a world where the reality is harsh.

Much of his work in this period emphasizes the philosophy Steinbeck shared with his closest friend Edward Ricketts. Ricketts was a marine scientist at whose side Steinbeck learned much about objective, scientific observation and natural processes. The philosophy resulting from this collaboration was the non-teleological thought developed in much of Steinbeck’s work in the 1930s and 1940s. Non-teleological philosophy stresses what “is,” the actual facts of human existence, as opposed to what might be or could be hoped for in a caring universe. The moment is what is important, what can be known, not some potential end or goal. In Of Mice and Men, Steinbeck presents this philosophy through the eventual negation of George and Lennie’s dream, which is taken away by the events occurring in their life, the things that happen to them to show the dream, or end, to be merely a fantasy. Of Mice and Men’s major theme of naturalism, as well as the objective, nonjudgmental narration of the novel, is consistent with the philosophy of the author and the scientist.

Naturalism is the idea that the scientific facts of heredity and environment are the forces controlling human existence, and neither human will nor divine assistance can alter the course determined by heredity and environment. Both forces are clearly functioning in Of Mice and Men. George and Lennie are bindlestiffs because that is the class of worker to which they belong by the facts of their birth, their potential, and the socioeconomic circumstances of their environment. Their attempts to change their circumstances are shown to be impossible.

The novels naturalism is also presented through the reactions of Carlson, one of the ranch workers, toward Candy’s dog. Entering the bunkhouse in Chapter 2, Carlson asks about Slims dog, which has just had nine puppies. Through Carlson, the fear Slim speaks of is put into a naturalist context and can be specifically applied to George and Lennie. When Carlson asks about the puppies, Slim tells him he killed four of the puppies so the mother could feed the other five. Carlson suggests they give Candy one of the puppies and convince him to shoot the old, lame dog that stinks up the bunkhouse. In this exchange about the dogs, Steinbeck introduces the Darwinian idea of selection, where the strong will survive and the weak will perish. Candy’s dog, Carlson suggests, should be sacrificed to be replaced by a stronger dog. Lennie, who because of his mental disability and the resulting need to be taken care of by someone else, is a weak member of humanity, and the reader begins to consider the possibility of his being sacrificed because of his weakness.

Another major theme in Of Mice and Men is that of friendship. Steinbeck’s presentation of this theme is both scientific and sentimental. In later work, Steinbeck develops fully his phalanx idea, the idea of group man and the changes that occur when individuals join groups to accomplish a common goal, specifically the change from “I” thinking to “we” thinking. Steinbeck’s phalanx ideas are another result of his own friendship with Ed Ricketts. The idea is introduced in small measure in Of Mice and Men with the beginning of the phalanx composed of George and Lennie and the growth of the phalanx that occurs when Candy and then Crooks are admitted into the group. George’s selfless behavior throughout the novel indicates the “we” thinking of group man, and this thinking is further supported by Candy’s quick offer of his savings for the purchase of the farm, and by Crooks’s bold request that he be allowed to work on the farm in exchange for room and board.

The idea that life is improved by friendship is the more sentimental aspect of the friendship theme. For example, Slim reasons that bindlestiffs are loners because people are fearful of one another. When fear is overcome, however, and people form the bonds of friendship, the remaining difficulties of life are easier to bear. Friends overlook the differences for which individuals are singled out and bear discrimination. Lennie’s mental disability is forgiven, Candy’s lameness is ignored, and Crooks’s color is overlooked. Each is made a better human being as a result of giving himself to friendship. Unfortunately, friendship does not create a force strong enough to ultimately restrain natural forces, and so friendship is vulnerable to inevitable loss.

Finally, the farm about which George and Lennie dream represents the theme of fallen man attempting to Find or create a new Eden, a theme that can be identified in much of Steinbeck’s Fiction. The farm, imagined as a place without fear or injustice, where the men will not be singled out because of differences but will instead live in common, illustrates in specific terms the abstract qualities of the biblical Eden. That it is a woman, Curley’s wife, who ultimately destroys any possibility of the men getting their farm, of Finding their Eden, creates a direct parallel to the biblical story. In withholding Eden from his characters, Steinbeck confirms that such searching will always be fruitless.

ALTERNATIVE READING: FEMINIST CRITICISM

There are actually many types or branches of feminist criticism, including but not limited to Marxist feminism and psychological feminism. Each type has a different focus, but in each can be found the common purpose of locating in literature, mostly literature written by men, the marginalization and constraint of women in culture and society. One goal of such investigation is to illustrate patriarchal principles, the social and cultural ideas promoted as truths by dominant male literary voices and the bias against women that result from those ideas. Like any political attack, feminism is concerned with effecting social and cultural change by accenting injustice. Two of the specific wrongs feminist critics analyze are the absence of women from meaningful discourse in literature, evident in the small number of works by female authors in the literary canon, and the distortion of female characters resulting in a misrepresentation of femininity as abnormal.

A feminist reading of Of Mice and Men might begin with an analysis of Steinbeck’s description of Curley’s wife. Feminist critics are often concerned with what is missing from the depiction of female characters, and in the case of Curley’s wife, one of the most necessary elements of a defined self, a name, has been omitted. This is significant at two levels. First, without a name, the reader will have less sympathy for the character. Curley’s wife docs not seem as real a person as a character with a name, an identifying marker. Thus, her death at Lennie’s hands is less tragic than if she were named. This leads to the second level of significance: without a name to distinguish her from other women and other wives, Curley’s wife automatically becomes representative of women. Consequently, what applies to Curley’s wife applies to all women. Since Steinbeck’s presentation of Curley’s wife can be considered negative, there is a resulting association of negativity toward women in general.

The physical description of Curley’s wife is a large part of her negative image. Before she even enters the story’s action, Candy informs George and Lennie that Curley’s wife is a tart, or whore, with an evil eye, distinguishing her as opposite from Slim, with his “Godlike eyes.” Curley’s wife is otherwise described throughout the novel as heavily made up and always wearing some item of red clothing. The color red is frequently associated with violent passion and disorder. ‘This reinforces the suggestion by Candy that she is a whore and serves to locate her on the outskirts of normal, respectable culture. The description also serves to present Curley’s wife as a threat to the society of the ranch and its bindlesriff population. Her evil eye is active. She eyes the workers and thus appears as a corrupting threat to the group.

Other actions by Curley’s wife present her as a corrupting force in the novel. She is always moving about where she is not supposed to be, always searching for her husband, ostensibly, in the male territories of the bunkhouse and the barn. Curley’s inability to control his wife’s movements creates chaos amidst the orderliness of the ranch. Curley’s position as the boss’s son, coupled with his meanness and jealousy, make the threat of his wife’s presence in forbidden places even more dangerous to those confined to those places. Steinbeck has created a male world, and the woman who enters this world is a menace.

Compounding the problem of her mere physical presence is the fact that, as she is quick to remind the other characters, Curley’s wife is not a dumb woman. In Chapter 4 she accuses them of ignoring her if more than one of them is around, implying that each is open to talking to her if he is alone. She offers a reason for this: “You’re all scared of each other, that’s what. Ever’ one of you’s scared the rest is goin’ to get something on you’ (75). One aspect of feminist criticism, cultural analysis, focuses on the ways female characters portray the fears and anxieties of males. Curley’s wife is able to express openly the way males see others around them as threats to their progress or even to their continued existence. This perceptiveness should be a trait that raises her above the level of dumb whore however, her truthful pronouncement reinforces the danger of her character. If the men were to acknowledge their fears, their world would be turned on end and become even more chaotic than Curley’s wife has already made it

The traits that elicit sympathy for the male characters, indeed that are associated with sympathy for Lennie, are presented for Curley’s wife in a negative light, even in death. Along with losing its “meanness’ and “plannings, ” her facial expression loses its “discontent and “ache for attention,’’ leaving her with a face that was “sweet and young” (90). Discontent and a need for attention are universal qualities of the cast of characters in Of Mice and Men, yet only when they belong to Curley’s wife are they considered harmful detriments to youth and goodness. This treatment by Steinbeck contributes to the prejudice against women that results in the consideration of women as “other.”

The reactions of the male characters to her death emphasize in w’hat way women are made objects in this process of othering. George’s grief is not for the loss of this woman’s life, but instead for the inevitable result of her killing, Lennie’s death. George seems to resent Curley’s wife for getting herself killed, and thus creating the events that follow. Candy explicitly blames Curley’s wife for getting killed. He calls her a “tramp,” a “tart” (93), and blames her for messing up George and Lennie’s dream, which is now Candy’s dream also. Even Curley reacts as if he is angry for losing a piece of property rather than for losing a wife. He does not stop to show sorrow or pity over the body of his dead wife but instead immediately initiates his revenge on Lennie. None of the men seems to be affected by the loss of a human life each sees her death as an obstacle to his happiness.

John Steinbeck’s letters, collected in Steinbeck: A Life in Letters, include correspondence with Clare Luce, the actress who played Curley’s wife in the stage production of Of Mice and Men. Steinbeck provides Luce with a biography of Curley’s wife, including much that could only be loosely gathered from the background provided in the novel. In this letter, Steinbeck describes Curley’s wife as irrevocably injured by her childhood, persecuted, enslaved, lonely, and “if you could ever break down the thousand little defenses she has built up, you would find a nice person, an honest person, and you would end up by loving her” (1 54). It is tempting to re-read the character of Curley’s wife through the new lens this letter creates. Yet, a feminist reader is not interested in authorial intent. What the author may have hoped to convey is irrelevant in comparison to what is actually presented in the text. How an actress may play the role of Curley’s wife on stage does not change the role given to the character in the pages of the novel. Curley’s wife, for the feminist reader, is typical of the way male authors represent women: corrupting, dangerous, and “other.”

Source: Cynthia Burkhead, Student Companion to John Steinbeck. Westport: Greenwood Press, 2002.


Texas is using "Of Mice and Men" to justify executing this man. Seriously.

By Anna Arceneaux
Published April 21, 2016 7:42PM (EDT)

Bobby James Moore

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Bobby James Moore has a lifelong intellectual disability, yet he sits on Texas’s death row because the courts there used John Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men” to decide his fate.

That’s right—the Texas Criminal Court of Appeals went with a fictional novel over science and medicine to measure Bobby’s severe mental limitations. The justices heard a vast body of evidence demonstrating these limitations, which meet the widely accepted scientific standards for defining intellectual disability. Then they rejected it all according to seven wildly unscientific factors for measuring intellectual disability, drawn in large part from the fictional character Lennie Small. Bobby was no Lennie, they concluded, ruling that his disability wasn’t extreme enough to exempt him from the death penalty. On Friday, the Supreme Court will decide whether to take Bobby’s case.

Executing people with intellectual disabilities is unconstitutional. The grey area is that the Supreme Court allows the states to define intellectual disability, leaving an opening for Texas to create a standard based partly on “Of Mice and Men.” With its decision in Hall v. Florida two years ago, though, the Supreme Court made clear that states may not adopt definitions of intellectual disability that don’t conform to accepted scientific standards. It’s hard to come up with a less scientific standard than a novel written nearly 80 years ago. No one’s life should depend on an interpretation of Steinbeck.

Under current professional standards, a person with intellectual disability has significant deficits in intellectual functioning (IQ) and significant deficits in adaptive functioning (how well one adjusts to daily life) that manifest before the age of 18. Bobby has a clear intellectual disability that has been evident his entire life. Living in Houston in the 1970s, Bobby’s family was so poor that they often went without food. Bobby and his siblings found discarded food in the neighbors’ trash cans. When they got sick from the scraps, Bobby’s siblings stopped eating from the trash cans, but Bobby never learned that lesson. He would eat the discarded food and get sick, over and over again.

Growing up, Bobby rarely spoke. His teachers suspected that he had an intellectual disability, but they did not know what to do with him. They would ask Bobby to sit and draw pictures while they taught the rest of the class reading, writing, and math -- or worse, they would send him to the hallway to sit alone. Bobby failed the first grade twice but was socially promoted to second grade. His abusive and alcoholic father slammed the door in the face of the few teachers who tried to intervene on Bobby’s behalf.

When he reached age 13, Bobby still didn’t know the days of the week, the months of the year, the seasons, or how to tell time. The school system finally acknowledged that Bobby should receive some intervention, and counselors recommended that his teachers drill him daily on this basic information. But by that point it was too late. The schools continued to socially promote him until he dropped out of school in the ninth grade.

Without support for his disability and in an effort to escape his violent home life, Bobby was left to survive on the streets. He got caught up with the wrong crowd, and at 20 years old, he followed two acquaintances who had made plans to rob a store. Bobby was armed with a shotgun, though the group just wanted money and had no intention to kill anyone. But Bobby panicked when an employee screamed, and he accidentally discharged the shotgun. He did not learn until later that his shotgun blast had hit a clerk.

Bobby was charged with homicide in 1980 and sentenced to death later that same year. He and his lawyers didn’t have a chance to present evidence of his intellectual disability until more than 20 years later, when the Supreme Court ruled in Atkins v. Virginia that the Constitution forbids the execution of people with intellectual disability. Bobby’s attorneys then petitioned for a hearing to show that he should be exempt from the death penalty.

They presented evidence from multiple experts and decades of records showing Bobby’s intellectual disability. Over the years, his IQ scores have ranged from the low 50s to the 70s, with an average score of 70.66. Using the appropriate scientific standards, the judge found that Bobby met the current definition of intellectual disability and should be sentenced instead to life without parole.

But the state appealed. That’s when the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals used its unscientific factors, roughly based on Lennie, to uphold Bobby’s death sentence. The court ignored the Supreme Court’s ruling in Hall that determining intellectual disability should never be subject to a strict 70-point cutoff. In fact, when the state’s own expert tested Bobby, he scored 57.

Lennie Smalls was never meant to appear in court. He is a figment of John Steinbeck’s imagination. Texas must stop using such unscientific factors as an excuse to execute people with intellectual disability who don’t fit Lennie’s mold. The Supreme Court must give Bobby a chance to live.

Anna Arceneaux is a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union’s Capital Punishment Project. She represents clients in capital cases at the trial and direct appeal levels across the South.


15 Things You Might Not Know About Of Mice and Men

You probably spent some time as a teenager reading John Steinbeck’s novella Of Mice and Men. Even if you know about Lennie and George’s heartbreaking pursuit of life, liberty, and a hutch full of rabbits, there are a few things you might have missed about the iconic story during English class.

1. STEINBECK HAD DONE LENNIE AND GEORGE’S GIG.

Although he was a Stanford University graduate and had published five books by the time he wrote Of Mice and Men, Steinbeck had more in common with his itinerant main characters than readers might have expected. “I was a bindle-stiff myself for quite a spell,” the author told The New York Times in 1937, employing the now archaic nickname for migrant workers. “I worked in the same country that the story is laid in.” With Of Mice and Men, Steinbeck wanted to tell the story of a community largely unheralded in literature and high culture.

2. LENNIE WAS BASED ON A REAL PERSON.

In the same New York Times article, Steinbeck recalled a fellow laborer on whom Lennie Small’s arc was based: “Lennie was a real person. He's in an insane asylum in California right now. I worked alongside him for many weeks. He didn't kill a girl. He killed a ranch foreman. Got sore because the boss had fired his pal and stuck a pitchfork right through his stomach. I hate to tell you how many times. I saw him do it. We couldn't stop him until it was too late.”

3. OF MICE AND MEN WAS ARGUABLY THE FIRST “PLAY-NOVELETTE.”

The stage intrigued Steinbeck as much as prose did, and the book shares similarities with both media. Like a theatrical piece, Of Mice and Men manifests in three acts. Its narration bears the character of stage direction, and its dialogue has the feel of something one might hear in a play.

4. STEINBECK HIMSELF WON A NEW YORK DRAMA CRITICS’ CIRCLE AWARD FOR THE STAGE PRODUCTION.

Around eight months after its initial publication, Of Mice and Men made its way to the stage, opening in New York in November of 1937. The following year, Steinbeck accepted the New York Drama Critics’ Circle’s Best Play Award for the production.

5. THE ORIGINAL TITLE WAS MUCH MORE MATTER-OF-FACT.

Before he opted to make his title an homage to Scottish poet Robert Burns’ 1785 poem “To a Mouse, on Turning Her Up in Her Nest with the Plough,” Steinbeck considered a far more deliberate option: Something That Happened.

6. THE TITULAR POEM IS NOT QUITE HOW MOST PEOPLE REMEMBER IT.

Ask any American reader to identify the line of verse that inspired Steinbeck’s title, and you’ll more than likely hear, “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” In fact, this is simply the English-language paraphrasing of the original Scottish poem, which reads, “The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft agley.”

7. STEINBECK’S DOG ATE HIS HOMEWORK. REALLY.

Perhaps none too pleased with the ultimate fate of the canines featured in Of Mice and Men, Steinbeck’s dog, Toby, devoured an early draft of the story, which the author had written longhand on notepaper.

8. THE NOVELLA WAS AN EARLY SELECTION FOR THE BOOK OF THE MONTH CLUB.

In operation for 88 years between 1926 and 2014, the Book of the Month Club was the premiere mail order book service operating in the United States. Before it was even officially published, Of Mice and Men was chosen for distribution by the organization.

9. OF MICE AND MEN IS ONE OF THE MOST COMMONLY READ BOOKS IN AMERICAN SCHOOLS.

In the 1990s, the Center for the Learning and Teaching of Literature placed Steinbeck’s novella among the 10 most commonly taught books in public schools, Catholic schools, and independent high schools.

10. THAT SAID, IT IS ALSO ONE OF THE MOST CHALLENGED BOOKS.

Of Mice and Men proves that with such prevalence comes backlash. The novella ranked as the fifth most frequently challenged piece of literature on the American Library Association’s list of 100 Most Banned or Challenged Books between 2000 and 2009.

11. THE BOOK HAS BEEN OPPOSED FOR SOME PECULIAR REASONS.

By and large, the heat taken by Of Mice and Men has singled out the story’s strong language, sexual scenarios, and violence. But one organization in Chattanooga, Tenn. was a little more creative, taking issue with the “anti-business attitude” it saw in Steinbeck’s text. The establishment also raised the issue that Steinbeck “was very questionable as to his patriotism.”

12. OF MICE AND MEN PLAYED A BIG ROLE ON LOONEY TUNES.

Following the release of the 1939 film adaptation of the book, the Lennie character earned parody and homage alike in pop culture, most notably in Warner Bros.’ Looney Tunes shorts. Lennie took form across the cartoon canon as a hound dog (“Of Fox and Hounds” in 1940 and “Lonesome Lenny” in 1946), an oversized cat (“Hoppy Go Lucky” in 1952 and “Cat-Tails for Two” in 1953), and a tremendous yeti (“The Abominable Snow Rabbit” in 1961 and “Spaced Out Bunny” in 1980), among other incarnations.

13. THE HOUSE WHERE STEINBECK WROTE THE BOOK IS NOW A LANDMARK.

If you’re interested in taking a gander at where the great American author wrote about Lennie and George, take a trip to Monte Sereno, Calif. Between 1936 and 1938, Steinbeck and his wife Carol lived at 16250 Greenwood Lane. The house, a 1989 addition to the National Register of Historic Places, should not be confused with Steinbeck’s similarly recognized childhood home in nearby Salinas, Calif. While in Monte Sereno, Steinbeck wrote both Of Mice and Men and The Grapes of Wrath.

14. THE SAME NEIGHBORHOOD LATER INSPIRED OTHER 20TH CENTURY ARTISTS.

Monte Sereno, as it in fact became known some time after Steinbeck’s departure from the city, was also the home of Beat Generation writer Neal Cassady and artist Thomas Kinkade.

15. AN ACTIVIST GROUP HAS ADOPTED OF MICE AND MEN AS PART OF ITS CURRICULUM.

The London-based Anti-Bullying Alliance maintains a list of 10 books aimed at educating young people about the problem of bullying and potential methods for deterrence. Of Mice and Men retains a place on this list among novels like To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee and nonfiction books including My Story by Rosa Parks.


What the "Of Mice and Men" Can Teach A Beginner Writer

”Of Mice and Men” is a masterpiece by John Steinbeck that can teach readers some important lessons/ Let’s see how it works for students.

The craft of writing is deeply intricate, which explains why many amateurs can make mistakes. Rookie writers are generally afraid to try different writing styles or tones, let alone embark upon a discourse of intense themes and fantasy. This distinct fear among writers imposes restrictions on writing and can make writing bland.

Rigorous reading is undoubtedly a significant step to push amateurs and expand their creativity, but it’s the role that legendary and iconic writer play when it comes to inspiring writers is undeniable as well.

Among these writers, John Steinbeck occupies a distinguished status with his exemplary work 'Of Mice and Men.' The novella, when released in 1937, captivated audiences in the U.S. At that time, the country was plagued with a period of economic distress, known as the ‘Great Depression.’

Of Mice and Men lessons are poignantly relevant in today’s contemporary society. Many writers continue to look up to this masterpiece as a righteous testament to history, society, and human nature.

About ‘Of Mice and Men’

Published in 1937, Of Mice and Men became a beloved sensation among readers, and the writers of that era ceaselessly praised Steinbeck's writing. The author, John Steinbeck, has been dubbed as one of the most remarkable and honorable writers of classic American literature. He went on to win Nobel Prize in Literature in 1962.

Set against the backdrop of the Great Depression, the plot follows two men, George Milton and Lennie Small. who struggle to fulfill their dream of owning a ranch. Throughout the characters’ journey, Steinbeck subtly entails a series of humanistic themes of loneliness, friendship, poverty, and death.

Of Mice and Men is not merely a must-read, it has become a crucial literature piece in academic coursework as well. Many colleges ask students to write a persuasive essay on "Of Mice and Men". Writing an essay on this novel is not an easy task. Luckily, there are many resources online that you can use for help.

What the "Mice and Men" Can Teach A Beginner Writer

Genre Blending

Of Mice and Men study blends very distinct genres into one novel. The varying writing styles of each genre has also successfully been bent into many adaptations. Reading this novel is a stepping stone for a beginner writer.

It teaches them to blend different genres without disrupting the plot of the story. Of Mice and Men is a story that mixes genres in a style so welcoming that it can give a rookie writer some idea on how to be more open and blend their creativity fearlessly.

Simplicity and Brevity

This novel is longer than a short story but shorter than a whole length novel. This is an ideal read for a busy person, who would hesitate to attempt to read a 400-page long novel, but still pine for a good book.

Of Mice and Men explores the important topics in society that are generally looked over, such as tremendous emotions and debatable views, all while composing a dramatic tragedy that leaves the reader gaped. The entire novella is simple up to the very last word. There’s no unnecessary use of extravagant plotting, which often bores the readers.

The narrative is brief yet imbues the audience with moral conflict, realization, and perception. There are no complicated relations between characters, and the readers can easily keep up with the story due to its simplicity and brevity. Beginner writers can gain a lot by studying the prose style Of Mice and Men.

Realistic Scenario

The book has become a universal literary staple in schools and colleges. These academic institutions continue to ask students to write essays and summaries of great books for their grades. Many reluctant to read, head to internet sources, and use the best assignment writing service for their assignments.

The pure influence and timelessness of ‘Of Mice and Men’ cannot be denied. The story creates a realistic background that readers of all generations will be able to identify with. Even though the Great Depression gradually subsidized, its rudiments of poverty, unemployment, and economic instability can still be observed.

This novel can teach new writers the fine line between realistic and unrealistic literature. The story delivers a believable scenario that doesn’t require any imagination. The words alone are sufficient to give that chilling realistic quality.

Character Identification

The characters' emotions, their struggles, and their actions set the tone for any novel. To learn how this happens, read Of Mice and Men. The trials that George Milton and Lennie Small go through in their friendship and intense descriptions of loneliness and hopelessness, all of these qualities evoke a strong reaction from the reader, who later finds himself/herself no different than the antagonist or protagonist of the story. To be able to communicate with your reader is essential for any good story. Hence, Of Mice and Men can give generous guidance.

Perspectives

Of Mice and Men has been applauded for sparking debates over many topics of interest. Humanism, loneliness, politics, misery, and society have been placed as analogies throughout the novella.

They are clear and subtle, and Steinbeck very carefully posits his views without disturbing the fantasy setting of the story. The book has been heavily criticized for its polarization, crude language. Yet it captivates hundreds of readers daily.

John Steinbeck’s ‘Of Mice and Men’ is the ultimate guide for perfect story writing. It doesn’t manage to grip its audience and leaves them at the edge of the seat. The novella is perfect for beginner writers who want to abandon their comfort zones and broaden their horizons.


Of Mice and Men

Steinbeck's story of George and Lennie's ambition of owning their own ranch, and the obstacles that stand in the way of that ambition, reveal the nature of dreams, dignity, loneliness, and sacrifice . Читать весь отзыв

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Об авторе (1994)

After marriage and a move to Pacific Grove, he published two California books, The Pastures of Heaven (1932) and To a God Unknown (1933), and worked on short stories later collected in The Long Valley (1938). Popular success and financial security came only with Tortilla Flat (1935), stories about Monterey’s paisanos. A ceaseless experimenter throughout his career, Steinbeck changed courses regularly. Three powerful novels of the late 1930s focused on the California laboring class: In Dubious Battle (1936), Of Mice and Men (1937), and the book considered by many his finest, The Grapes of Wrath (1939). The Grapes of Wrath won both the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize in 1939.

Early in the 1940s, Steinbeck became a filmmaker with The Forgotten Village (1941) and a serious student of marine biology with Sea of Cortez (1941). He devoted his services to the war, writing Bombs Away (1942) and the controversial play-novelette The Moon is Down (1942). Cannery Row (1945), The Wayward Bus (1948), another experimental drama, Burning Bright (1950), and The Log from the Sea of Cortez (1951) preceded publication of the monumental East of Eden (1952), an ambitious saga of the Salinas Valley and his own family’s history.

The last decades of his life were spent in New York City and Sag Harbor with his third wife, with whom he traveled widely. Later books include Sweet Thursday (1954), The Short Reign of Pippin IV: A Fabrication (1957), Once There Was a War (1958), The Winter of Our Discontent (1961), Travels with Charley in Search of America (1962), America and Americans (1966), and the posthumously published Journal of a Novel: The East of Eden Letters (1969), Viva Zapata! (1975), The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights (1976), and Working Days: The Journals of The Grapes of Wrath (1989).

Steinbeck received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1962, and, in 1964, he was presented with the United States Medal of Freedom by President Lyndon B. Johnson. Steinbeck died in New York in 1968. Today, more than thirty years after his death, he remains one of America's greatest writers and cultural figures.

Robert DeMott, editor, is the Edwin and Ruth Kennedy Distinguished Professor at Ohio State University and author of Steinbeck's Typewriter, an award-winning book of critical essays.


Prizes for Literature

Steinbeck won the Pulitzer Prize in 1940 for "The Grapes of Wrath," and a Nobel Prize for Literature in 1962, an award he did not think he deserved. The author was not alone in that thought many literary critics were also unhappy with the decision. In 2013, the Nobel Prize committee revealed that the author had been a "compromise choice," chosen from a "bad lot" where none of the authors stood out. Many believed that Steinbeck's best work was already behind him by the time he was chosen for the award others believed that the criticism of his win was politically motivated. The author's anti-capitalist slant to his stories made him unpopular with many. In spite of this, he is still considered one of America's greatest writers and his books are regularly taught in American and British schools.