So….this is my face after finishing Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck.
That was some blank space so that I could collect my thoughts. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck is, without a doubt, the best book I’ve ever read. Alena asked how I made it through high school without reading it and now I wonder what in the hell my high school english teachers were doing to keep this masterpiece from me. This is the kind of book that makes kids want to read again. It’s under 110 pages, it has complex characters and you cry at the end. And believe me, I don’t cry after books. This is only the second time, freak occurrence. Thus, it had to be documented.
I just want to read it again immediately.
Lennie is my favorite book character of all time. Lennie is the gentle giant of the story. He has a love of soft things to go with the sweet yeast folds that surround his heart. I just want to cuddle him. I think it’s safe to say that this is a story of special needs before special needs were even allowed to be in the daylight of our culture. I don’t really want to go further into that though because you really need to read the story to discover for yourself how expansive these characters are. In a simple page they span whole childhoods, whole ideals that people have about the society they live in. Even Curley’s wife, (who is never named by the way – strange fact. Plus, she’s the only woman in the entire story), is explained instantly when she starts talking about being a movie star, moving far away and waiting on letters in a home where her mother was always telling her you’re too young. She was too fresh, in my opinion. In my mind, she’s the perfection of “farm girl;” rosy cheeks, pale legs, leaning over the barn rails where horses are stamping and chewing hay against their large white teeth.
This is what happens when you’re too close to a book. You can’t make any sense of what you’re writing and there’s no organization.
Lennie and George are the main characters, if you can call them that. Really, every character is a main character. I’m most in debt to Lennie and Candy. Candy is the old man in your life that just wants to be better than what he is. Just wants that little dash of life, at the end of a long life, where he can still hope and still succeed. He’s handicapped like most of the characters. I think this was written in the beginning of the grotesque, which happens to go along with the rage of the circus and circus freaks. I’ve been finding these themes a lot with my 9th grade reading material – Truman Capote’s, “A Christmas Memory,” is a prime example of the beginning of grotesque. Flannery O’Connor must have just been the train that made it to the station. This has almost nothing to do with anything except the teacher in me is coming out. However, grotesque is a wonderful sub-genre in our literary world and it has been roaring since the 1930’s when unimaginable things were happening to the US economy and grotesque was an outlet of sorts for writers.
While grotesque doesn’t play a huge role in Of Mice and Men, it does play a quiet role when you know that most of the people in your story are somehow “less than normal.” Everyone has imperfections (every human) and everyone is trying desperately to make themselves a “complete image” that isn’t actually possible. I think that’s what makes this story so heart-warming and generous. In a barrel of a man, hunched in a corner – whether he’s hunched because he’s black and that’s unacceptable, or he’s “slow” and that’s unacceptable, or he’s old and that’s unacceptable – we can find some connection to these imperfections. Earlier today I watched the season finale of Miss Advised. I have an odd obsession with reality television that doesn’t go at all with my normal nature as a person. On it, Julia said that she needs to embrace her imperfections because you can’t put on this mask of perfection and expect people to think that you’re authentic. I think, in a society where perfection is measured by the number 10 on a scale of 1 to 10, a point scale, Of Mice and Men is the best novel.
This is the novel that reminds us we’re still golden when we’re broken. We’re all in a land of misfit toys.
This is the novel of the “American Dream.” It comes just ten years after The Great Gatsby which is this story of excess and secrets and life before The Great Depression. Of Mice and Men was published in 1937 which was the year that started The Great Depression. Therefore, it’s a novel of the working man, going month to month and traveling the West hoping to literally strike gold. This is the story about dreams that are never coming, but always talked about. It’s about stories and traveling and hopes even when you’re unwanted, broken, torn, less-than ideal, or just used-up in the eyes of those above you, those telling you what dreams are acceptable to you. It’s really the epitome of American culture and American dreams where someone is constantly telling you no and you’re constantly fantasizing about the yes at the end, the rabbits and the alfalfa sprouts.
When Candy is lying silent and facing the wall (after something that shall not be named for fear of ruining the plot), I wanted to curl up in my bed and crumple like a dead leaf. All I could think about was that moment in Old Yeller when the boy realizes he has to shoot the dog. To this day, I can’t watch that movie. Then, Lennie with his big hands and pocket mouse. His friendship with George is one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen unfold in my entire life. One of my friends said that she didn’t like this book because George is always mean to Lennie. WHERE ARE YOU, SISTER. YOU’RE MISSING THE POINT.
Lennie is George’s whole world.
I could go on and on. I just want to take this book and swallow it, gather it up whenever I need a moment of quiet prayer. Beautiful beyond anything I could say on this blog and in less than 110 pages, Steinbeck has created this world that so mirrors our own that if we just tapped the glass once it would shatter like an egg shell going yellow in yolk.
I am a writer, educator and genuine creative living on the coast of NC. Our house is built on sunshine with my husband BJ, dog named Tucker, and our two very sassy cats: Fromage and Jasper.