Saturday, June 8, 2013

Classics: Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

Of Mice and Men is one of the tiniest books high school students may encounter during their journey through required reading, but quite a bit of meaning is crammed into those one hundred pages.

Protagonist George travels with a man named Lennie, who is mentally handicapped, as they look for work during the Great Depression. Though Lennie always means well, his disabilities often cause them to pack up and leave their jobs behind, for Lennie doesn't understand exactly how strong he is, nor does he understand how some of his actions could frighten others. But this time, George and Lennie hope to maintain their job long enough to get the money to have their own place, to fulfill the American Dream that no one else seems to be able to achieve. Unfortunately, between their initial circumstances and their new job, things may not go as planned.

While I read Of Mice and Men, I just had that awkward feeling in my gut that something was going to go horribly wrong. At every page turn, my conscience seemed to say "Wait for it... wait for it...!" And even though this book isn't very long, feeling that negative buildup put a damper on the reading experience. John Steinbeck basically gives away the theme immediately with the opening quote, leaving readers with the worst type of drawn-out dread.

The characters don't help in this department either. George was so harsh toward Lennie sometimes; it made me sad. But even the rest of the people on the ranch help set a melancholy mood, whether with general negativity or general hopelessness, which probably captures the Great Depression quite well.

So, John Steinbeck forces emotion upon readers (I even teared up at the end), accurately depicts a time period, and enforced a theme quite well. Surely nothing could be wrong with this book... And really, nothing is wrong with it. The only complaint I have concerning this novel is that it could've been beefed up and made more complex, and did I have to have the sense of impending doom the entire time? I can't help but wonder how this book could've been better. Of Mice and Men has so many good elements, especially in terms of meaning, and I wish that this book was written in a different way so that these positives could shine brighter.

Consequently, I'm not the biggest fan of this classic. Sure, I liked it in a general sense, but I think it could've been better if John Steinbeck expanded the plot a bit and made it more intricate. But no matter what, I feel that the dreadful sense that something wasn't going to end well would've been there no matter how much the plot was expanded.

As I summarize my thoughts, I suppose it's safe that in a nutshell, this book just wasn't my type, because even though I'm not crazy about this book, I didn't exactly dislike it, either. I'm torn; my feelings are so mixed between the content, the way everything was executed, why it was good, and personal preference.

In the end, I gave it 3/5 stars on Goodreads, and somehow I think that rating sums up my feelings towards Of Mice and Men.


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  2. After reading this, I was excited to read Steinbeck's "best" books, but it turned out I had already read it. Grapes of Wrath and East of Eden, while both quite good, were both a little bit too long. Of Mice and Men, on the other hand, is not a word too long or too short. It's a beautiful, short character study, and you will be better for reading it.

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