Of Mice and Men


I read Of Mice and Men, written by John Steinbeck, upon recommendation of my father—he likes Steinbeck's writing style and owns a few of his works. I actually finished this book in early April but have been struggling to write this post. This is probably because I'm not quite sure what this book is about or how I feel about it. So this is me trying to figure that out.

First off, reading older literature that deals with racial issues on public transit is something I've previously been unacquainted with. It's not race that's the issue in particular, it's more about words that can't be said and topics that aren't talked about. Ideally, everyone is free to educate themselves and can consume whatever information they want when they're in a public space. In reality, doing so is sometimes uncomfortable and makes me self-conscious. Conversely, certain people are going to be offended by everything and anything and it doesn't seem right to let these people govern how I live my life.

This novel made me reconsider the importance of challenge in relationships. The book ends with Lennie being shot in the back of the head by his trusted friend George. This event is foreshadowed by the putting down of an old farm dog earlier in the story, shot in the exact same way. Lennie was as loyal to George as the dog was to its owner. When the burden of being Lennie's friend outweighs his loyalty, George does away with him.

I've personally thought about similarly structured relationships quite a bit. In contrast to Lenny and George, I've found that having friends who challenge me is both beneficial and fulfilling. It's never fun to be the only one with questions, and even worse to be the only one with answers. Since arriving at University I've met some really smart people. Sometimes I know more than them, other times they know more than me; we are equal. These relationships have pushed me much further than I thought I could go in terms of academics. That being said, on occasion I can be irritable and stop enjoying the competition and constant questioning; preferring solidarity over collaboration.

What's even more interesting is that in killing Lenny, George also kills his dream of escaping life as a serf. I think George knows this as well: while Lennie is constantly saying that he'll "go away" if George wants him to, the duo is inseparable until George finally ends it. While preparing to shoot Lennie, George describes their dream estate one last time, and guides Lennie to look out across the water to see it; George sees the land just as clearly as Lennie—he says his goodbyes:

Lennie begged, "Le's do it now. Le's get that place now."

"Sure, right now. I gotta. We gotta."

And George raised the gun and steadied it, and he brought the muzzle of it close to the back of Lennie's head. The hand shook violently, but his face set and his hand steadied. He pulled the trigger.

George will never be able to break out of his negative feedback loop without companionship. He is destined to spend the rest of his days working on someone else's farm, wasting all his money on whorehouses and booze. George needed Lennie to keep him sane. Perhaps it was only Lennie who was capable of doing this, as his simplicity allowed him endless attention for achieving his goal of "tending the rabbits"; while the others become jaded and complacent.

I think this book is hard for me to write about because it pulls me in so many different directions, but no direction strong enough that the words come easily. Thanks for the suggestion Dad.