Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

of mice and menTitleOf Mice and Men

Author: John Steinbeck

ISBN: 9780140177398

Publication Date: 1937

Genre: (Adult) Realistic fiction

Reading Level/Interest Age: 15 and up

Plot: Two migrant workers (George and Lennie) are looking for work in California during the Great Depression period. George is knows the tricks of the trade for owning a farm and Lennie is an unusually large man who is mentally disabled, who George feels obligated to look after. Their dream is to own a farm with lots of animals, especially rabbits for Lennie to keep since he enjoys petting soft things. Both men agree to work on a menacing ranch with strict and mean employers, but they stay sane by thinking about their dream and within possible reach. Unfortunately, there are challenges that lie ahead for Lennie that George will not be able to protect him from.

Critical Evaluation: One literary element that should be noted is the theme of male friendship between Lennie and George. Throughout the entire book, there is a strong bond between the two until the very end. There is also irony within this story as well. The reader is constantly reminded that George feels obligated to protect Lennie from harm and in the very last moment it is ironic that in order to protect Lennie from the ranch owner, George kills Lennie himself. Another interesting point to make is that the story that George tells Lennie about them owning a farm is told in the very first chapter and in the very last chapter of the book. The reader can view this in a positive light in both instances even though the last chapter ends tragically.

Reader’s Annotation: Two men both sharing the same dream, but it can only be a dream for one of them.

Author: Retrieved from John Steinbeck’s biographical information on the nobelprize.org –

“John Steinbeck (1902-1968), born in Salinas, California, came from a family of moderate means. He worked his way through college at Stanford University but never graduated. In 1925 he went to New York, where he tried for a few years to establish himself as a free-lance writer, but he failed and returned to California. After publishing some novels and short stories, Steinbeck first became widely known with Tortilla Flat (1935), a series of humorous stories about Montereypaisanos.

Steinbeck’s novels can all be classified as social novels dealing with the economic problems of rural labour, but there is also a streak of worship of the soil in his books, which does not always agree with his matter-of-fact sociological approach. After the rough and earthy humour of Tortilla Flat, he moved on to more serious fiction, often aggressive in its social criticism, to In Dubious Battle (1936), which deals with the strikes of the migratory fruit pickers on California plantations. This was followed by Of Mice and Men (1937), the story of the imbecile giant Lennie, and a series of admirable short stories collected in the volume The Long Valley (1938). In 1939 he published what is considered his best work, The Grapes of Wrath, the story of Oklahoma tenant farmers who, unable to earn a living from the land, moved to California where they became migratory workers.

Among his later works should be mentioned East of Eden (1952), The Winter of Our Discontent (1961), and Travels with Charley (1962), a travelogue in which Steinbeck wrote about his impressions during a three-month tour in a truck that led him through forty American states. He died in New York City in 1968.”

Curriculum Ties:

  • Great Depression

Booktalking Ideas:

  • Do you think you would be able to pull the trigger on Lennie? If not, then what would you do instead?

Challenging Issues:

  • Profanity
  • Racism
  • Violence

Defensive Maneuvers:

  • I would be sure to study and memorize the library’s collection policy.
  • The Library Bill of Rights must also be brought to the challenger’s attention stating that the library is an information institution that provides both information and ideas.
  • Have both good and bad reviews (from respected sources) about the book at hand.
  • Remember to mention the awards and honors that the item has received.
  • Be sure to listen to the person who is challenging the book and do not interrupt them while they are speaking. Try to understand where the patron is coming from when he or she states their concerns about the material.
  • When you respond to the challenger, have a calm and respectable tone informing them that the library must do all that it can to provide intellectual freedom to its patrons, young and old.

Why This Book? Ever since high school, I have always been moved by this book. Even though it has a sad ending, I find it an amazing literary piece.


1 Comment

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One response to “Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

  1. Pingback: Good Morning, Steinbeck | Stories in 5 Minutes

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