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OF MICE AND MEN




Bookreport:

OF MICE AND MEN

Author: John Steinbeck. 1902 - 1968 

He is one of the most famous American authors of our century. Most of his books and plays were quite humorous and full of social criticism. His most famous books are "The Grapes of Wrath" and "Tortilla Flat". In 1962 he got the Nobel-prize for literature. 

Title: Of Mice and Men

Date of publication: 1966, by William Heinemann



Plot synopsis: Lennie and George are two farmhands. They travel through the country, working on farms. They travel together and take care of each other.

George is little but clever whereas Lenny is tall but stupid. They have a dream that keeps them alive. They want to have their own farm, with rabbits and cows. But whenever they seem to be doing fine, Lennie gets into truble. This time it seems as if their dream will become true, they have most of the money they need to buy a farm. But then Lennie gets into trouble and accidentally kills the owner´s son´s wife. George is afraid that the other men will kill Lennie if they find him, so he mercifully shoots him at the river where their journey started from.

Main characters:

Lennie: He is a big and strong but gentle man with the brain of a four-year-old child. He grew up in the same village as George. After his mother´s death he was living with his aunt. As she died he and George went to work on farms. Lennie´s dream is to look after the rabbits on the farm that he and George will buy some day. Lennie often gets into trouble because he does not know what to do and because he likes to touch soft things like mice. For example: George and Lennie are just walking along the street as Lennie takes something out of his pocket. "What have you just taken out of your pocket." George asked. Lennie held his closed hand away from George. "It is only a mouse, George. It´s dead. I didn´t kill it. I found it dead." "Give it to me," George said again. "Let me keep it. I like stroking it while we are walking along." (p 7)

As he wants to touch Curley´s wife´s dress she starts to cry, so he puts his hand on her mouth and neck and accidently kills her. Lennie is just touching Curley´s wife´s hair. "That´s nice," said Lennie, and he stroked harder. "Oh that ´s nice."  "Be careful, you´ll make it untidy," she repeated, and then she cried angrily, "Stop now.You´ll make my hair all untidy." She moved her head quickly and Lennie  grabbed her hair and held it tightly. "Let go!" she screamed. "Let go!" The girl screamed again, and Lennie put his other hand over her mouth and nose. "Please don ´t yell," he begged. "George will be angry.""I don´t want to hurt you ," he said, "but George will be angry if you yell." When she neither answered nor moved he bent down over her. He lifted her arm and let it drop. For a moment he seemed confused. Then he whispered if fear, "I´ve done a bad thing. I´ve done another bad thing."  (p 72 & 73)

George: He is Lennie´s best and only friend. George is clever and looks after Lennie because he promised it to Lennie´s aunt. He looks for work for them and tries to keep him out of trouble, which hardly ever works. He often keeps saying:"If I didn´t have you with me all the time, I could have an easier life." (p 10) He and Lennie want to buy a farm together. George often has to tell Lennie about the farm, because he enjoys hearing about it. At the end of the story George cannot help Lennie out of trouble anymore. So he has to kill him before the other men come and kill Lennie. George kills Lennie in the happiest moment of his life, telling him about their farm.

"Look across the river and try to imagine you can see the ranch."

Lennie obeyed him. George looked down at the pistol. "Go on, George," Lennie said once more. "When are we going to the ranch?" "We are going there soon." "You and I, together," said Lennie. "Yes together," said George. "Everybody will be kind to you. There won´t be any more trouble. Nobody will hurt anybody and nobody will steal anything from anybody." Lennie said, "I thought you were angry with me, George."

"No," said George, "I´m not angry now. That´s something I want you to understand." Now the men´s voices were very close. George listened to them and raised the pistol. "Let´s go to the ranch now," Lennie said. "Let´s get that ranch now." "Of course," said George. "We´ll do it now." George raised the pistol, held it steadily and pointed it at the back of Lennie´s head. His hand started to shake violently, but he knew that he had to do and his hand became steady again. He pulled the trigger. (p 83 & 84)

Curley:  He is the son of the owner of the ranch George and Lennie work at, but he acts as if he was the owner. He is small but nevertheless very strong and is looking for fights all the time. Some years ago he did some boxing. He can´t stand Lennie because he is so tall. Once Curley wants to beat Lennie up but the result is that Curley´s hand is broken. Lennie moved backwards until he was against the wall, and Curley followed, hitting him in the face again and again. Lennie´s hands remained at his sides; he was too frightened to defend himself. George stood up and yelled, "Get him, Lennie. Don ´t let him hit you!" Lennie took his hand away from his face and looked around for George, and Curley attacked his eyes. Lennie´s big face was covered with blood. "Get him!" George yelled again. Curley was just going to hit Lennie again when Lennie grabbed Curley´s fist. After a few seconds, Curley was struggling helplessly, and his closed fist was trapped in Lennie´s big hand. George ran across to them. "Let go of him, Lennie," he shouted. "Let go!" But Lennie was terrified now. He watched the struggling little man whom he held, and did not let go. Blood ran down Lennie´s face; one of his eyes was cut and closed. George slapped his face again and again, but Lennie still did not let go of Curley´s fist. Curley´s face went white and his struggling became weak. He started to cry, and his fist remained trapped in Lennie´s huge hand. Again George shouted, "Let go of his hand, Lennie. Let go! Slim come and help me." Suddenly Lennie let go of Curley´s fist and sank down against the wall. "You told me to get him, George," he said miserably. (p 50 & 51)  Curley has also problems with his wife, who is a slut. But as he sees that Lennie has killed his wife he gets angry and wants to hang him.



Curley´s wife:  She is a pretty young woman who flirts with every man she meets. She wants everybody to fall in love with her. She even tries to attract Lennie but he is too simple. While talking to Candy and Crooks she tells that she isn´t lucky to be married with Curley. "Of course I´ve got a husband," she said. "You´ve all seen him. What a husband! He spends all his time saying he´s going to hit someone. I have to stay in that little house and listen to Curley telling he is going to fight somebody." (p62)   She turned to Lennie. "I´m glad you hurt Curley," she said. "He deserves it. Sometimes I´d like to hit him myself." (p 66)

She says that she could have easily become a film star, a producer has told her so. Most of the men just believe that she is a whore. George looked at Lennie. "My god what a whore! So that ´s the woman Curley married." "She´s pretty," Lennie said. "Yes, and she likes everybody to see that," George replied. "Curley´s going to have a hard time with her. I bet she´d run away with any man who paid her twenty dollars." (p 26)

Slim: He works at the same farm as Lennie and George. He is a quite intelligent fellow, and whatever he says is right and has to be done. Curley believes that his wife and Slim are having an affair. There were footsteps behind her, going past the bunk-house. She turned her head and said, "Hello Slim." "Hello beautiful," Slim´s voice answered. "I´m trying to find Curley Slim," the girl continued. "Well you´re not trying very hard," Slim ´s voice came again. "I saw him going into your house." She suddenly seemed worried. "Goodbye, boys she called into the bunk-house, and hurried away." (p 26)

Candy:  He is the oldest man on the farm. A few years ago he lost his hand working with a machine. Now he is working as a room cleaner. He is an outsider just like Lennie and so they become friends. He wants to buy the farm together with George and Lennie, so that they can live together. He has an old dog that can hardly move. One day the other men go and kill his dog. Later he says:"I should have shot my dog myself. I shouldn´t have let a stranger shoot my dog." (p 49) This scene shows that he is afraid of the other men and also afraid of losing his job.

Charlton: He also works at the farm. He would like to be as important as Slim is, but nobody really respects him. He is the person who kills Candy´s dog.

Crooks: He is the only black man working on the farm. He has his own room, and keeps sitting there alone most of the time. He has got no friends, most of the workers do not know his name, they just call him nigger. He also wants to live together with George, Candy and Lennie, with whom he finally makes friends. He hesitated. ".if you..men.wanted somebody to come and work for nothing, I´d come and help you. I don ´t need money, only a bed and food. I´ve got an injured back, but I can still work very hard if I want to." (p 61)                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            He has an injured back and the pain he feels makes him angry and bitter. You notice this as Lennie enters his room. "You have no right to come here," Crooks said sharply. "This is my room. I´m the only one who´s got the right to come in." (p 55)




 

Interpretation: Although this wasn´t the best book I´ve ever read, it was the one with the best message behind it. Not just that one person looks after the other and tries to keep the other one out of trouble, which is real friendship, George´s care of his friend even leads to his killing him, even though he does not want to do that. Who knows what would have happened if the other men had caught Lennie. George tells Lennie the story he likes to listen to so much. It is the best thing that could have happened to Lennie. It could have only become worse. Lennie would have been treated like an animal and finally killed. I would also like to die like this.

But to me the title is more interesting. "Of Mice and Men". What did the author want to say with this expression? Who is a mouse and who is a man? To me Curley is one of those mice. Not just because he is so small. You don ´t know if he would have killed Lennie himself, and if he had done so, he would have just done it because of the other fellows. He ´s also a mouse because he wouldn ´t mind about killing somebody.

George however, is a man. He does something that only real men can do. Not just the fact that he kills his best friend makes him a man, there is something more. He looks after his friend even though he wouldn´t have so much trouble without him. He takes care of Lennie and helps him to survive. All the other characters like Candy and Charlton are more mice than men.

 

Personal comment: I really enjoyed reading this book. There were some strange expressions in it but after a few pages I understood everything. There were many themes in this book like the discrimination of negroes in the U.S.A.( "If I say something, the other men don´t listen because I´m just a nigger.  p 57) , mental illness and the American Dream of being successful and having a place of your own. The main theme, however, is friendship and the fact that also simple farmhands are capable of it.

 All in all, it was an interesting, sometimes funny, sometimes thrilling, story.

To me the funniest scene is the one at the beginning of the story, when George and Lennie are walking along the street. "George where are we going?" "Have you forgotten? Do I have to tell you again?" "I´m sorry, George." " I´ll tell you again. Now listen. Listen hard so that we don´t get into trouble. Do you remember when we got bus tickets and working cards from the agency in Soledad?" "Of course I do, George." Lennie put his hand into his coat pockets. Then he said, "George, I haven´t got my working card, I think I´ve lost it." "You fool, you never had your card. I´ve got it. Do you think I´ d give it to you and let you carry it.?" "I thought I put it in my pocket." "Do you remember where we are going now?" Lennie was embarrassed. He hid his face against his knees and said, "I´ve forgotten." "For God´s sake! Listen. We ´re going to work on a ranch."  Of course this scene isn ´t funny if Lennie was somebody I knew, but in this case it is.

If I could give this book a mark, it would be a 2-. 










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