Old School Sundays: John Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men”

A novella under one-hundred pages, Of Mice and Men is one of my all-time favorite classics. This is one of those stories where if, by the end, you don’t have an emotional reaction, I’ll venture to say there’s something wrong with you!

Furthermore, and it’s rare I’ll say this, but a fabulous film version exists. Directed by Gary Sinise (yes, Lieutenant Dan from Forrest Gump!), who also stars in the film as George, along with John Malkovich as Lennie, it captures the essence of the story without missing a beat.

What I imagine when I read ‘Of Mice and Men’
“Old Tractor”
j. l. johnson → in Automobile

My favorite scene from the story is when Lennie (who is mentally handicapped) stumbles upon Crooks, the ranch’s “stable buck,” a black, ostracized ranch hand who was kicked by a horse, and (as his name suggests) resulted in a crooked spine.

“Crooks said gently, ‘Maybe you can see now. You got George. You know he’s goin’ to come back. S’pose you didn’t have nobody. S’pose you couldn’t go into the bunkhouse and play rummy ’cause you was black. How’d you like that? S’pose you had to sit out here an’ read books. Books ain’t no good. A guy needs somebody–to be near him.’ He whined, ‘A guy goes nuts if he ain’t got nobody. Don’t make no difference who the guy is, long’s he’s with you. I tell ya,’ he cried, ‘I tell ya a guys gets too lonely an’ he gets sick'” (Steinbeck 66).

The story takes place in California during The Great Depression, so it’s clear why racial separation was taking place. What struck me about this scene is the fact that Crooks is reaching out to Lennie–a man who possesses the intelligence of a child. Lennie can’t fathom Crooks’ grief, but as he says, ‘Don’t make no difference who the guy is, long’s he’s with you.’

Loneliness is a quiet emotion. When we segregate, when we ostracize others–and it could be in a number of situations: school, work, family, etc.–we are rarely aware of the depth of pain we thrust onto the banished, the shunned, the exiled.

In fact, so quiet and non-intervening are the lonely, that we’re often surprised to find they have feelings at all. But in reality it’s true: ‘a guy gets too lonely and he gets sick.’

This is how literature teaches us.

*On a side note, today I came across a great link on Oprah’s website, that I’d like to share with all my hardworking, persevering, and aspiring writers:

10 Things That Should Never Stop You from Writing Your Story

See? It turns out we’re not alone after all 🙂

 

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17 Comments

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17 responses to “Old School Sundays: John Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men”

  1. That is one classic I’m happy to say I DID read. 🙂

    Thanks for that Oprah link. There are so many things that can make us doubt ourselves, aren’t there? It’s a wonder anyone ever finishes a book at all!

    • Ha! Glad you read this one! Wasn’t the Oprah link great? The part about the house cleaning totally applies to me. Now I have an excuse for forgetting to vacuum under the couch…I was writing, dammit!

  2. I did not know there was a film version of this story, and since I love Gary Sinise, I am adding this one to my Netflix queue!
    The Ten Things post could have been written just for me. I need to hear every single one of those points, the more often the better! Thanks for that.
    It is good to be in the company of others like us. 🙂

  3. I loved the film version with Sinise too. Also love what you say about loneliness and especially this – “we are rarely aware of the depth of pain we thrust onto the banished, the shunned, the exiled.” So true, and so heartbreaking.

  4. “Loneliness is a quiet emotion. When we segregate, when we ostracize others–and it could be in a number of situations: school, work, family, etc.–we are rarely aware of the depth of pain we thrust onto the banished, the shunned, the exiled.” A universal truth, captured in a novel, is a beautiful thing! You’ve summed it up so well here..

    • Thanks Terri. I love that quality about literature so much. It’s why I wish it didn’t remind so many paper of writing term papers and bad report cards…because there’s just so much in it about the human experience

  5. I like the “baby steps” mantra. Makes writing (and everything in life!) feel more manageable.

  6. I love Steinbeck, I’m reading “Travels with Charley” myself. I have heard a lot of people don’t like him as an author because he describes too much. I don’t get it, I believe it’s one thing to write detail and another to rant. Have you seen his Knights of the round table book ( i believe that’s the title) kind of seems out of place…

    • Hey Misfit Drifters! Thanks for stopping by. Steinbeck is wonderful. I loved “Cannery Row” as well. Never read “Travels with Charley.” I also loved a short story he wrote called “The Chrysanthemums.”

      I’ve heard that uses too much description as well. But he really doesn’t, exactly. Some passages here and there. I tend to think his stories roll along nicely.

  7. icittadiniprimaditutto

    Reblogged this on i cittadini prima di tutto and commented:
    Add your thoughts here… (optional)

  8. Good site you have here.. It’s difficult to find good quality writing like yours nowadays. I honestly appreciate people like you! Take care!!

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