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