Tag Archives: Oprah Winfrey

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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Old School Sundays: Alice Walker’s The Color Purple

I was ten when I first viewed the film starring Whoopi Goldberg, Danny Glover, and Oprah Winfrey. And, like the fact that Liesl’s virile, rosy-cheeked boyfriend, Rolf in the Sound of Music was actually a card-carrying Nazi, the complex thematic nature of The Color Purple went just a tad over my head.

Jesus Baez

Still,  something about the spiritual undertones (or perhaps overtones) that permeated the film appealed to me. I was moved by the characters’ struggles, and got lost in the ethereally spooky cinematography. I had no clue what I was watching, but I felt drawn to it, and viewed it many times over. One thing I could never understand, however, was the title. The color purple? What does this story have to do with…purple things? I couldn’t comprehend it. No one I asked could give me a straight answer.

And then four years ago I read the book. When I came across the following line, it all clicked into place:

In a letter to her sister Nettie, Celie describes a conversation she and Shug had about God.

Shug says:

“I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it” (Walker, 197).

The quote may have been expressed in the film; I honestly don’t remember. But it was the book…the words on the page…that brought it to life for me. I understood at once. How many natural elements in this world are purple? I’ve put this thought into practice. I notice a hearty bunch of daisies, a stark red cardinal in the midst of sparrows, a pond full of multicolored koi. It seems like a trite concept, but something about the way Walker puts it just knocks it dead. Brings it home. Maybe all we actually have to do is notice. Really notice.

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