“Of Mice and Men” is a story written by John Steinbeck. I guess it is more of a short novel rather than a short story, but it should qualify for this. The characters – Lennie and George are wheat buckers and hire themselves out on farms to help out. Their dream is to one day have land of their own, a cottage where they can grow vegetables, collect and sell eggs and as Lennie puts it – “to feed rabbits”.
Highly controversial for its perceived promotion of euthanasia and anti-business vein and “vulgarity”shown by the conversations between the characters, it features in the American Library Association’s list of ‘The Most Challenged Books of 21st Century’.
The story itself is tragic, with the big dumb Lennie committing murder (without understanding what he was doing) and being shot by his friend who kills the big man out of love and mercy. Characters such as Slim – a silent strong farm hand, Curly – the owner’s son, Candy – an old man who wants to throw in his lot with George and Lennie and join them on the piece of land they plan to buy are well-developed in the story. Curly’s wife is referred to just in that term and is symbolic of the place of importance given to a woman in the 1930’s in a ranch as well as the danger she presented to Lennie. Symbolism is rife through out the story especially the treatment meted out to an old dog who was Candy’s companion. A black man who helps on the ranch is threatened by Curly’s wife and the threats as well as certain comments such as “you cannot enter a black man’s room” show the lack of freedom, justice or recognition given to any coloured ranch hand.
The story shows the dreams of these men and the impossibility of them escaping from the reality around.
It is heart-breaking to read and needless to say, I had to switch to a Calvin and Hobbes to lighten my mood. While I did not find an online version of the story, I would rate it around 3/5.
“S’pose you didn’t have nobody. S’pose you couldn’t go into the bunk house and play rummy ’cause you was black. How’d you like that? S’pose you had to sit out here an’ read books. Sure you could play horseshoes till it got dark, but then you got to read books. Books ain’t no good. A guy needs somebody – to be near him. 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, I tell ya a guy gets too lonely an’ he gets sick”