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Friday, 25 November 2016

Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck

Recently, my school encouraged my year level to read the American novel, Of Mice and Men. Although I felt like this book would be one of those "adult" book that I would have to battle through and get no pleasure of of reading; the effect this book had on me was different than expected. 
After a few weeks of hesitating to pick up Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck, I finally got myself to do it. As soon as the first page was turned, the world around me seemed to fade into blackness and the only thing that was taking place in that point in time was the story of two men. I was immediately sent through time to The Great Depression and settled in a ranch in the middle of nowhere in which Lennie and George, the two main characters in the novel, worked. 
This book truly changed my reading and the style of books that I enjoy reading most. Although when this novella was first written, it was probably not aimed at 14 year olds, it is a book that I would recommend to any teenager who is struggling to get through the "children's fiction phase", not that I don't like reading those books every once in a while. 
Since it did so much to me, I decided to share it with my readers in a form of a text response, something that I haven't done yet on my blog.

The first thing you should know before reading the text response are the characters, since if you are oblivious to their personalities, this entire post won't make any sense to you. 

Lennie Small A migrant worker who is mentally handicapped, large, and very strong. He depends on his friend George to give him advice and protect him in situations he does not understand. His enormous strength and his pleasure in petting soft animals are a dangerous combination. He shares the dream of owning a farm with George, but he does not understand the implications of that dream.
 Picture of Lennie (middle) and George (right)

George Milton A migrant worker who protects and cares for Lennie. George dreams of some day owning his own land, but he realizes the difficulty of making this dream come true. Lennie's friend, George gives the big man advice and tries to watch out for him, ultimately taking responsibility for not only his life but also his death.
Slim The the leader of the mule team whom everyone respects. Slim becomes an ally to George and helps protect Lennie when he gets in trouble with Curley. Slim has compassion and insight, and he understands George and Lennie's situation. He alone realizes, at the end of the novel, the reason for George's decision.
Candy Sometimes called "the swamper," he is a old handyman who lost his hand in a ranch accident and is kept on the payroll. Afraid that he will eventually be fired when he can no longer do his chores, he convinces George to let him join their dream of a farm because he can bring the necessary money to the scheme. He owns an old sheep dog that will become a symbol of Lennie before the novel ends.
Crooks The black stable worker who cares for the horses. A symbol of racial injustice, Crooks is isolated from the other hands because of his skin color. He also convinces Lennie to let him join their dream of land, but he must give up that dream.
Curley The son of the ranch owner, Curley is a mean little guy who picks fights with bigger guys like Lennie. He is recently married and extremely jealous of any man who looks at or talks with his wife. Lennie crushes his hand, earning Curley's future enmity.

Picture of Curley (far left), Candy (middle left), George (middle right) and Lennie (far right)

In Steinbeck’s novella, Of Mice And Men, many themes are discussed through the plot. One of the two most highlighted and talked about themes are loneliness and it’s opposite, friendship. Many of the character are caught in a life between both of these themes and Steinbeck explores their lives through it. There are three particularly interesting relationship in the novel that go through a lot of development. These three are the relationships between George and Lennie, Curley and Slim and lastly Crooks and Candy. All of these relationships are extremely different, but the one thing that they all have in common is that all of them include two male characters from the novel. 

George and Lennie’s friendship is the most heartwarming and heartbreaking relationship out of all the ones in the text. There is a certain quote that the reader see repeatedly in the novel that expresses their strong friendship very clearly, “Guys like us….. They got no family….. But not us”. This is George’s way of showing that their relation is much stronger that one of the ones you would find between any two men working on a ranch. They share more than just a work place. As it is pointed out within the quote, they consider each other family; then again, a very uncommon characteristic between men in those times. They are questioned a number of times throughout the story due to their relationship, since it is such an uncommon thing. The first time we see this is when we first meet the Boss. He questions weather he should give them the job because he believes that George is taking advantage of Lennie; he completely overlooks the idea they could have a close relationship and travelled together. Their relationship is so strong that it’s hard for many characters in the story to accept it aswel as understand it. This is obviously seen in the last quote of the novella, after out hearts are broken Carlson, one of the other ranch workers, simply can’t understand why two men would have a close friendship and how the death of one of them could possibly emotionally affect the other. Their relation is such a strong one that it is hard to for many of the other characters to comprehend it. 

Curley and Slim have a relationship made up purely out of the hate that they have for each other.  It is obvious that these two characters are different and don’t share many characteristics, if any ay all, but the ones that they do share cause even more tension between the two. Between Curley and Slim there never seems to be any peace due to the fact that they are both leaders of the workers at the same ranch. These positions cause rest of the ranch workers to look up at them or follow their actions. This is one of the reasons why there is so much conflict between the two and it is what causes their relationship to be such a bad one. The way people look at Slim as a leader is very different indeed to the way in which the workers look at Curley. This is due to their actions and behaviour. While Slim is a leader who gets along with everyone, gains his respect by respecting others and is often described as a man who “move(s) with majesty", while Curley gains his respect by putting other people down and showing them their place. Of course, this leads to a certain amount of jealousy from Curley towards Slim, since he could only wish of people naturally respecting him. The final reason why their relationship is such a bad one is because of Curley’s wife. Although she is married to Curley, she still makes it obvious that she wants Slim by flirting with him whenever she has the occasion to do so. This has a very negative effect on the way that Curley looks at Slim, since in his eyes, it is Slim who is trying to get Curley’s wife, rather than the other way around. Overall, these two men have a very different relationship with each other than George and Lennie. In the other workers eyes, this hateful relationship is more normal than the other one, which shows us that Steinbeck deeply explored the nature of relationships and specially those very different ones. 

The final pair of characters who shared a very unique relationship are Candy and Crooks. These two characters share many characteristics, although none are physical, the reader is easily able to see how similar they are and what a large amount of resemblance they have with one another. When we first meet Crooks, it is easy to tell that he is isolated from the community. Nevertheless, as the reader moves forward in the story, it is clear to tell that Candy struggles through the same thing. They are the two characters that show the reader the true meaning of true loneliness and the affects of it. This is one of the strongest aspects of their relationship. They both suffer of isolation, although they could support each other, as Candy point out in the quote “I been here a  long time…. never been in his room”. The relationship between these two characters is a special one in a way, because it’s nor full of hatred nor love. Although there are things that they don’t like about each other, for example Crook’s disliking white people, they are still able to understand each other and their situations. While their relationship isn’t as close as George and Lennie's it still isn’t as distant as the one between Slim and Curley is. Their relationship is exactly what you would expect to find between any two individual worker, yet there is a certain amount of understanding that they share with one another that isn’t seen between any other two characters in the novella. Their friendship is one of the oddest yet most intriguing of the Steinbeck novel. It shares the unusual way in which to two people can fall into each others arms because they don’t have anyone else, and this ending up being one of the only things that would keep them going. 

Relationships in the novella Of Mice and Men vary from hateful ones, to ones full of care, and everything in between. The way in which Steinbeck is able to express these different types of relationships is an amazing one since they all share unique relationships, even though the main theme is the novel is isolation. 

Thanks so reading! More Of Mice and Men details and reviews will come up soon as well as a new number of books!!

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