First published back in 1937, US author John Steinbeck’s novel ‘Of Mice And Men’ is one of the key novels the author is perhaps best known for – alongside of course ‘The Grapes Of Wrath’ (1939).

The novel is the very essence of a literary classic, and as such, has been a mainstay on the school curriculum for a long time. Of course, its indisputable literary worth hasn’t prevented the novel from falling under repeated attack from the usual idiotic censors, particularly in the US.

Since its publication, the tale has seen a number of adaptations, from films and tv adaptations in 1939, 1968, 1981 and 1992, to stage performances and radio plays. 

DLS Synopsis:
Things hadn’t exactly worked out in the South California town of Weed for George Milton and Lennie Small. Lennie hadn’t meant to scare the young girl. There was never any malice in the things Lennie did. But Lennie was a simple man. The unkind would refer to him as mentally retarded. He struggled with remembering things and truly understanding the consequences of his actions. He was also a big old fella and really didn’t know his own strength.

So, one thing had led to another, and this young girl back in Weed had gotten scared when she misinterpreted Lennie’s intentions. That had put George and Lennie back on the road again, making their way South to the next working farm where they’d hopefully be able to take up more casual employment labouring in the fields.

It’s not long before the two companions end up at a ranch close to the town of Soledad, where the ranch boss sets them up to work in the fields. However, from early on, George can see the ranch has an undercurrent of tension bubbling away with the staff there. The main culprit for this is the boss’s son – a nasty, vindictive and downright spiteful individual named Curley.

George can see trouble brewing on the ranch. Curley’s young and pretty wife would undoubtedly be the catalyst for any such trouble. Her openly suggestive ways and Curley’s obvious mistrust for her intentions making a particularly dangerous cocktail.

George and Lennie just need to hang on for a month or so, long enough to make enough money so they can buy some land of their own. Somewhere where they can live off the land. They have a plan. A dream. They just need to hang on a little longer and their dream might just become reality…

DLS Review:
The best laid schemes of mice and men. If only everything in life turned out just how we hoped and dreamed it would! As you’ve probably guessed, that underlying ethos is a large part of the story, which you’ve no doubt surmised, ends in heart-wrenching tragedy.

This is a modern-day classic for good reason. It’s an important novel which tells a very important story. It’s a story packed with very real human emotions and the complexities of our inherent need to protect the innocent and vulnerable.

The novel is a very concise one. As you make your way through the book, there’s an overall feeling that every aspect has its purpose. There’s no padding, nothing added for no reason. And with this you start to pick up on much of the symbolism embedded within the text of the tale.

That said, the story just flows so effortlessly well. The writing, the prose, the narrative, the pacing – it’s all so beautifully tight that you can’t help but get swept along with the momentum of the piece. However, it’s the underlying human element that makes the novel what it is. Not necessarily the relevance and reflection of American history it invariably provides. Not the thought-provoking questions raised on social and societal constraints and the injustice of racial inequality. No, the beating heart within the tale is one about human loyalty, morality, companionship and our inbuilt need to protect one another.

For a relatively short novel there’s a fairly rich cast or characters. That said, only a handful are ever fleshed out enough to truly form a part of this human touch. The rest, such as Curley’s wife, or the boss, are just nameless props within the telling of the story.

There are elements in the story which punch you in the gut with the stark truth of historic matters, in particular that of race and the injustices that prevailed at the time. Set in the time of the Great Depression, the tale feeds off the poignant stresses of that time. This again, isn’t so much to relate in particular to that period in American history, but rather, it allows the tale to project a magnified viewpoint of the rawness of the human topics it toils with.

The story is undoubtedly designed to pull at your heartstrings, to engage with your raw emotions, to spark a connection with the reader deep down in an uncompromising base way. And damn does it succeed with this. It’s also there for you to enjoy at the same time as pondering the points raised. To engage with the story as much as you are carried along with the rhythm and flow of the tale.

It’s not surprising that that aspects of the story have been respectfully replicated in numerous novels since. The most notable example that instantly springs to mind is that of Stephen King’s much-loved novel ‘The Green Mile’ (1996).

The novel is one that I firmly believe everyone should read. It’s not a huge investment of time and can be read in just one or two sittings. But it’s one which will stick with you long after the last page is turned. The plight of the characters staying with you and what they represent to us all.

A true classic for damn good reason.

The novel runs for a total of 121 pages.

© DLS Reviews


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