After long years of avoiding him, I finally managed to sum up my courage and read John Steinbeck. Now one may ask me why I had to “sum up the courage” to read Steinbeck books since they are not particularly difficult to read. It’s not the writing I feared to face, but the subject matter, for I’ve entertained a preconceived notion that the chosen subjects for his books were depressing. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Of Mice and Men, deriving its title from the poem “To a Mouse” by Robert Burns, tells us a tale of friendship, of shattered dreams, of loneliness, of not being belonging to any place, and of human nature. “The best laid schemes of mice and men often go awry, and leave us naught but grief and pain for promised joy” said Burns in his poem. And that is what happens to Lennie and George in Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men. George and Lennie dream of having their own land to cultivate and live free from “masters” ending their drifting lives. But their beautiful dream is shattered and their friendship is tested. And in the end, nothing is left but sadness and loneliness.
While telling his story, Steinbeck also exposes different sides of human nature. George’s and Lennie’s relationship shows the power of friendship. Despite being mentally handicapped and because of the very reason somewhat difficult to handle, George looks after Lennie without abandoning him. This power of love and compassion is not easily understood. Most of the coworkers in the ranch, even the boss, were cynical about it, making insinuations. But people like Slim and Candy understand and sympathize. Steinbeck shows that, while some men are cold, harsh, and bullying, there are still others who are warm, sensitive, and understanding.
The masterful descriptions of the setting bring the surrounding California landscape to life. Steinbeck, while glorifying nature, contrasts it with the gloomy human condition. The foreboding aura overshadowing George and Lennie is captured beautifully and is contrasted against the surrounding beauty of nature quite brilliantly. John Steinbeck is undoubtedly a gifted writer.
The only drawback for me was that I couldn’t fully feel the emotions it aroused. It was sensitive and touching, and the ending was heartbreaking. But for some queer reason, I just couldn’t rise to the emotions it generated, which was unfortunate.