Of Mice and Men

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck was published in 1937.  It's a story of migrant workers in California during the Great Depression.

The story opens with George and Lennie on their way to their next job on a ranch near Soledad, California.  They stop for a drink from a pool that may - or may not - be "good water".

Always his protector, George tells Lennie that it tastes all right, but it doesn't seem to be running. He tells him, "you never ought to drink water if it ain't running".

Lennie is a huge man with incredible strength, but "not bright", (as George puts it), and not aware of just how strong he actually is.

They are to arrive at the new ranch the following day, and George cautions Lennie to not get in trouble here like he did in Weed, where they last worked.  Lennie has already forgotten, so George tells him again what happened.

Lennie loves to pet soft things, whether it be a small animal, or a piece of cloth. He used to have mice to pet, but would kill them unintentionally. 

Now he wants rabbits, thinking they since they are bigger than mice, he won't pet them too hard, and they won't die.

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The trouble he got into in Weed was because of some pretty red fabric he touched.  The problem was that the pretty red fabric was a dress, and a girl was wearing it.  She was terrified, and screamed "rape".  Thanks to George, Lennie escaped being lynched.

Lennie remembers as George retells the story. Lennie says what he always says, that he meant no harm. George says he knows that, but he better not get in trouble again.

Lennie knows he's a good worker, as long as he's told what to do, but he can't remember things, and is entirely dependent on George.

George knows Lennie never means any harm, and is always sorry when he "does a bad thing", but George has to watch him constantly, and feels totally responsible for him.  Lennie's Aunt Clara, who raised him, is now dead, and Lennie has no one else to take care of him.

Both George and Lennie dream of getting enough money together to buy their own land. Lennie never tires of hearing George tell about how it will be for them when they have their own house, their own farm with their own crops.  Most of all, Lennie wants to hear about the rabbits he can keep and take care of.

That is, if he "don't get in no trouble". If Lennie gets in trouble again, George says, he won't let him tend the rabbits.

Lennie does his best to stay out of trouble. He really wants the rabbits, and to be able to take care of them himself.  But it's not to be, because Lennie is "not bright", and doesn't know his own strength.

Of Mice and Men is a sad and touching story of poverty, loneliness, hardship, and broken dreams.  It's also about friendship, caring, and compassion.

Of Mice and Men is one of the most challenged books of the 21st Century.

Reasons given for banning are profanity, racial slurs, and vulgar and offensive language.

Some also think the book portrays mentally challenged and disabled people in a negative way. Some believe it promotes euthanasia.

I think people need to remember this is a story of poor, uneducated migrant workers in the 1930s. The language and behavior seem realistic for the time, place, and circumstances.

Of Mice and Men has been adapted to film several times, the most recent version in 1992.

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