Of Mice and Men, John Steinbeck
“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.”
(Of Mice and Men, John Steinbeck.)
Of Mice and Men, published in 1937, is a novella that takes place during the Great Depression in Central California. Our main characters, two migrant workers and close friends, Lennie and George, escaped from a farm together, because Lennie was accused of rape. Lennie is a very large man, who possesses great physical strength, but lacks mental abilities, with a strong desire to touch soft things. This desire and lack of mental abilities makes him also lack self-control. They are both fleeing from their previous job because Lennie was accused of attempted rape, due to his touching of a woman’s dress, and not letting go.
George and Lennie both dream of one day owning and settling down onto their own piece of land and as the novella progresses, the reader sees that George acts as a sort of father figure to Lennie, or a protector. Although they are an unlikely pair, they form a sort of family, and stick together. George is the brains of the two men: he makes the decisions, tells Lennie what to do, and makes plans for their future.
As George and Lennie continue to travel together looking for work, George realizes his problems because of Lennie’s inability to understand his strength and control his impulses. As George and Lennie continue to attempt to fulfill the “American Dream,” the reader comes to a powerful, climactic, and shocking ending. We must continue to teach this great American tale!
“Lennie said quietly, “It ain’t no lie. We’re gonna do it. Gonna get a little place an’ live on the fatta the lan’.”
(Of Mice and Men, John Steinbeck.)
Why has it been challenged or banned & why should we read it?
Of Mice and Men has a history of being banned, but it also has a history of being required reading in many schools. It was been censored for vulgarity, offensive and racist language, euthanasia, and being anti-business since the 1950s.
Of Mice and Men shows the lives of two men that make their way through the Great Depression by working on many different farms. Steinbeck beautifully crafted a story that contains language that is sometimes viewed as “offensive,” to accurately depict the language that was used by the general public, or “real people in the real language of the land.” This language is the common vernacular that accurately portrays the language spoken within the context of the novel and time period. By banning this book, students aren’t getting a real idea of relevant and accurate history.
This novella is one that will make young people think. Opinions need to be formed about the actions taken by certain characters and readers will question what they would do in these same situations and if that choice would be ethical or not. The novella teaches important life lessons that our young people must face. Friendship, determination, following our dreams, and being there for one another are important issues and life lessons that readers explore throughout the reading of this novella.
John Steinbeck was a Pulitzer Prize winning American author who wrote twenty-five books, including sixteen novels, six non-fiction books, and many collections of short stories. His work is both prolific and historically significant. Of Mice and Men should not be banned in any school or library today, but instead it should be taught and the themes, language, and content should be evaluated and studied today.
Read more about banning/challenges to this book:
John Steinbeck’s Nobel Prize Speech:
A Biography of John Steinbeck:
This book has been made into a movie!:
The Center for Steinbeck Studies – Teaching Resources for Steinbeck: