John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men is revered as one of the greatest classic pieces of American literature. Because of this, oftentimes it is studied in high school English classes.
Of Mice and Men is a short fiction novel written from a naturalistic worldview about two men that travel together named George and Lenny. Lenny is mentally handicapped, and George takes care of him and desperately tries to keep him out of trouble.
At the beginning of the book, the two friends are going to their new jobs on a farm; they had to run away from their old town because Lenny innocently grabbed a woman’s dress, and she told the police he assaulted her. George tells Lenny about a dream farm that one day they could own and live off the land. George promises Lenny that if he is good, he will get to tend to the rabbits. Lenny’s desire to tend the rabbits keeps him trying to stay out of trouble. George also tells Lenny to hide in the bushes in the forest if he does get into trouble.
When they arrive at their new job, some of their coworkers are suspicious of their ambiguous past, and the farm owner’s son, Curly, is intimidated by Lenny’s large stature. Curly is known around the farm for having ‘little man’s syndrome. The farm owner, however, likes Lenny for his large stature; he can do the work of two men.
Later Curly’s wife, referred to by the men as a “tart,” or “jailbait,” has an eye out for Lenny, and Curly picks a fight with him. At first, Lenny doesn’t fight back because he is afraid of getting in trouble and not getting to tend to the rabbits, but after George yells at him to fight back, Lenny crushes Curly’s hand. The men convince Curly to lie and say he crushed his hand in a farm machine so that he does not seem foolish for starting and losing a fight to Lenny. They take him to the hospital, and from then on Curly has a vengeance for Lenny.
When Lenny accidentally gets into trouble again, Curly is the first one to offer to find and kill him. The men go in a search party to find Lenny, but he is hidden in the bushes like George told him to. The ending is a major plot twist that will leave you dismayed and devastated.
The book is inspired by Robert Burns’ famous Irish poem, “To a Mouse.” In the book, Lenny keeps a dead mouse in his pocket to pet because he likes to pet soft things, and in the poem, a man is speaking to a mouse about how the mouse’s ignorance to misfortune is fortunate. In both the poem and book, life as the characters know it is turned upside down.