Saturday, June 14, 2008

Of Mice and Men


I've never been an ardent fan of American literature. I  prefer historical novels set in England, Ireland, France, etc. But American Lit...never compelled me. But I also felt I was missing something. When my son asked me earlier this school year if I'd read any Faulkner I mumbled ashamedly, Ah, No. So I now feel compelled to catch up on my American Lit and read Of Mice and Men. 

Has any book ever written began in such a way as to communicate, "this will not end well"? Of Mice and Men fits the bill. Not two paragraphs into this story and I knew, this is not going to have a happy ending. I was right. I'd never so the cinematic versions of this story so don't chalk it up to that. Steinbeck just leads the reader in such a way that you know George and Lennie (two migrant workers trying to earn enough to buy that 10-acres of paradise to raise chickens and only take care of themselves) are headed to trouble. 

The ranch they end up at isn't a happy place either, filled with misfits in dire need of attention, craving relationship, all speaking but not listening to one another. It's a short read yet Steinbeck seems to dig well into the character development. In those brief pages you, the reader, begin to sympathize and perhaps empathize with Slim, Curly, Curly's wife or Candy.

You know what's going to happen before it happens. You just know! And because of that you hesitate to turn the page, not wanting to witness the sorrow, but like a tragic automobile accident, you don't want to stare, out of respect, but your curiosity gets the best of you and you read on. Perhaps the tragedy of the story overshadows any sadness in the reader's reality and their life becomes less tragic when viewed in light of George and Lennie's. I don't know. Perhaps I'm trying to read too much into this but this is the kind of story you have to stop after reading, and discuss. You can't move forward, you can't forget it, you can't let the sadness fade away. You have to embrace it, accept it, and almost by necessity, compare it to your reality. I stepped away from this story grateful for my family, my circumstances. I am blessed. 

2 comments:

SmallWorld Reads said...

Such an amazing book. The movie starring Gary Sinise and John Malkovich is also excellent.

Viola said...

Barb,
I have not read the book but saw the movie which for me was partly a funny story. (Not the movie the event) A friend asked me to go with her as we sat down she said I hate movies that end badly. I just looked at her because I knew then that she had not read any Steinbeck. She didn't, of course, like the movie at all.

Steinbeck does leave one counting their blessings.

I'm more of a Faulkner person myself. I like Southern writers. Although he doesn't have happy endings either.