A Book You Didn’t Think You’d Like, But Ended Up Loving
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
I read this book one day during my observation period of student teaching. Somehow this novella had escaped my attentions all through high school and college. I probably found it an unnecessary work to read, seeing as how I had already read The Grapes of Wrath and East of Eden and figured that was all there was to Steinbeck’s oeuvre. It only took me three hours to read this novella, yet it acted on me more powerfully than many great novels I have read. The story is basically this: two men–one an idiot man-child–get jobs in the attempt to gather enough money to purchase a plot of land for themselves where they will be self-sufficient. Simple enough, right? Well, if you know the old chestnut, “The best laid schemes of mice and men go oft awry,” then you’ll know that the story is going to turn out in a way that is anything but simple. I hate spoilers, so I won’t reveal what happens, but trust me, it’s pretty moving. However, I will discuss a few things about the story that made the story extraordinary.
Dialogue. For those of you who have trouble using dialogue in your stories (I include myself in this group most of the time), I strongly suggest you read this book, as most of the characters are depicted best through the ways in which they talk. The conversations between George and Lenny are so good and real that dialogue tags are rendered completely unnecessary.
Description. Though lots of the book occurs in scene, there are many places in which Steinbeck turns up the purple in the prose and blows you away with his ability to convey images and scene with just a few lines of description. As opposed to quite a few writers, Steinbeck uses just enough words to convey the essence, the bare bones of the setting, evoking it in a much different manner than other writers, such as Fitzgerald or Faulkner. Steinbeck was much more like Hemingway in his use of words and descriptions, but his prose could be purple when he wanted it to be. As long as those four authors have been alive, Fitzgerald has always been the recommended route to find the medium between Hemingway and Faulkner. I would like to plug Steinbeck’s name into that recommendation: For those who want more Faulkner than Hemingway, go for Fitzgerald; for those who want more Hemingway than Faulkner, go with Steinbeck.
The ending. Manly tears. I won’t go any further than that, but I have to say that if Steinbeck had to pay 1,000 dollars per death in this story, it would have been completely worth it. The ending fits so perfectly and links up with the very first scene of the story, reverberating through the whole thing. Highly recommended, this one.