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Of Mice and Men

Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck, takes place on a ranch in the Salinas Valley of California, against the backdrop of the Great Depression. Steinbeck writes of two ordinary men trying to live the American Dream. Unfortunately they fail to fulfill those dreams.

Steinbeck opens the book by vividly painting a picture of the Salinas River Valley. Two traveling laborers, George Milton and Lennie Small, are on their way to a job at a Californian ranch. George decides that they were to stay the night along the Salinas River’s bank before reporting to work the next day. Over dinner George and Lennie discuss their plans. Through this conversation, Steinbeck reveals the contrasts between Lennie and George. Lennie is big and slow witted and George does the thinking for the pair. Lennie obeys George’s every word like a dog to his master’s commands. At this point in the book it becomes apparent that George and Lennie want to pursue the American Dream. Lennie asks George to tell him of their future home. It would be just George and him. They plan to have many orchards, pigs, cows, rabbits. They plan to live off the fat of the land.

The next morning the two friends travel to the ranch to obtain their work assignments. As the arrive at the ranch they are greeted by a man name Candy. He tells them of the ranch and its inhabitants. When interviewed by the boss, George answers all the questions. He even answers for Lennie. Due to this, the boss becomes suspicious. While in the bunk the Boss’ son Curly walks in looking for his father. Curly bullies Lennie, even though Curly is much smaller than him. George warns Lennie to stay away from him. At dinner, Slim introduces himself to George and is puzzled why they travel together. Later in the bunk George tells Slim about his life. He explains how Lennie likes to pet soft objects and how Lennie always gets them in trouble. George travels with Lennie because Lennie has nobody to look after him. George asks slim if Lennie could have one of his puppies. Lennie is ecstatic when Slim gives him a puppy. Curly’s wife walks into the bunk looking for her husband. All of the men in the bunk drop their heads, but Lennie stares at her. The men told her that Curly isn’t in the bunk. She leaves. George warns Lennie to stay away from her because she is trouble. Candy overhears George telling Lennie of their future farm and asks them about their future plans. At this point in the book it is apparent that Candy also wants to follow the American Dream. His dream is to live on their farm, hoe the garden, and wash the dishes for free.

Curly enters the bunk again and spots Lennie smiling. He thinks that Lennie is making fun of him, so Curly begins taunting and hitting Lennie. Lennie refuses to fight back until George gives him permission. Lennie catches Curly’s fist and begins to crush it. Lennie finally lets go of Curly’s hand. The others threaten Curly that if he doesn’t tell everyone that he got his hand caught in a machine that they would beat him up. They made this threat to prevent Lennie from being fired. The next day while the others are at a whorehouse, Lennie goes into the barn to pet his puppy. While in the barn he sees a light and goes towards it. Lennie enters the room of the black stable worker, named Crooks. At first Crooks objects to Lennie’s invasion of privacy, but Lennie’s good humor wins him over. Crooks explains the difficulties of being a black person on the ranch, and Lennie talks about his future farm. Candy enters the room and tells Lennie that he is going to put money towards the farm, Crooks asks to be included, too. At this point Crooks wants to be part of the American Dream.

The next day while the boys are playing horse shoes, Lennie is in the barn playing with his puppy. He handled the puppy too much and he broke the puppy’s neck. As he tries to hide the animal, Curly’s wife enters the barn. She talks to Lennie about her life dreams. She tries to seduce him. She too wants to be part of an American dream. When she learns that Lennie likes to touch soft objects, she invites him to touch her hair. At first he hesitates, but as usual he handles it too rough. Not knowing what to do, he panics and breaks her neck just like he did to the puppy. Lennie partially hides the body under hay and flees. Candy discovers the body and spreads the news. All of the men go after Lennie. They want to kill him. George on the other hand begs the other to lock Lennie up because he meant no harm.

The final scene occurs on the same riverbank, as where we first met George and Lennie. George sneaks up on Lennie and tells him of the their future farm. George tells Lennie to imagine that he is at the farm. Boooooom. George shoots Lennie in the back of the head.

Steinbeck wrote about ordinary people and their American Dreams. The dreams ranged from becoming a movie star with nice clothes (Curly’s wife’s dream) to owning a farm and being able to tend the rabbits (Lennie’s dream). The characters lived their lives believing that their American Dream would come true. Unfortunately, for Lennie and George their American Dream fell one week and one hundred dollars short. If Lennie stayed out of trouble for just one more week he would have earned enough money to live their American Dream.

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Word Count: 962

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