“Of Mice and Men” Novel Critique When one is rendered helpless by one’s seemingly unchangeable situation, even

if one is at one’s weakest point in life, it is human nature that one would still seek to destroy those who are even weaker than oneself. This statement is proved in the story written by John Steinbeck in his famous novel Of Mice and Men, criticizing the many evils of our vulnerable human nature. A thought-provoking novel written in simple words, Of Mice and Men has tagged a list of common moral issues such as human aggression, competitiveness, loneliness, lost dreams, and conditional friendship. However, not everything that he addressed was reasonable, for his judgment on the nature of women—their tendency to cause trouble—was absolutely biased. The touching novel Of Mice and Men is named after a poem called in a 1785 poem "To a Mouse" by Robert Burns, and the story formally begins with Lennie Small and George Milton journeying, near the arrival of a ranch nearby at Soledad, California, for they had been chased out of another town known as Weed. George was “small and quick, dark of face, with restless eyes and sharp, strong features” while Lennie was “a huge man, shapeless of face, with large, pale eyes, and with wide, sloping shoulders.” (Steinbeck 4) The problem with Lennie was, however, that he “like[s] to pet nice things” (87) and it is because of this that George and Lennie had to flee from Weed up north when he was accused of having molested a young girl by grasping onto her skirt. To innocent Lennie, he was only trying to pet the girl’s dress but instead appeared to the mentally matured crowd, he was a perverted molester. Readers begin to learn about the characterizations of George and Lennie near a stream, when George warned Lennie to stay quiet in order to avoid trouble. Soon, their ultimate dream is revealed about themselves owning their very own farm, and having control over their very own lives, which is something that all human attempt to achieve but in the end nobody in this world can have total control of their life. Human’s strive for perfection and dreams of the impossible is very much portrayed in details as

George and Lennie talked excitedly about their future, with Lennie “threatening the future cats which might dare to disturb the future rabbits.” (57) At that time, it was rare for people like Lennie and George to stick together when they have no real blood-relationships, because “Guys…that work on ranches, are the loneliest guys in the world. They got no family. They don’t belong no place. They come to a ranch an’ work up a stake and then they go inta town and low their stake, and the first thing you know they’re poundin’ their tail on some other ranch. They ain’t got nothing to look ahead to.” (15) Nevertheless, Lennie knew “‘But not us! An’ why? Because…because I got you to look after me, and you got me to look after you, and that’s why,’” which was a wonder to the ranch people and with their low morality, the boss had even accused George of having something up his sleeves as he defended Lennie and always spoke for him. (15) Psychologically, one can infer from the novel that people judge others’ actions according to the level of morality demonstrated in their own actions, and one who is most cautious against others might not show it but these type of people probably does the worst things themselves. Soon after George and Lennie’s conversation at the stream back in the country, they finally arrived at the ranch the next morning, with a four mile long walk even after taking the bus. There they met Candy, the Boss, the boss’ son Curley, Curley's wife, Slim, Carlson and a few other ranch hands. Their very first night there turned out to be very eventful and meaningful to the story as a whole as the worker Carlson tries to convince the injured old ranch hand Candy to have his old dog shot at the back of its neck as to end the old dog’s misery, but he knew well that he really just wanted it to stop making the bunkhouse smell horrible from the dog. Again, Steinbeck criticized human nature, because people tend to give themselves false excuses on crimes that they committed for self-interest. By killing the dog, Carlson said he wanted to relieve the dog of its pain now but in fact, the dog never denied its rights to live on and Candy

have had that dog since it was a puppy, so the fact that Carlson neglected others feelings as he do what’s best for himself mocked people in real life, for human beings are often selfish. Man commit crimes and gives themselves lame excuses that they know is untrue and yet gain relieve from it and live on as an upright man. This point was again proved when other so-called “wise” individuals submitted to this idea. When the wise man Slim—whose words are always final—gave no defense for Candy on the issue, Candy knew that he had lost so he respected Slim’s decision, even though everybody can see the heart-piercing moroseness in Slim’s eyes. Here we see the selfishness of men, even in the greatest man in the ranch, whom everybody respects, but who had also done the same thing as the self-centered Carlson. Moreover, Steinbeck showed the weakness of human beings in not being able to defend their very own belief and to save their love ones from being killed, that Candy would actually allow Carlson to kill a dog that he had raised since it was a puppy. Most importantly, Candy had told George afterwards “I ought to of shot that dog myself, George. I shouldn’t ought to of let no stranger shoot my dog,” which would be something that Candy cannot change and that he would be regretting his entire life. (60) People often make mistakes that they would regret their entire life, for their lack of appreciation in things that they take for granted everyday, in most cases—one’s parents—which we take for granted everyday and fail to appreciate their patience and the work and problems that they had took on for one’s sake. The next character introduced into the story is the boss’ son Curley, a “thin young man with a brown face, with brown eyes and a head of tightly curled hair,” who was looking for his wife. (25) A man with great pride as he was, he almost gets into a fight with Slim, but knowing that Slim was at the advantage for his status, had instead resorted to attacking Lennie, because he despised him for his size, something that Curley himself is not. At first the mentally and emotionally weak Lennie did not know how to defend himself, but at the urge of George and his

own anger, he grasped onto Curley's hand, crushing his bones. Then, Curley had agreed to pretend he got it caught in a machine so he would not be embarrassed by his dirty action as he picked on the simple-minded Lennie and bullied him but was at the end, himself beaten up, and thereby also carried to the doctor. The fact that Curley bullied a man thrice his size with confident was not surprising, because Lennie was innocent and simple-minded. Yet, this revealed another human nature, also the main theme of the novel, that when one is rendered helpless by one’s seemingly unchangeable situation, even if one is at one’s weakest point in life, one would still seek to destroy those who are even weaker than oneself. This is not only proved here as Curley bullied Lennie to feel superior but the fact that Lennie himself kills the mice that his Aunt Clara use to give him as he pet them too hard is also a demonstration of a weak force injuring another weak force, and Lennie himself had no sense that he was at fault for killing them, for he said, “I’d pet ’em, and pretty soon they bit my fingers and I pinched their heads a little and then they was dead—because they was so little.” (11) Unnoticeably, even Lennie had destroyed the weak mouse with his own innocence for his love to pet soft things, and providing himself with the reason that the mouse died because they were so little, which was completely unreasonable for the mouse would not even have been injured if he did not touch them for his own interest. Next in line comes the theme that all man shares a common dream, a dream that is almost always impossible to reach only one’s power. When the injured old man Candy heard of George and Lennie's dream to eventually buy and cultivate their own farm, he offered the majority of the cost necessarily needed in exchange for his residence there until death after he retires, as he will probably soon be fired for he has lost his hand and had become old. This is an example of how cold man can be to each other despite long friendships. Also, at this point their shared dream suddenly appeared much more accessible, and all three men became increasingly excited. It

seems like it would not be long until they can actually “‘…live off the fatta the lan’” (15) Still cannot get over his excitement, Lennie childishly stumbled into Crooks' room and was at first told to leave immediately, but Crook decided to tell Lennie—who seemed willing to listen—to his terrible life as a black man. When Candy joined them in the conversation, Crooks too mentioned that he may help on the new farm but the mood changed when meeting was rudely interrupted by Curley’s wife along with a threat directed at Crooks, thus reminding him of his place in society. To enlarge the story of Steinbeck into our real life scale problems, Lennie would represent those who do not really see a great difference between people of different origin while Candy is just those that notices the differences between people but did not show his despise of them in public, while Curley’s wife is the straightforward person who notices the difference and with pride in her origin, had resorted to criticizing others who are not born into a category as good as they, which is where the majority of the people in the world stands. After criticizing all the common evils of human nature, Steinbeck ended the story most sadly, on the third day working at the ranch. The first two days were extensive and well described as each event that took place will eventually lead to the last—on the third day—that would occurred at the ranch involving George and Lennie. The third day was a day off and most of the workers were obsessively engaged in a horseshoe tournament. Everything went well until Lennie, who was playing with the puppy he got from Slim, had unintentionally killed it. In fear of George’s anger toward him, he froze and Curley's wife happened to find him there, and had begun a conversation with him about how she “like to feel silk an’ velvet,” (87) and that she was amused that Lennie is “a kinda nice fella. Jus’ like a big baby.” (88) She even let Lennie feel the softest part to her hair, she becomes frightened, and as he tried to stop her from screaming, he accidentally broke her neck and thus killed her, another proof to Lennie’s excuse of innocence and his love for petting soft things, which led to harm of others around him. Immediately after the murder, Lennie ran back to the stream

introduced in the first scene of the novel where George had previously indicated for him to hide in for the time being in case of trouble. The truth did not take much thinking either, for when Candy discovered the body and told George, they both knew that Lennie must be related to this somehow and that he will not be able to run away this time because the rest of the crew of ranch hands were told of Curley's wife's death and had spread out in order to find Lennie and kill him at the spot for it was said that he had stole Carlson’s pistol. With Curley’s wife’s death, the dream of Candy, George, and Lennie had also perished, turning it into something that is distinct and only good as an ultimate goal to look forward to again. George, knowing exactly where Lennie would have to be, had gone straight to the bushes, found and calmed him, reassuring that they can still have their own farm and as Lennie excitedly talked about the rabbits. Then, the most devastating part of the story has occurred, enlarging the reality in life, when one is often forced to do things under certain circumstances that one is most unwilling to do, it can be extremely damaging mentally and emotionally event that will scar one forever. Seeing no alternative options to prevent Lennie’s painful death under anyone else from the ranch that might later capture Lennie, George had took the pistol himself and pulled the trigger on Lennie, exactly as Carlson described, to let Lennie die a painless death. From this point on, one can infer that George can never and will never get over killing somebody so close to him but it was really out of good intention, the best form of human nature shown by Steinbeck in this story. Even though the novel had shown much brilliance in its description of the evils in human nature, Steinbeck did have some bias against women as he expressed his feelings through George’s words, telling Lennie “Don’t you even take a look at that bitch. I don’t care what she says and what she does. I seem ’em poison before, but I never seen no piece of jail bait worse than her. You leave her be.” (31) George had blamed everything that happened on the females,

who are naturally trouble-causing, for they were first forced to run away from Weed because Lennie had grasped onto a girl’s skirt and he ended up dying because he had killed “a tart,” or a hooker, Curley’s wife. (28) However, Steinbeck might also be purposely using these bias to show how people tend to blame everything that happen to them on somebody else, causing unnecessary conflicts all over the world. To be brief, Steinbeck had written this novel to criticize the many evils of human nature, successfully tagging the self-centered, selfish, weak, lonely, aggressive, decisive and indecisive men, also the many weaknesses of men and their vulnerable friendship. Even though at some point, Steinbeck’s views seem to be quite biased and unpleasant, as a reader, however, one can never deny Steinbeck’s intelligence and his ability to reveal the most inner feelings of human beings. Soon after it was published, it gained a wide range of audience and has become largely famous amongst the Americans. Most readers of this novel had felt sad after reading it because of Lennie’s death at the end, and Steinbeck never failed to create this feeling for the readers, which was really significant as well.

In reference to the book by Steinbeck: Steinbeck, John. Of mice and men. New York: Covici-Friede, 1937.