Hard as it might be to believe, John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men is part of the American Library Association’s “Most Challenged Books of the 21st Century” list. Way too often, small-minded people manage to wrangle just enough political power to do harm to those wiser than themselves, as is the case with those who strive to keep Of Mice and Men out of public and school libraries. They complain that the book is “anti-business” or that it condones euthanasia, or that it is filled with racial slurs and overtones. God bless their little hearts.
The book was written in 1936 and it is very much a reflection of its author and his times, a period during which men were often driven to wandering the country, taking whatever work they could get to sustain themselves for another day. Such was the case for George Milton and Lennie Small, two men who had known each other since childhood. George has always looked out for his friend Lennie because the huge Lennie is too slow-witted to take care of himself. George tells Lennie constantly how much easier his life would be without him having to worry about Lennie all the time but, truth be told, he would probably be lost without Lennie.
As the two approach the farm where they have found new work, George tells Lennie to keep his mouth closed, to let George do the talking until they have been accepted. And even though Lennie “forgets” to do so, they manage to become part of the harvesting crew. All goes well, and the crew bosses are especially impressed with Lennie’s strength and production, until Lennie starts to exhibit some of his peculiar ways. Lennie is a giant who has no real conception of his own strength, and he is a man prone to panic – a lethal combination in a man Lennie’s size.
|Author John Steinbeck|
Throw into the mix a previous misunderstanding between Lennie and a little girl that he and George are still running from, a batch of new puppies that Lennie too much loves to pet, and the boss’s pugnacious son and the son’s flirting wife, and you have all the makings of an inevitable tragedy. And happen, it does.
Steinbeck wrote Of Mice and Men with a stage production of the story always in mind. The book’s six chapters are grouped in pairs meant to be adaptable into a three-act play and, in fact, Of Mice and Men has enjoyed great success both on the stage and on the screen.
And there are still those out there who want to ban this wonderfully moving story. Unbelievable.