Being forced to read a book in school for novel study and reading a book for fun is certainly different isn’t it? This was definitely the case for me when reading Of Mice and Men again, this time as an adult with no obligation to do so.
Of Mice and Men centre around two main characters, Lennie and George. Both are young men trying to make a living in the world bayling hay and finding work wherever they can. They are constantly bouncing from job to job because Lennie is always getting into trouble. Lennie claims it’s never his fault and certainly he never means it, but “he isn’t very bright” and basically acts like a kid. Only he is a little kid in a big, grown man’s body.
Here in the 21st century we have all these fancy diagnostic labels for someone like Lennie: FAS, learn disability, and so on, but when this book was written – early 1900s – none of those existed. Back then someone like Lennie was simply seen as not very bright.
An overwhelming theme in Of Mice and Men is that of loneliness. All the characters in this book are lonely, except Lennie and George. Every time Lennie gets in trouble, George goes on about how he would be better off if he didn’t have Lennie to take care of. This of course isn’t true. George would become just as lonely as the rest of the characters in the book.
Now for the fun part: what does the title Of Mice and Men mean? I’m sure everyone has their own interpretation. Personally I think it shows the parallelism of the two species, mice and men. Men, as big and complicated as they seem, are at heart simpletons like mice. Lennie is a clear example of this. All he wants to do is follow his dream.
Here is a little excerpt from a poem that gave this story it’s title written by Robert Burn:
The best laid schemes o’ mice and men
Gang aft agley [often go wrong]
And leave us nought but grief and pain
For promised joy!
Must read for all.