He studied at college at Stanford University but never graduated. Steinbeck first became widely known with Tortilla Flat (1935), a series of humorous stories about Monterey paisanos. Steinbeck's novels can all be classified as social novels dealing with the economic problems of rural labour. In Dubious Battle (1936), which deals with the strikes of the migratory fruit pickers on California plantations. This was followed by Of Mice and Men (1937), the story of the imbecile giant Lennie, and a series of admirable short stories collected in the volume The Long Valley (1938). In 1939 he published what is considered his best work, The Grapes of Wrath, the story of Oklahoma tenant farmers who, unable to earn a living from the land, moved to California where they became migratory workers.
Among his later works should be mentioned East of Eden (1952), The Winter of Our Discontent (1961), and Travels with Charley (1962), a travelogue in which Steinbeck wrote about his impressions during a three-month tour in a truck that led him through forty American states. He died in New York City in 1968.
Of Mice and Man
Plot and structure:
Structured in three acts of two chapters each, it is intended to be both a novella and a script for a play. He wanted to write a novel that could be played from its lines, or a play that could be read like a novel.
Lennie and George come to the ranch in California to work. Lennie isn’t allowed to say a word otherwise they probably wouldn’t get the job. Curley hates Lennie from the first moment just because he is bigger than Curley. Carlson and Slim persuade Candy to let his dog go/ die. Carlson shoots the dog. Slim´s bitch has puppies. Slim promises Lennie one pup- so he can pet it. Candy offers his money to G+ L and in return he asks to set up their farm together. Fight between Lennie and Curley. Lennie didn’t want to fight he was just imaging the future and smiling which made Curley mad and he started beating Lennie up. Men took Curley to the town. Lennie went to the barn to have a look on his pup. He saw a light. Old negro Crooks was in his room. They talked about things- memories of Crooks from childhood, supposing that George wouldn’t come back from the town. Candy comes to the barn and he and Lennie are laughed at by Crooks who believes they will never get their own land. Curley´s wife comes as well and frightens Crook. Some time after that, men are working. There’s only Lennie in the barn. He just stroke his puppy. Curley´s wife comes and talks about her past/ even though Lennie is forbidden to be with her, he doesn’t leave so she speaks/. He tells her about his passion. She lets him stroke her hair but he strokes her too hard. She starts yelling. He strangles her. Only now he realizes what has happened. He remembers that George told him to hide in the brush till he comes. Candy finds the dead body of hers, calls George- they decide not to tell Curley. He would lynch Lennie. Men start looking for Lennie. Curley´s aim is to shoot him in the guts. Lennie is hidden in by the pool-jazero. He talks to his aunt Clara. She tells him of for not treating George nicely- George would do anything for Lennie even though Lennie was causing just a trouble. The same happens with the huge rabbit- he tells him that George is going to beat hell out of him. Suddenly George comes. He’s not angry, he knows what he has to do. He tells Lennie about them/ they’re not like other workmen who make a stake and spend it then/. Lennie wants to hear about their future. Tension of whole situation/ haunting Lennie by other workmen/ is interrupted by scenes of beautiful nature/ mountains around them/ and by peaceful last moments of George and Lennie. Men are coming closer and closer. George has to act. His hand is shaking. He shoots Lennie in the back of his head. He’s terrified by what he’s just done. He’s leaving with Slim. Others don’t understand. They can’t- they never had a real friend, they’ve always been on their own. “ Now what the hell ya suppose is eatin´ them two guys?”- last sentence- theme of friendship!!!
George Milton: intelligent and cynical man. The tragic hero of the novella is George, who has agreed to care for Lennie and at first finds it fun, but later understands his responsibility for his life and eventually for his death. Although he appears noble, his tragic flaw is in his willingness to hide the wrongs that Lennie has committed, perhaps for his own good. George is willing to give up is own life for Lennie, realizing that in some ways Lennie gives his life hope, but he is unwilling to deal with the problems Lennie causes.
Lennie Small: an ironically-named man of large stature and immense strength but limited mental abilities. He loves stroking soft things.
"...and he walked heavily, dragging his feet a little, the way a bear drags his paws." Chapter 1, pg. 2. He’s often referred to the animals:
1)He is presented as almost less than human. "You'd drink out of a gutter/ odkvap/ if you was thirsty."
2)"Slowly, like a terrier who doesn't want to bring a ball to its master, Lennie approached, drew back, approached again." Chapter 1, pg. 9.
The task of caring for Lennie has fallen to George, who like a dog's "master", must watch Lennie every moment.
3)Much like a faithful dog, Lennie's love is unconditional. He follows orders, even when he doesn't know the harm they might cause.
4) During the fight between Curley and Lennie- dog and sheep are used to describe him:
"Lennie covered his face with huge paws and bleated with terror."
Lennie was insane acting like a little child, presented as some thing or animal. He and George had relationship like- dog and his owner/ one protected the other one/.
Lennie is a retarded man who means no harm, but in seeking warmth and comfort kills animals and finally a woman with his strength. Lennie in his ignorance is an innocent but canít help from doing harm because of his brute strength.
The supporting casts of characters are those who move the plot along and those who provide its symbolic significance. Curley and his wife provide the suspense and climax of the plot. Slim, Candy, Carlson, and Crooks provide the symbolism and foreshadow the events. Candy and Carlson foreshadow the death of Lennie. Crook´s lonely life provides the counterpoint to Lennie and George´s life, helping explain why George is willing to put up with Lennie and hide his crimes. And Slim is the voice of reason in the tragedy. When George finally must kill Lennie, it is Slim who says to him “You hadda, George. I swear you hadda.”
Candy: old man with only one hand.
Candy’s dog: old sheep dog
Curley: a young man, boss´ son, fighter, hates Lennie because Lennie is bigger than him.
Curley´s wife: Married to Curley only 2weeks but she’s already looking for another man, she could have been an actress. Her desperate loneliness drives her to look for a company among workmen- they are not really keen to talk to her as they don’t want any troubles with her husband.
Slim: the jerkline skinner, earned everyone’s respect,
Crooks: negro, a stable buck and cripple, he owned a couple of books, he kept his distance and expected the same from the others.
Carlson: Whit: The Boss: Rabbit:
Aunt Clara: Lennie´s aunt who used to give him mice but he always killed them. She raised Lennie up, after she died he started to work with George.
Steinbeck's characters are often powerless, due to intellectual, economic, and social circumstances. Lennie possesses the greatest physical strength of any character, which should therefore establish a sense of respect as he is employed as a ranch hand. However, his intellectual handicap undercuts this and results in his powerlessness. Economic powerlessness is established as many of the ranch hands are victims of society during the Great Depression. As George, Lennie, Candy, and Crooks wish to purchase a homestead, but they are unable to generate enough money.
Where: a ranch near Soledad southeast of Salinas, California. The ranch is relatively isolated to provide George and Lennie their cover and escape.
When: during the Great Depression, at the time when male migrants were used to farm the land and carry out the work of ranches.
-"promoting euthanasia", being "anti-business", containing profanity/ znesvätenie, nadávka/, racial slurs- výčitka, and generally containing "vulgar" and "offensive language"
-Steinbeck emphasizes dreams throughout the book.
George aspires for independence, to be his own boss, to have a homestead, and most importantly to be "somebody". Lennie aspires to be with George on his independent homestead, and to quench his fixation on soft objects. Candy aspires to reassert his responsibility lost with the death of his dog, and for security for his old age — on George's homestead. Crooks aspires to a small homestead where he can express self-respect, acceptance, and security. Curley's wife dreams to be an actress, to satisfy her desire for fame lost when she married Curley.
1) American dream to be independent and own some land
2) Dream to become SOMEBODY: letter written by Bill Tenner means for the others that he has left permanent mark on the world.
3) George´s childhood dreams/ about the farm/ -“a smoke house like the one gran'pa had..."or “a few pigeons to go flyin' around the win'mill like they done when I was a kid."
4)Ideal world presented b& Crooks
5) Curley´s wife- her dreams were to find companionship and become actress- she would have attention and financial security.
6) George kills Lennie who is just trying to imagine their own farm/ George is left with guilt and knowing that such farm will never come true/.
-Loneliness is a significant factor in several characters' lives.
Candy is lonely after his dog is gone. Curley's wife is lonely because her husband is not the friend she hoped for - she deals with her loneliness by flirting with the men on the ranch- Curley´s abusiveness and jealousy. The companionship of George and Lennie is the result of loneliness. Crooks states the theme candidly as "A guy goes nuts if he ain't got nobody. Don't make no difference who the guy is, long's he's with you.”
- Although this novella does not have as many themes as some of Steinbeck’s other short works, there are several: the importance of relationships, responsibility to others, the nature of home, respect for old age, the difference between right and wrong, and the evil of oppression and abuse.
Symbolism, allusions, myth:
Soledad= “solitude”/samota, osamotenosť/ in Spanish, emphasizes one of the main themes of the novella= loneliness.
Candy´s old dog is a symbol of what happens to migrant workers when they live alone and can no longer do the work of the farm or ranch.
The rabbits that Lennie constantly imagines are symbols of the comfort he wants to find in a home place. Also Lennie provides this same kind of comforting symbol to George.
Curley and Curley´s wife both represent evil-both abuse the migrants in different ways.
Novella based on Steinbeck’s own experience.
My own interpretation:
-originally title is Something That Happened. Later he decided to change the name into Of mice and man. The title is taken from Robert Burns´ poem TO A MOUSE. Burns's poem tells of the regret the narrator feels for having destroyed the home of a mouse while plowing his field; it suggests that no plan is fool-proof and no one can be completely prepared for the future.
- Fate /osud/ is presented by Steinbeck as “something that happened”.
- Role of Friendship:
1)Between Lennie and George-. Workers on the ranches usually travel from one ranch to another on their own. Therefore their lives are so lonely. But George looks after Lennie and vice versa.
2)Slim is very open, friendly and therefore everybody respects him unlike Curley who wants to get respect by fighting.
3)We also get a very different picture of Lennie and George's friendship when George tells Slim how he abused Lennie just for his amusement.
4)Candy’s dog is old, blind, arthritic. Carlson and Slim try to convince Candy to kill the dog as they believe it would be better for the dog. EUTHANASIA!!! The dog and Lennie have parallel stories, with parallel fates, except Lennie has someone who cares enough about him to put him out of his misery, whereas Candy wouldn't get rid of his dog if he wasn't forced.
5)Crooks is so desperate for companionship that he is appreciative of someone who cannot understand him or converse with him. He understands now that this is the reason why George keeps Lennie around him.
6)Crooks´ lonely present is very different from his childhood when he grew up with his 2brothers, even shared the bed with them.
7)Curley's wife tries repeatedly to assure Lennie that it's okay for him to talk to her. Like most of the characters in the book, she also feels a need for companionship. Her self-centered and aggressive husband does not fill this need.
8)George suggests they find Lennie and lock him up instead of shooting him. But as Candy with his sheepdog, George has to understand it would be no good for Lennie to keep him imprisoned. He would be better off dead than alive.
9)George has to decide whether to let Curley find Lennie on his own and kill him or whether he/ George/ will do it. Unlike candy he won´t let someone else to shoot his friend. Lennie dies while imaging their future.
George is left to live knowing that he will never reach such life.
- LANDSCAPE: Descriptions of the nature are very poetic and stand apart from the rest of the novel.
1)California valley by Salinas river- beginning of the book- "Evening of a hot day started the little wind to moving among the leaves. The shade climbed up the hills toward the top. On the sand banks the rabbits sat as quietly as little gray, sculptured stones." Chapter 1, pg. 2. atmosphere is broken only by the entrance of Lennie and George.
2)Contrast between dull bunkhouse and light outside the bunkhouse.
3)Salinas river- end of the book- "Already the sun had left the valley to go climbing up the slopes of the Gabilan mountains, and the hilltops were rosy in the sun." Chapter 6, pg. 99. Nature hasn´t changed despite what happened to George and Lennie.
4)After the shot there is description how the hills react. "The crash of the shot rolled up the hills and rolled down again." Chapter 6, pg. 106.
The killing of Candy´s old dog is the ending of a hard life and foreshadows the death of Lennie. At the same time, the killing of the dog represents the end of a relationship that made life worth living and provided hope. This, too, foreshadows Lennie´s death. The death of the mouse in the first chapter foreshadows the later death of the pup and the death of Curley´s wife. When Curley´s wife suggests that Lennie stroke her hair, we know she, too, is doomed.
Important Quotations Explained
1. Guys like us, that work on ranches, are the loneliest guys in the world. They got no family. They don’t belong no place. . . . With us it ain’t like that. We got a future. We got somebody to talk to that gives a damn about us. We don’t have to sit in no bar room blowin’ in our jack jus’ because we got no place else to go. If them other guys gets in jail they can rot for all anybody gives a damn. But not us.
Toward the end of Section 1, before George and Lennie reach the ranch. George assures Lennie of their special relationship. He explains their friendship, which forms the heart of the novel. In Of Mice and Men, Steinbeck idealizes male friendships, suggesting that they are the most dignified-vznešený and satisfying way to overcome the loneliness that pervades the world.
George relates that loneliness is responsible for much of that suffering, a theory supported by many of the secondary characters. Later in the narrative, Candy, Crooks, and Curley’s wife all give moving speeches about their loneliness and disappointments in life. Human beings, the novel suggests, are at their best when they have someone else to look to for guidance and protection. George reminds Lennie that they are extremely lucky to have each other since most men do not enjoy this comfort, especially men like George and Lennie, who exist on the margins of society.
At the end, when Lennie accidentally kills Curley’s wife, Candy does not register the tragedy of Lennie’s impending death. Instead, he asks if he and George can still purchase the farm without Lennie. In this environment, in which human life is utterly disposable, only Slim recognizes that the loss of such a beautiful and powerful friendship should be mourned.
3. A guy sets alone out here at night, maybe readin’ books or thinkin’ or stuff like that. Sometimes he gets thinkin’, an’ he got nothing to tell him what’s so an’ what ain’t so. Maybe if he sees somethin’, he don’t know whether it’s right or not. He can’t turn to some other guy and ast him if he sees it too. He can’t tell. He got nothing to measure by. I seen things out here. I wasn’t drunk. I don’t know if I was asleep. If some guy was with me, he could tell me I was asleep, an’ then it would be all right. But I jus’ don’t know.
Crooks speaks these words to Lennie in Section 4, on the night that Lennie visits Crooks in his room. The old stable-hand admits to the very loneliness that George describes in the opening pages of the novel. As a black man with a physical handicap, Crooks is forced to live on the periphery of ranch life. He is not even allowed to enter the white men’s bunkhouse, or join them in a game of cards. His resentment typically comes out through his bitter, caustic wit, but in this passage he displays a sad, touching vulnerability. Crooks’s desire for a friend by whom to “measure” things echoes George’s earlier description of the life of a migrant worker. Because these men feel such loneliness, it is not surprising that the promise of a farm of their own and a life filled with strong, brotherly bonds holds such allure-lákadlo.
Descriptions of the nature are very poetic and stand apart from the rest of the novel.
California valley by Salinas river- beginning of the book- "Evening of a hot day started the little wind to moving among the leaves. The shade climbed up the hills toward the top. On the sand banks the rabbits sat as quietly as little gray, sculptured stones." Chapter 1, pg. 2. atmosphere is broken only by the entrance of Lennie and George.