The back says: Streetwise George and his big, childlike friend Lennie are drifters, searching for work in the fields and valleys of California. They have nothing except the clothes on their back, and hope that one day they’ll find a place of their own and live the American dream. But dreams come at a price. Gentle giant Lennie doesn’t know his own strength, and when they find work at a ranch he gets into trouble with the boss’s daughter-in-law. Trouble so bad that even his protector George may not be able to save him…
I say: Woah. What an absolutely brilliant ending. Even though I could sense from the beginning that this wasn’t going to be a cheerful story, I didn’t guess the end until we were right there.
I’ve only read one novella by Steinbeck before, and that was The Pearl when I was about twelve and I remember loving it for its simplicity – mind me, this was years ago and I was a pretentious child so maybe it wasn’t so simple – and the first thing that popped up in my head when I was reading Of Mice and Men was its simplicity; of language, of character, of setting, and of, in a way, ending. Steinbeck pretty much lets us know that this is how things are and that’s that.
Except it’s not.
There’s so much more underneath.
Crooks stared hopelessly at her, and then he sat down on his bunk and drew into himself.She closed on him. “You know what I could do?”Crooks seemed to grow smaller, and he pressed himself against the wall. “Yes, ma’am.”[…]Crooks had reduced himself to nothing. There was no personality, no ego – nothing to arouse either like or dislike. He said, “Yes, ma’am,” and his voice was toneless. – p 91
There is just so much wrapped into that seemingly insignificant encounter that it breaks my heart, and I love the tiny morsels of history that Steinbeck offers before laying it out. And not just with Crooks, but with all the characters. It’s like he’s slowly baiting us throughout the story, letting us know that something is going to happen (and making sure we follow) and when it finally does, we slowly look back at the steps that led us there and realise that
just because it was inevitable doesn’t make it any less shocking.
Another future re-read.