Of Mice and Men…

is going to haunt me for a long long time.

It is a short novella, only 103 pages, but the power of the story and the visual imagery of the brilliant writing is going to create a lump in my throat every time I am going to think about this book.

A story of two people, George and Lennie, set in the 1930s America, in the times of the great depression, the book explores innocence, love and dreams.

Lennie, is a fool, a retard with a huge body the strength of which he cannot estimate. George, is his life-long friend, who sticks around with Lennie and protects him and shelters him from the world. Together, they share a dream, of owning their own land, in which Lennie tends to rabbits, because he always likes to pat soft things.

As the story progresses, the dream gets painted in more brighter colors. The protagonists live by the dream. It takes over their life, and is their only obsession. And, all the time, in the background, you keep thinking, this is too good, that bad thing is going to happen just now. And then a situation develops. And passes over. The dream is still intact. Another situation passes over. You believe that the guys probably will get lucky, but then, at the back of your head, you know, it is not going to happen.

The saddest part, the part that will haunt readers for ever is the ending. The last two pages, will move you to tears.

Somewhere while building the story, Nobel winner Steinbeck, paints a scene, in which an old hand in the farm has a sick old dog, that he has taken care since childhood. The dog is really sick and stinks. Another young hand in the farm cannot bear the stink, and proceeds to shoot the dog (with the assent of the old man). There was something in that scene, the old dog is innocent to its bones and hangs around doing nothing,Ā  is the only friend of the old man, who has taken care of it for a lifetime. The old man knows the dynamics of the people who he works with. He has no hope for saving the dog, still he wants to save it. But, finally, he gives up, and the dog is killed. The scene does not haunt you then, but much later, as the climax draws to its end, you think about the dog, and tears swell up your eyes.

I have to finish with a word on the writing. Steinbeck, has a flowery prose. Each character gets more than half a page of physical description. The settings of each scene take up pages. But the image that the writing produces in your mind is stirring. As the novella proceeds, the large Lennie keeps growing larger and larger, and all the while, your pity for him keeps increasing. Finally, you are left with a hopeless feeling, happy for Lennie? happy for George? And, you just keep thinking about that dog too.

Absolute brilliance.

I was reading the final few pages, my emotions waiting to pour out, and as if on cue, Pandora radio played High hopes by Floyd. It seemed the perfect setting for the ending. The song always reminds me of the brilliantly executed PAF at IIT, Deja Vu, which dealt with a students suicide, symbolic of death of dreams. And it all fit together…

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  1. #1 by Ammalu on April 3, 2009 - 1:17 am

    Reading the review itself gave me a heavy heart , the book would have been like taking a pill to absolute misery šŸ˜¦ . Anyways totally LOVED the review , the fact that you got so carried away is very evident ..and u made me feel miserable too!!!

    • #2 by Kaushik on April 3, 2009 - 1:09 pm

      Ammalu,
      No, not at all. The book is not a pill to absolute misery. It just gets you thinking. The ending is sad, but also gets you wondering: Could there have been a better option for the characters?

      Also, it is one of the those “death of innocence” type of books. Lennie is oblivious to the world, and has the purest of minds and hearts, but the world does not give a damn to his unintentional actions, only to the outcomes of his actions.

      Glad that you liked the review…you should read it sometime when you get the chance!

  2. #3 by Vinay on April 3, 2009 - 1:37 am

    The early 1900s (I think, beginning from Shakespeare), did had this flowery style of writing. Check P.G.Wodehouse, it is the same, even with A.C. Doyle. The concise style of writing is more American than European or Asian. Americans like things to be crass and straight, whereas Europeans and Asians tend to make an occasion out of everything.

    • #4 by Kaushik on April 3, 2009 - 1:13 pm

      Vinay,

      Shakespere was late 16th or 17th century, was he not?

      I have never give PGW a fair chance. Almost most of the time, I put the book away for later reading and never get to it. Both writing is good…indian writing is definitely flowery…but some people can make it work….

      I think flowery was a bad word to use in the post. Steinbeck’s writing was descriptive. He would describe every minute detail of the scene. You read it, and slowly a picture forms in your mind. It is not the metaphor and exaggerated descriptions like Arundhati Roy or Sulman Rushdie, but more similar to R K Narayanan…

  3. #5 by moi on April 17, 2009 - 7:55 pm

    He’s one of my fav. American writers…..I love his Grapes of wrath too…..haven’t seen any of these as movies…..I wonder if movies can do justice to his prose…considering that you enjoy serious reading, just curious: have you read Somerset Maugham ever, his “Of Human Bondage”?

  4. #6 by Bhavani on May 31, 2009 - 12:17 am

    I really liked the review… I am sure that the book is gonna keep me depressed for days but will give it a shot anyway. šŸ™‚
    Hey… u just have to read P.G.Wodehouse… one of my all time favourites.. his books do take time to get on with the story, but trust me, worth it. You will be chuckling at the turn of every page.

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