Of Mice and Men

  • This is a comparative study of ‘Of Mice and Men’, a composite of the ten shortest googled accounts of the book. Everything that was corroborated by at least two of the ten is in black, bold Times New Roman font. Everything appearing in only a single source retains its original font and colour. Contradictions have [OR] between their different versions.

  • FRESCI, at the end, is a tool of analysis

 

 

Notes on

Of Mice and Men

By

John Steinbeck

Contents

Leaving Weed

During the Great Depression, (1,8) we are introduced to a pair of migrant (1,2) field (2) workers, George (1,2) Milton (2,7) an intelligent but uneducated man (7) who is short and dark (5,9) with “sharp, strong features. (9) Lennie, (1,2) Small (2,7) is a giant of a man (2,5) with huge arms (5) and great strength (7) but limited mental abilities (7,10) and a “shapeless” face. (9) They are best friends on a road trip, but this isn’t that fun kind of road trip with wacky adventures. (6) They’re broke and looking for work on the farms of California. (6) They are on the move (2,3) south from Weed (2,4) to work (2,3) harvesting. (10) Good fortune smiles upon them briefly when they get work at a (6) nearby1 (10) ranch in Soledad, California. (6) They sign on as field hands at a (1) ranch (1,2) in (2,7) [OR] near (6) Soledad, (2) Northern (6) California (1,2) near the Salinas River. (3,5) [OR] They are in Soledad on their way to another part of California. (7) The novella navigates between the everyday realities of George and Lennie (2) and their dream (1,2 of owning a piece of land and (5) settling down on their own ranch (1,2) a dream that seems all the more tempting for its impossibility. (2)

Wednesday: the discussion by the pool

The story begins when George and Lennie (1,2) are preparing to arrive at the ranch. (4,5) They have been let off a bus miles away from where they are due to start work, (9) and have to walk. (8,9) George walks (8) ahead, with Lennie following. (5) Overcome with thirst, the two stop in a clearing by a pool (9) [OR] at a stream near (5) [OR] beside the (8) Salinas River. (5,8) and decide to camp for the night, (4,9) and go on to the ranch in the morning. (10) As they walk along, (8) [OR] as they sat by the pool (4) George finds Lennie stroking a dead mouse (4,8) in his pocket (4,10) and scolds him. (8,9) After supper, and before going to sleep (5) they discuss their dream by the campfire. (4,5) This dream is one of Lennie’s favourite stories, which George constantly retells. (7,9) To Lennie’s delight, the story involves keeping rabbits. (9) Being broke is a problem, since they’re planning on owning a farm someday. (6) Though gigantic in stature, and well-meaning, (2) Lennie is developmentally disabled (2,3), [OR]mentally deficient’ [OR] has a mild mental disability, (9) [OR] is a few crayons short of a 164-colors box. (6) He is deeply devoted to George and dependent upon him for protection and guidance. (9) The two friends often find themselves in trouble (3,6) because Lennie’s childlike mentality expresses itself in an odd fetish for petting (6,9) soft (5,9) things, which includes mice, rabbits, puppies, and women. (6) He loves touching soft animals, although he (7,9) always (7) [OR] often accidentally (9) kills them. (7,9) The petting of women, of course, was the biggest issue. (6) It had led to them losing their last jobs (3,4) in Weed, (4,7) when they were run out of (7) [OR] had escaped from a farm near (8) the town after being (7,8) wrongly (8) accused of attempted rape. (7,8) He had mistakenly grabbed (3,7) a woman by her dress. (3) [OR]innocently petted a girl’s dress’. (4) [OR] touched (7,8) [OR] tried to touch (9) a young (7) woman’s dress (7,8) to feel its softness, (8) and would not let go. (7) When Lennie complains about not having ketchup for the beans they eat for dinner, (8) [OR] When he has to take the dead mouse away from Lennie a second time, (10) he angrily throws it away, because he fears that Lennie might catch a disease from it. (9) [OR] because it reminds him of the trouble Lennie got into in the last town they were in — he touched a girl’s soft dress. (10) George complains (4,8) loudly (9) that caring for Lennie prevents him from living a freer life. (4,8) After they make up, (8,10) George relents and promises Lennie they will try to find him a puppy. (10) George repeats to Lennie the details of their dream: he and Lennie will (8,10) raise enough money to (8) buy a patch of land, where they will have a small farm (8,10) with a vegetable patch (8) and keep rabbits. (8,10) They can be their own boss and nobody can tell them what to do: Lennie will tend their rabbits, and they will “live off the fatta the lan’. (10) The rabbit hutch is the only detail of the plan that Lennie consistently remembers, (8) as his dream mostly involves tending to (and touching) soft rabbits on the farm. (7) We realise that (4) the two are close friends (7) and that despite (4) George’s complaining (4,5), they really depend on each other: (4,9) their friendship and devotion is mutual. (9) George is Lennie’s protector, despite Lennie’s antics irritating him. (7) [OR] George (5,8) repeatedly (5) asks Lennie to keep his mouth shut on the ranch, acknowledging that Lennie has some kind of problem. (5,8) George tells Lennie that, if he gets into trouble (8,10) as he did in Weed, (8) he should return to the place near the river (8,10) and wait for George to find him. (8) Lennie has heard this story so often he can repeat it by heart. (10) And George emphasizes that this dream and their relationship make them different from other guys who don’t have anyone or a place of their own. (10) They settle down and sleep for the night. (10)

Thursday: their first day at Soledad

The next day, George and Lennie travel to the ranch to start work. (5) George, fearing how the boss will react to Lennie, insists that he’ll do all the talking. (9) When George and Lennie reach (8) the bunkhouse at the farm where they will work, (5,8) in the morning, (4) they are given two beds in it. (5) They are shown around by Candy, (4,5) one of the ranch hands (5) who is old (4,5) kind (7) and crippled. (4) He is an old “swamper,” (9,10) or handyman. (9) He has only one hand (6,9) and owns (6,7) a loyal and accomplished but (7) decrepit (8) smelly (6,8) ill (4) and useless old sheep (7) dog. (6,7) Candy tells them that the boss was angry that they didn’t show up the night before. (8) The boys make friends with him. (3) Soon, the ranch-hands return from the fields for lunch. (9) Candy introduces them to almost everybody on the ranch (5) including the other farm hands, (3,6) Slim (4,6) and Carlson (4,6) another ranch hand, (10) and Crooks, the black stable hand. (10) Slim is the local and wise ranch demi-god, (6) a kind, intelligent and intuitive jerkline-skinner (7) [OR] the chief mule skinner. (10) [OR] skilled mule driver (9) who wields great authority on the ranch. (9) George and Lennie are assigned to work with him: he is sensible and ‘civilized’ and talks with authority. (5) His dog has recently had a litter of puppies. (7) George and Lennie meet the boss, (4,5) who questions them. (8,10) He becomes suspicious when George answers all the questions and Lennie does not talk. (10) He discovers Lennie’s mental impairment (8) and George explains that Lennie is not bright (9,10) because a horse kicked him in the head when he was a child. (9) In spite of that he is a tremendous worker. (10) The Boss asks why George would travel with him. (8) George lies and says that Lennie is his cousin (8,9) Later (4,8) in the morning (9) after the boss leaves, (8) his son Curley (4,5) enters the bunkhouse. (8) Curley is (6,7) an unfaithful (6) mean-spirited (9) and aggressive (7,10) man with severe anger management problems. (6,10) He is a short man (7,8) with a napoleon complex. (7) He hates larger men (7,8) out of jealousy and insecurity. (8) He is an amateur boxer. (10) He is newly married, possessive of his flirtatious wife. (9) Everyone suspects his wife is unfaithful to him, (8) and so does he. (9) Curley immediately takes a dislike to Lennie (3) and is quite rude. (5) The gentle giant Lennie is vulnerable, and the situation takes on a menacing and dangerous aspect. (7) George is suspicious of Curley’s manner and warns Lennie to stay away from him. (4) [OR] ‘to behave his best around him’. (5) George and Lenny also meet Curley’s (4,5) new (6,8) wife (4,5) when they are alone in the bunkhouse. (9) and she comes looking for her husband. (5,8) She has a reputation as a “tart” (10) and flirts with them (9) as she does with the other men. (1,5) She is pretty (4) [OR] Lennie thinks she is “purty,” (9) and wears heavy make-up (5) but no-one is allowed to look at her (not her rule—she loves male attention). (6) She is lonely and promiscuous (1) and her apparently (4) provocative (7) way of seeking the men’s attention creates problems. (3) Lennie is instantly attracted to her. (7,9) George (5,9) sensing the trouble that could come from tangling with this woman and her husband (9) warns Lennie to (5,9) behave his best around her (5) [OR] stay away from her. (9,10)

Discussion with Candy and Slim

Work is hard and wages are low. (1) Later that evening, (4,10) after a day of work, the men return to the bunkhouse. (8) Curley returns looking for his wife and attempts to start a fight with George. (8) Slim goes to the barn to do some work, and Curley, who is maniacally searching for his wife, heads to the barn to accost Slim, (9) whom he (falsely) suspects of talking to his wife. (5,6) Slim returns to the bunkhouse, (9) The others go to the barn, hoping to witness a fight between Slim and Curley over Curley’s wife, leaving Lennie and George alone in the bunkhouse. (10) Lennie wants to hear the story of their farm again, and George retells the dream. (10) George again tells Lennie the story and Candy overhears. (5,8) [OR] George tells Candy about it (4) Candy (1,4) asks to join them (4,5) and eagerly offers his savings, (1,4) $350 (7) for a share in the hoped for farm (1,7); with his money they could make it happen (4,7) at the end of the month (7) [OR] almost immediately. (4) George excitedly believes that, with Candy’s money, they can swing the payment for a ranch he knows of; he figures one more month of work will secure the rest of the money they need, (10) so he and Lennie accept his proposal. (5,7) George cautions Lennie and Candy not to tell anyone. (9,10) Carlson complains about Candy’s dog, Carlson, another ranch-hand, (6,9) callously (6) suggests that (9) since Slim’s dog has just given birth, (8,9) they should offer a puppy to Candy (9) and shoot Candy’s dog as an act of kindness (4,10) [OR] because it’s smelly. (6,10) Slim agrees to give Lennie one of his puppies, (8,9) and Carlson continues to badger Candy to kill his old dog. (9) When Slim agrees with Carlson, saying that death would be a welcome relief to the suffering animal, (9) Candy gives in. (8,9) despite his obvious wish to keep the dog. (8) He can’t bring himself to shoot the old dog, so Carlson does it. (4,6) Nice, Carlson. (6) The shooting of Candy’s dog is not the only act of violence. (6)

Lennie injures Curley

A bit later, Curley searches for his wife once more. (8) The ranch hands return, making fun of him for backing down to Slim. (10) He is itching for a fight, (5,6) and, searching for an easy target for his anger, finds Lennie. (9) He suspects that Lennie is laughing at him, (8) and vents his frustration on him (5,9) by attacking him. (6,7) He punches Lennie several times, (8) and brutally beating him (10). Lennie does not fight back (5,8) until George gives him permission, at which point Lennie, (5,7) bleeding and injured, (7) catches Curley’s fist and easily (7) crushes it (1,5) smashing all the bones in Curley’s hand (10) severely injuring it. (1,4) Slim takes Curley to a doctor. (10) Lennie is afraid he has done “a bad thing” and that George won’t let him tend the rabbits. (10) But George explains that Lennie did not mean to hurt Curley and that he isn’t in trouble. (10) Meanwhile Slim berates Curley (5,9) for his suspicions, (9) and gets Curley’s promise to say his hand got caught in a machine so Lennie and George won’t get fired. (10) He warns Curley that if he tries to get George and Lennie fired, he will be the laughing stock of the farm. (9) Curley agrees that he will not tell anyone about his hand, for it would mean losing his self-respect. (5) Curley apologizes to Lennie in the bunkhouse in front of everybody, but his apology is rejected. (5) This reminds the group there are still obstacles to overcome before their goal is reached, but nevertheless, George feels more relaxed, since the dream seems just within their grasp (7) George complains about “tarts” such as Curley’s wife, and the other men suggest that they visit a whorehouse the next night. (8)

George and Slim

The next day, (9) George tells Slim about why he and Lennie travel together. (4) George finds Slim an understanding confidante, and a bond forms between the two of them. (5) Slim comments on the rarity of friendship like that between George and Lennie. (9) George confides in Slim that he and Lennie are not cousins, but have been friends since childhood. (9) He tells how Lennie has often gotten them into trouble. (9) He tells Slim more about what happened in Weed, (4,9) when they were forced to flee their last job (8,9) to escape lynching (8) because Lennie tried to touch a woman’s dress and was accused of rape. (9)

Saturday: Lennie and Crooks

One evening, (5) [OR] The following (4) [OR] Saturday (6) night, most men on the ranch go into town (4,6) for drunken (6) visits to the whorehouse. (6,9) Woohoo, Saturday night! (6) George goes with them. (7) He says that he prefers the company of whores, since with them there is no chance of danger. (8) Yeah, there’s going to be trouble. (6) Slim gave a puppy to Lennie, (3,7) as he did to Candy. (7,9) While the other men are at the whorehouse (8,9) Lennie goes to the barn to tend it. (3) He visits Crooks, the black stable buck, (6,8) looking for his puppy. (5) Crooks is the only black man on the ranch, and lives alone, segregated from the other ranch workers. (5,7) He is therefore alone in his room when Lennie joins him. (4,5) Crooks is lonely, (6) and bitter, although he is educated. (7) He is rude and contemptuous toward Lennie until he realizes that Lennie has no ill intent. (8) Candy enters, (5,9) looking for Lennie. (5) They are the only ones left at the ranch while they others are in town. (8,9) They discuss the plan for a small farm (4,8) and Crooks shows some interest in joining them. (8,10) [OR] Crooks is sceptical, not believing that George and Lennie are going to do what so many other men he’s known have failed to do, and get land of their own. (4) [OR] Yet when Candy happens to come in as well, Crooks is convinced and asks to be in on it too. (4,7) [OR] He says he would like to join them and work for nothing (10) being unable to resist asking them if he can hoe a garden patch on the farm, despite (7) scorning the possibility of achieving the dream. (4,7) Just then, Curley’s wife (3,5) walks into (6,10) the barn. (3,5) She has seen the three men and seeks their company out of loneliness. (8) She flirts with them, (7,9) especially Lennie, (7) refusing to leave until the other men come home. (9) Her spiteful side is shown when she belittles them. (6,7) Finding them talking about their farm-owning dreams she teases them all for being weak, (6) useless cripples, (8) as they were left behind while the others went whoring (obviously a manly activity, much like shooting your dog). (6) She strikes up a conversation with Lennie. (3,5) She notices the cuts on Lennie’s face and suspects that he, and not a piece of machinery as Curley claimed, is responsible for hurting her husband. (9) This thought amuses her. (9) When Crooks objects to her presence in his room, (5,8) an argument develops. (4,8) Curley says that if she does not leave, he will ask the boss not to let her come to the barn anymore. (10) Curley’s wife threatens him (4,5) with a false rape charge. (5,6) which might lead to Crooks being lynched, (6,7) She is especially harsh towards Crooks because of his race. (6,7) He’s a “nigger” and she could have him “strung up on a tree so easy it ain’t even funny.” (6) Dejectedly remembering his place, Crooks retracts his offer to join George, Lennie and Curley. (10) That’s exactly the buzzkill it sounds like, and the party breaks up. (6) [OR] George returns and tells her to get lost. (10)

Sunday: Lennie kills Curley’s Wife

The next morning, (8) [OR] After four days, (4) [OR] Later on (5) [OR] Next afternoon (4) [OR] ‘On Sunday afternoon’ Slim, Lennie, Crooks, and Candy are hanging back at the ranch (6) [OR] Lennie is seen alone in the barn, (5,6) [OR] stable (7) petting his dead pup. (5,6) He has unintentionally killed it by handling it too hard. (4,5) Now he is grieving over the loss (4,5) and wondering how he can explain the dead puppy to George. (10) He admonishes the puppy for “going and getting killed,” which we think is actually not so much the puppy’s fault as it is Lennie’s. (6) Curley’s wife comes in. (7,10) She speaks (3) [OR] tries to speak (7) to him, (3,7) talking very openly about her feelings. (4,7) She admits that life with Curley is a disappointment. (9) She is lonely and her dreams of becoming a movie star (7,9) are crushed, revealing the reason she flirts with the ranch hands. (7) She flirts with Lennie. (1) They talk about how they enjoy touching soft things. (8,9) She pities him (8) and she offers to let him feel her soft (4,8) hair. (8,9) She allows Lennie to stroke her hair. (4,5) [OR] Without realizing it, Lennie grabs her hair, because he likes soft things. (3) She gets angry (10) [OR] nervous (3) [OR] panics (1,4) when she feels Lennie’s strong hands (5,7) handle her too forcefully (8) [OR] at his rough touch (1,4) [OR] when Lennie strokes her hair too hard and messes it up. (10) [OR] at the danger of her hair being messed up. (6) [OR] grabs too tightly. (9) She tells him to stop. (3) She raises her voice to him (5,8) in a scream. (8,10) As she wriggles to avoid a ruined hairdo, (6) she tries to jerk her head away, and, in fear, Lennie hangs on to her hair. (10) Lennie panics (3,6) and covers her mouth. (5,8) to keep her from screaming. (10) There is a struggle, during which (1,7) Lennie (1,3) ends up killing her, too, (1,4) accidentally: (1,5) he holds her so tightly that (10) he breaks her neck. (1,3)

The Murder is discovered

Panicking (6) because he knows he has done something terrible, (5,10) Lennie runs away to hide, as George had told him. (3,4) George had said that if anything bad happened he should hide (3,5) near the river (3) [OR] stream (4,10) [OR] by the pool (4,5) [OR] a pool of the Salinas River. (9) [OR] in the brush by the pool. (4) He does so. (4,6) He dreams of his Aunt Clara (4) and hallucinates about (6) the rabbits (4,6) he will tend when he and George get their land. (4) Candy finds the body and tells George: (4,6) both men immediately know what has happened. (10) [OR] Candy and George (8) [OR] the other ranch hands (7) find the body. (7,8) George realizes unhappily that their dream is at an end. (7) George and Candy tell the other men. (4) [OR] Candy alerts the other men. (8) When the ranch hands learn that Curley’s wife has been killed, they rightly guess the guilty party. (5) [OR] George identifies it is as classic Lennie handiwork. (6,8) When Curley comes and sees his murdered wife, he (10) is angry (5) and wants revenge (4,6) in the form of vigilante-style justice. (6,8) He vows to kill Lennie slowly and painfully. (10) He forms a party to search for Lennie and kill him. (8,9) Candy has foreseen that Curley will organize a lynching party, and George says he is not going to let them hurt Lennie. (10) He asks Candy to wait a few minutes before he calls the others. (10) He slips into the bunkhouse and (10) steals Carlson’s gun, (8,10) a Luger, (10) leading the other men to think that Lennie took it before he escaped. (8) The lynch-party goes out to search for Lennie and murder him in retribution. (5) Slim and George want a nobler death for their friend. (6)

George and Lennie by the pool

George joins the men searching for Lennie. (10) Fearing them, (1) he points Curley and the other men in the wrong direction, (8) As they spread out, George (10) hurries away (7,8) alone (10) to find Lennie, hoping he will be at the meeting place they designated at the start of the novella in case Lennie got into trouble. (7,8) Backing his hunch he races to the pool, (5,7) [OR] riverside (10) the same spot they camped in the night before they came to the ranch. (7) He finds Lennie there. (1,3) He’s acting all weird, so we’re pretty sure something bad is about to happen. (6) Lennie has been having hallucinations of a giant rabbit and his Aunt Clara; they warn Lennie that George will be angry at him for killing Curley’s wife and that he has lost the possibility of having a house with a rabbit hutch. (8) Lennie knows he has done “a bad thing” and expects George to scold and lecture him. (9,10) Much to Lennie’s surprise, George is not mad at him (9) but begins to re-tell him the story of the farm they will have together. (7,9) He is so overcome with remorse that he cannot scold Lennie. (10) He talks reassuringly about the little place they will have together, (4,6) knowing it is something they will never share. (7) He reassures Lennie that they will have the rabbit hutch after all, meanwhile preparing to shoot his friend. (8) As he describes the rabbits that Lennie will tend, the sound of the approaching lynch party grows louder. (9) George must save Lennie from Curley’s cruelty. (10) He tells Lennie to look out over the river and imagine (6,10) their little farm (10) [OR] the rabbits (6) and while Lennie is smiling with pleasure and envisioning the rabbits he will tend (10) George shoots him (1,3) in the back of (6,7) the head (1,6) with Carlson’s gun (4,8) before Curley can find him. (3) He does this as an act of mercy, (1,5) giving him a painless and happy death (7) to save him from the brutal assaults of the ranch hands (5)

After Lennie’s Death

Hearing the gunshot, (5,8) Curley, Slim, and Carlson (7) and the other searchers converge by the pool (5,6) only a matter of seconds after the shooting. (7) They find George and Lennie. (4,8) George tells them that (6,8) Lennie had stolen the gun (8,9) and that during a struggle he shot Lennie (6,8) after the gun got loose. (8) [OR] as he tried to take the gun away from him. (6) [OR] in self-defense. (10)The other men are satisfied that he shot Lennie in self-defence. (4,10) They praise George for his act (5) and the murder is covered up. (3) Only Slim understands what George did and why. (4,5) George had killed Lennie(7,9) out of love (7) [OR] mercy. (9) Slim gently and consolingly leads George away, (7,9) up the footpath for a drink. (10) Curley and Carlson (7) [OR] the other men (9) look on, unable to comprehend (7,9) the subdued mood of the two men. (7)

Commentary

The story is told in the third person, so we are provided with a clear, unbiased view of all the characters. (4) This was the first of Steinbeck’s works to focus in detail on migrant field workers. (2) Steinbeck represents the unattainable but exceedingly attractive nature of the American dream in light of the lonely, shiftless lives of migrant workers. (2) The theme of friendship is a constant throughout the story. (7) A strong desire for the stability and refuge of companionship motivates most of the action in the novella, and the break of the strong homosocial bond between George and Lennie constitutes the work’s closing tragedy. (2) The reader feels the sorrow of George having to kill his best friend. (3) The close friendship between the two men and the simplicity and tenderness of their dream makes Of Mice and Men a compelling psychological glimpse into the lives of migrant field workers, setting the novella apart from Steinbeck’s later, far more encompassing work, The Grapes of Wrath. (2)

FRESCI

F Foreign and Military: The story is located in the United States, in California. It describes conficts within workers at a farm there. No issues outside the USA are mentioned. Weed and Soledad are 400 miles apart, far enough for Lennie and George to be virtually emigrating to escape persecution, as millions of Americans had emigrated to escape from Europe. The setting is in the world of the ‘wild frontier’, where formal authority is remote.

R Religion and Ideas: Though religion is not mentioned, the idea of the sacrifice of an innocent man has Christian overtones, although the brothel and the unsatisfactory nature of Curley’s marriage raises awkward questions about Christian morality. Sin is, therefore, well represented in the book, although the question how culpable Lennie is, in view of his mental illness, is posed throughout. The picture of poor workers suffering at the hands of their employers has Marxist overtones. Curley’s wife expresses racist sentiment against Crooks, and Curley’s lynch mob reflects racist practice in several states of the USA at the time. The dream of George and Lennie is the ‘American Dream’, and uncharacteristically for a piece designed for an American audience, the ending is not conventionally happy. There are several aspects which are difficult from the point of view of political correctness.

E Economics and Financial: It is in the Great Depression. Lennie and George are restricted by poverty, from which Candy’s savings offer the promise of escape.

S Social and Cultural: The institution of marriage is represented by Curley and his wife, and found wanting. She challenges the normal conventions by her flirtations. The men challenge them by going to the brothel. The relationship between Curley’s wife and Crooks refers to racism, as does the ‘lynch party’. The treatment of animals, and mercy killing, are touched on. The illegal killing of Lennie by George is excused. Social drinking is approved of.

C Constitutional and Legal: The hiring process is legal, and Slim dissuades Curley from pushing for the sacking of Lennie. Carlson’s gun is presumably legally held. Curley’s power as the legal heir of the owner is noted and criticised. There is no comment on the pair camping on ground by the river which presumably belongs to someone else. The setting is in the world of the ‘wild frontier’, where formal authority is remote and affairs are in practice regulated by the local people. Thus the lynch party and the brothel are not legal, but supported by sections of the public.

I Individual and Random: Much depends on individual characters. The relationship between George and Lennie is unusual, but crucial to the action. Curley’s ‘Napoleon complex’, his ability with his fists and his jealous suspicions of his wife are also crucial. The only hope of containing Curley’s violence is by resorting to the greater violence of Slim and Lennie. Lennie’s fetish about soft things is fatal to him and Curley’s wife. Candy’s prudence in saving offered hope of escape which was dashed.

P Points of View: Steinbeck is critical of the economic system and social conventions, though no-one in the book openly voices his opinions. They would have been criticised by many as un-American or even communist. The treatment of Lennie’s mental health issues, and of sexual matters, is spattered with contradictions as writers struggle to present adult sexual issues to teenage readers. Feminists no doubt criticise the black picture of womankind represented by Curley’s wife, the only female character in the book. In the commentaries the sins of Curley’s wife are excused by reference to her ‘loneliness’ and ‘disappointments’, and those of Lennie by mental incapacity. We are not intended to think that Lennie’s oddness is really the result of being kicked by a horse, as George tells the boss.

L Language: Some vocabulary, such as ‘jerkline-skinner’ is difficult for English readers. One of the texts (6) uses street language (‘buzzkill’) and is politically incorrect in its description of Lenny’s mental health issues (‘a few crayons short of a 164-colors box’)

A Alternative Hypothesis: This heading is intended to provoke critical thinking about a suggested explanation in an essay title, as ‘Napoleon was the Heir to the Revolution’, which would invite an essayist to point to facts which did not support the idea and called for a more nuanced judgement. In a novel like ‘Mice and Men’ we might use this heading to consider how the story could have been written differently: could a sheriff have arrived at the crucial moment and arrested Curley, for example, thus achieving a happier ending?

C Concepts Cause, Similarity and Difference: By playing down the general economic causes of George and Lennie’s difficulties, the importance of the personal issues between Curley, Lennie and Curley’s wife is intensified. The figures who present wisdom and effectiveness are represented as free from any real relationship with women. Curley and his wife are gripped by different sins, but by sin nonetheless. These are mortal sins, whereas the patronising of the brothel is venal.

T Time: The novel was written in 1937, when in spite of the hopes felt for the New Deal, its effects on the economy were disappointing. There was scope for a small gesture against it from a progressive standpoint, since the horrors of Stalin’s Russia were not yet known. Most of the commentaries are much more recent, and the contradictions sometimes reflect embarrassment arising from presenting a prestigious work of literature to a contemporary audience. The treatment of the precise details of what Lennie did to the woman in Weed illustrate this well, in a world in which any suspicion of excusing rape is seized on for criticism.

1 Soledad is 400 miles from Weed. (Google Maps)

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