“Trouble with mice is you always kill ’em. ” ― John Steinbeck

Of Mice and Men Face Upon the Ending.

So….this is my face after finishing Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck.

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That was some blank space so that I could collect my thoughts.  Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck is, without a doubt, the best book I’ve ever read.  Alena asked how I made it through high school without reading it and now I wonder what in the hell my high school english teachers were doing to keep this masterpiece from me.  This is the kind of book that makes kids want to read again.   It’s under 110 pages, it has complex characters and you cry at the end.  And believe me, I don’t cry after books.  This is only the second time, freak occurrence.  Thus, it had to be documented.

I just want to read it again immediately.

Found this on a Teacher Glogster – YAY!

Lennie is my favorite book character of all time.  Lennie is the gentle giant of the story.  He has a love of soft things to go with the sweet yeast folds that surround his heart.  I just want to cuddle him.  I think it’s safe to say that this is a story of special needs before special needs were even allowed to be in the daylight of our culture.  I don’t really want to go further into that though because you really need to read the story to discover for yourself how expansive these characters are.  In a simple page they span whole childhoods, whole ideals that people have about the society they live in.  Even Curley’s wife, (who is never named by the way – strange fact.  Plus, she’s the only woman in the entire story), is explained instantly when she starts talking about being a movie star, moving far away and waiting on letters in a home where her mother was always telling her you’re too young.  She was too fresh, in my opinion.  In my mind, she’s the perfection of “farm girl;” rosy cheeks, pale legs, leaning over the barn rails where horses are stamping and chewing hay against their large white teeth.

This is what happens when you’re too close to a book.  You can’t make any sense of what you’re writing and there’s no organization.

Lennie and George are the main characters, if you can call them that.  Really, every character is a main character.  I’m most in debt to Lennie and Candy.  Candy is the old man in your life that just wants to be better than what he is.  Just wants that little dash of life, at the end of a long life, where he can still hope and still succeed.  He’s handicapped like most of the characters.   I think this was written in the beginning of the grotesque, which happens to go along with the rage of the circus and circus freaks.  I’ve been finding these themes a lot with my 9th grade reading material – Truman Capote’s, “A Christmas Memory,” is a prime example of the beginning of grotesque.  Flannery O’Connor must have just been the train that made it to the station.  This has almost nothing to do with anything except the teacher in me is coming out.  However, grotesque is a wonderful sub-genre in our literary world and it has been roaring since the 1930’s when unimaginable things were happening to the US economy and grotesque was an outlet of sorts for writers.

Image from the blog of Caleb J. Ross

While grotesque doesn’t play a huge role in Of Mice and Men, it does play a quiet role when you know that most of the people in your story are somehow “less than normal.”  Everyone has imperfections (every human) and everyone is trying desperately to make themselves a “complete image” that isn’t actually possible.  I think that’s what makes this story so heart-warming and generous.  In a barrel of a man, hunched in a corner – whether he’s hunched because he’s black and that’s unacceptable, or he’s “slow” and that’s unacceptable, or he’s old and that’s unacceptable – we can find some connection to these imperfections.  Earlier today I watched the season finale of Miss Advised.  I have an odd obsession with reality television that doesn’t go at all with my normal nature as a person.  On it, Julia said that she needs to embrace her imperfections because you can’t put on this mask of perfection and expect people to think that you’re authentic.  I think, in a society where perfection is measured by the number 10 on a scale of 1 to 10, a point scale, Of Mice and Men is the best novel.

This is the novel that reminds us we’re still golden when we’re broken.  We’re all in a land of misfit toys.

Great Depression Pictures from TIMES

This is the novel of the “American Dream.”  It comes just ten years after The Great Gatsby which is this story of excess and secrets and life before The Great Depression.  Of Mice and Men was published in 1937 which was the year that started The Great Depression. Therefore, it’s a novel of the working man, going month to month and traveling the West hoping to literally strike gold.  This is the story about dreams that are never coming, but always talked about.  It’s about stories and traveling and hopes even when you’re unwanted, broken, torn, less-than ideal, or just used-up in the eyes of those above you, those telling you what dreams are acceptable to you.  It’s really the epitome of American culture and American dreams where someone is constantly telling you no and you’re constantly fantasizing about the yes at the end, the rabbits and the alfalfa sprouts.

When Candy is lying silent and facing the wall (after something that shall not be named for fear of ruining the plot), I wanted to curl up in my bed and crumple like a dead leaf.  All I could think about was that moment in Old Yeller when the boy realizes he has to shoot the dog.  To this day, I can’t watch that movie.  Then, Lennie with his big hands and pocket mouse.  His friendship with George is one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen unfold in my entire life.  One of my friends said that she didn’t like this book because George is always mean to Lennie.  WHERE ARE YOU, SISTER. YOU’RE MISSING THE POINT.

Lennie is George’s whole world.

I could go on and on.  I just want to take this book and swallow it, gather it up whenever I need a moment of quiet prayer.  Beautiful beyond anything I could say on this blog and in less than 110 pages, Steinbeck has created this world that so mirrors our own that if we just tapped the glass once it would shatter like an egg shell going yellow in yolk.

46 thoughts on ““Trouble with mice is you always kill ’em. ” ― John Steinbeck

    • Cassie says:

      I am so glad you said you liked in high school because I am teaching it to my 9th graders next semester! I’m scared they’re going to say “I just hate that book because it was forced on me in high school.” I want everyone to adore it.

  1. Bea says:

    110 pages, and incredibly wonderful!, this is the book for me. Bring it on home, and let me have a chance to enjoy this book. Great blog.

  2. salomeanulisch says:

    Beautiful post. I feel like I should read it again. I love Steinbeck. I have a lot of his books, a lot of them I haven’t read. I am sort of saving them because there is only a finite number and I want to be able to discover new ones later. (I think the Doctor [from “Doctor Who”] had a similar thing with Dickens.) Anyway, thanks for the post. Loved it.

    • Cassie says:

      I definitely understand that. I’m currently doing that with Jayne Anne Phillips. This was, GASP, my first Steinbeck novel. I know, I know, I’m so far behind. What do you recommend I read next. And thank you!

      • salomeanulisch says:

        If your asking which Steinbeck to read next, I would say “The Grapes of Wrath”, but I have yet to read one of his books I didn’t like. If your looking for a book that does a lot with a little like “Of Mice and Men” I would say “The Old Man and The Sea.” I recently had an argument with a friend of mine about that book which reminds me of your friend who said George was mean to Lennie. She said it was pointless and the old man was an idiot. I said she’d missed the whole point of the book.

      • Cassie says:

        I have read The Old Man and the Sea and I really liked that. I read it for a college class. It is similar in that it’s poignant and pitch-perfect in such a small space. I will read Grapes of Wrath next, I figured that was the obvious choice. People love that book as well and my 9th grader honors kids had to read it over the summer so I need to read it anyway!

  3. alenaslife says:

    I think I’m just going to have to reblog this because you took me right back to Mrs. Kirtley’s class and how much we all LOVED this book. The beauty, the sorrow, the broken-ness. I still don’t know how your school missed it, but you are living “better late than never.”

    • Cassie says:

      I am totally living “better late than never” what a great way to put it. : ) I love that you remember the teacher even, that makes me smile because I want to be the teacher my students remember when they’re older and they can say I loooooooooooooooved Of Mice and Men in Ms. M’s class!

      • alenaslife says:

        I’m am 100% positive they will remember you. I can say that based solely on your blog and social media. Good luck with this school year. I’ve been peeking at all the books in our students’ hands and asking them, “school or pleasure?” Some of them look at me like I’ve lost my mind…”reading for pleasure? This lady’s nuts.”

      • Cassie says:

        Aw thanks darling. I’m hoping. I’m hoping I can make english something that they want to take the next year and books something that they want to read. I don’t care what they’re reading as long as it’s a gateway to more reading. That’s how I feel at this point. : ) Haha, I can tell about the reading for pleasure. I saw our school library has The Fault in Our Stars which is NUTS – I hope people are checking that out!!

  4. Amanda Jolly says:

    Loved this book to pieces too!! Did you know there is a movie that someone made of this book? I borrowed it from the library once and loved the movie too. Sometimes it is hard to watch movies after reading the book, but I think you would be pleased with the movie too. I was. Oh, and great review here! :)

  5. Chris says:

    I taught “Of Mice and Men” to my 8th graders the last 4 years (This year I’ve swapped it out for Laurie Halse Anderson’s “Chains”. The kids always get really attached to Lennie and are always shocked and saddened by the ending. We spend a fair amount of time discussing the how and why of George’s actions. We watched the movie too (With Gary Sinise and John Malkovich) much of the dialogue is straight from the pages of OMAM and while there are some changes stays true to the book. I’ll miss teaching it but am excited to introduce a book that has a strong female lead!
    Thanks for sharing!

  6. lucysfootball says:

    What a gorgeous review. This is one of my favorite books – I didn’t read it until I was an adult, either, and just bawled at the ending. (If you haven’t, check out the movie with Gary Sinese and John Malkovitch. It’s wonderful. Very true to the source material.) I love how spare it is, how much power is packed into every word. And the ending kills me every time. We did it at my theater a few years ago, and every night I’d sneak around backstage, up to the light booth, to watch the ending and weep. Three weeks in a row, every night. Such a powerful story.

    • Cassie says:

      Aw man, I would have loved to see your theater’s play for this. That sounds wonderful (especially the weeping in the light booth). I feel like I cried for a good hour after I finished this book and kept telling my cats, “this was just the best book, seriously.” It’s like I thought they wouldn’t believe me. I’m really nervous to teach it this semester and that my students won’t connect with it and I’ll be devastated.

  7. Brianna Soloski says:

    I read this book my freshman year of high school (1996) and it has stayed with me ever since. It’s the only Steinbeck I’ve ever read. I don’t want to read more because I don’t want to ruin the magic that Of Mice and Men brought.

    • Cassie says:

      I’m so happy you said that. I’m teaching freshman this semester and I hope they feel the same way as you did. I haven’t read anything else by him, but I really really want too. I will let you know if Grapes of Wrath measures up and maybe you can give it a try as well. : )

  8. angela says:

    you’re picture is priceless!
    true confession, this book is beneath a bunch of workout tops on a shelf in my closet. I just found it recently but didn’t move it.
    (backstory…two years ago, I used to walk the dog all the time while reading a ‘little’ book (now I read my smartphone). I only read ‘mice’ when I walked. I think the last part I remember reading was when Lennie is keeping the dog…okay, this weekend, gonna add back into my ever revolving rotation. thanks, lady ~

    (btw…while reading, I felt like the characters of Lennie & George have been incorporated over the years in male ‘odd couple’ personas, i.e. bert & ernie, felix & oscar; lennie & squiggy (some are too old of shows for you…but you get where I’m going..) how about you?)

    • Cassie says:

      OH MY GOSH. Find the book under the workout tops! You can run while you read! Oh my gosh, you’re so close to the end when Lennie is keeping the dog. Add it back!

      They are totally the odd couple. It’s like the typical man friends sitcom. I couldn’t agree more with you on that one.

  9. Jen Thompson says:

    So glad you read and loved this book Cassie! I totally agree with you it is amazing. I have my english teacher to thank for loving it though….the voices she put on for George and Lenny were unreal. :)

  10. eugeniofouz says:

    Well, now I am reading the novel “La conjura de los necios” (A Confederacy of Dunces”) by John K. Toole. I am reading it in Spanish which is my mother tongue. Next book is going to be one about education and the number 3 in my list is this one by Steinbeck that made you cry

  11. Brendan S. Clark says:

    I also wish my school system had me read Of Mice & Men in high school. But that’s because they had me read it in middle school, when I was way too young to handle it! The book was extremely challenging for a friend of mine who had a mentally disabled brother; he saw the story as purposely portraying disabled people negatively, but my teacher urged him to consider that the book was trying to expose the unfairly harsh sentiments of the time period by putting them on display.

    I’m glad you pointed out the namelessness of Curly’s wife. As the only female character, she speaks for her whole gender, yet isn’t even given the distinction of a name. Judging by her feelings of ambition, I interpreted it as commentary on the fact that she is trapped, contained, and defined by her station in life, as were many women during that time period Yet another layer of sadness on an already sad story.

  12. christinasr says:

    I read The Moon is Down in school and really liked it. But with the exception of that one, I’ve preferred the longer Steinbeck novels to the short ones. You have convinced me that I need to read this one, though.

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