Question: Write a critical evaluation of the novel “Of Mice and Men” in which you consider the setting, the plot and the author’s style as well as what you think the author was trying to get you to think about through the medium of the story.
The novel, “Of Mice and Men” by John Steinbeck is one which I have read recently. The book is set in the outskirts of Soledad, California, America round about the 1930s. The two main characters of the novel are George Milton and Lennie Small. George is a small, quick thinking man and is the total opposite of Lennie whom is big built, and rather unintelligent and ‘simple minded’. When reading the book it appears as though he could possibly have a mental disability. In that particular time of the centuary is was rather peculiar for two men to be travelling around together. The two men migrate from a town called Weed, the reason for this being that Lennie touched a little girls’ dress as he liked to touch soft materials, this material being the little girls’ dress. Although the young girl claimed that Lennie had raped her and so George and Lennie fled the town. They worked as labourers and so migrated to a ranch near Soledad.
At the ranch we are introduced to some other characters. One being Slim, a man who works at the ranch he appears a well respected man and is sort of looked to as the sort of leader of the group. Curley is the bosses’ son and enjoys picking fights with other men present at ranch and is rather disliked by most. Carlson is another man whom works at the ranch who becomes quite friendly with George and Lennie. Curleys wife is referred to as a tart on the ranch, she in known to have given some men the ‘eye’ without Curleys knowledge. Later in the novel Curleys wife is killed by Lennie due to her own careless actions when she flirts with him and torments him. She tells him to touch her hair as he likes to touch soft things. When she tells him to stop ‘mussing’ it up and he does not stop she reacts in a way that Lennie is startled and when she begins to scream he begins to panic and become scared and so he puts his hand round her mouth and lifts her up by the neck and shakes her.
We are then told that ‘she flops like a fish’ and when Lennie drops her she land on a pile of hay and it is then we find out she is infact dead. In consequence to this incident Curley and some of the other men attempt to track Lennie down but George tells them that Lennie has gone South of Soledad but in actual fact he has given them the wrong directions because it is only George that knows where Lennie has really gone. When George finally reaches Lennie he decides that it would be better if he ended Lennies life for him rather than have Lennie being tortured and having to experience pain by the other men when they eventually hunted him down.
In the novel there are lots of features which run through out the book. The features of the book which will be mainly focused on are the plot, the setting and the author’s style.
The first feature which I will concentrate on is the plot. Lennie who is more like a young boy rather than a responsible adult, he likes to pet soft things for example when Slim gives him a puppy because his bitch has a litter of pups he pets it so much that he ends up killing it. An example of the plot is when Lennie is constantly petting the puppy and is warned by George who says:
“‘You’ll kill him, first thing you know.'”
The above example shows that Lennie was warned to stop petting the pup or it would result in its death but he is too persistent to stop. A second example of the plot occurs nearer the end of the novel when Lennie and Curleys wife are in the barn:
“Then Lennie grew angry, “Now don’t,” he said. “I don’t want you to yell. You gonna get me in trouble jus’ like George says you will. Now don’t you do that.” And she continued to struggle, and her eyes were wild with terror. He shook her then, and he was angry with her. “Don’t you go yellin’,” he said, and her body flopped like a fish. And then she was still, for Lennie had broken her neck.”
This example shows that Lennie was so terrified that he would go to any extent to prevent him from getting into trouble from George. Now that he had killed her he was clearly much calmer now that he had somewhat solved the problem which could have got him into trouble because Curleys wife was no longer an issue to cause any concern. These two examples both show how the plot develops through out the novel.
I will now cover the setting which is one of the many other features running throughout the book. The book was set back in the 1930s at a ranch near Soledad in California, America. The first example I will direct my attention to is from the beginning of the novel and it says:
“On the sandy bank under the trees the leaves lie deep and so crisp that a lizard makes a great skittering if he runs among them. Rabbits come out of the brush to sit on the sand in the evening, and the damp flats are covered with the night tracks of ‘coons, and the spread pads of dogs on the ranches, and with the split- wedge tracks of deer which come to drink in the dark.”
This example descriptively tells of the surroundings in the novel. This is a good example as it describes the scenery in great detail to give a vivid image in the mind.
Lastly, the authors style was another of the very many features of the novel. This style was brought to my attention many times due to the great depth of explanation. An example of this is:
“The little evening breeze blew over the clearing and the leaves rustled and the wind waves flowed up the green pool.”
This last example is effective as it describes how the wind blew across the pool. Most writers try their best to show great depth in their description, whereas Steinbeck shows his remarkable and impressive ability to create a descriptive atmosphere.
In conclusion after reading the book I think the message that Steinbeck is trying to get across is that people who needed more help than others in those days were treated just the same as any other person. Also I think that Steinbeck would like people to know that America is not always the perfect place to be, as in the novel it shows some examples of racism, unfairness to women and inequality and many more issues. After all everyone has the right to an equal life and Steinbeck is trying to say that no matter how good people think America is its not always a fair society. I found the book very enjoyable but in some parts a little sad and it is most unusual to any other book which I have read. Towards the end I found myself empathizing with Lennie as I did not agree with the way in which his life was ‘stolen’ from him when it was not his fault that he had a somewhat mental disability.