Reviews of Nobel Prize winner | Comments on all Shakespeare's plays | Poetry reviews | Multiple reviews of same author | Haiti books |


By John Steinbeck
New York: Penguin Books, 1993
ISBN # 0-14-017739-6
107 pages

Comments by Bob Corbett
April 2013

John Steinbeck was the 1962 winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature. Mice and Men was originally published in 1937.

George is a small gentle, sensitive fellow, not too bright, a farm worker. He always travels with Lennie, a severely retarded fellow, huge and extremely strong who is always getting into trouble since he doesn’t understand the everyday world, but is so strong that when he interacts with any living being from mice to men, he may well do them harm.

George makes the distinction clearly: “He ain’t so cuckoo . . . He’s dumb as hell, but he ain’t crazy.” For George and probably for most of us, that makes some difference.

They are migrant farm workers in California. George has created a dream world for Lennie, but he has come to believe in it himself. They’ll work a bit longer, get a “stake” and buy a small farm. Among other things they will raise rabbits and Lennie will be in charge of them.

They arrive at a farm, and have made a plan about this place in the bush where Lennie can run off to and hide if he “does something wrong” which he usually does. Then George will come get him and they will move on.

George has a lot of what we might call “street smarts” yet there is no sign he’s ever been in a “city.” Perharps it could be modified to call it “country smarts” in his case, or “on-the-road smarts.” Which ever, he has it, but isn’t himself very bright.

Yet George takes Lennie under his wing, cares for him, watches out for him, rescuses him time after time and keeps their dream alive. Just after this job they will have a small stake. They’ll go back home, buy this very small farm, farm, raise rabbits and Lennie will care for them. Even George begins to believe in it.

They travel together, a few weeks here, a few weeks there. Invariably Lennie will get into some trouble connected with his tremendous physical strength and total lack of understanding of the human world. George will somehow rescue him and they will move on, George reassuring him that the next time they’ll get that stake. Lennie wants to hear that story over and over, especially about him taking care of the rabbits.

There will be no rabbits; most of us realize this early on. Yet the way it all plays out makes this one of the most sad stories I have ever read. I finished it in a single day but was utterly limp at the end; no energy to do anything further, my eyes watering at any thought of Lennie’s terrible situation, and, at the same time, feeling so good about the kindness and love which George shows for Lennie, including the tragic ending.

Bob Corbett


Becoming Reading Thinking Journals


Bob Corbett