November 04, 2021

#08-148: Of Mice and Men

George (l) and Lenny in the original 1938 Broadway production

Note: Even men down on their luck can dream, can't they? Here's the story of two drifters, their dream, and the tragic results it brings.

Get Ready: What is your dream? Do you think you can achieve it? What could go wrong (and how could you prevent it)?

The title of California author John Steinbeck's novella, Of Mice and Men, refers to a line from the Scottish poet Robert Burns, usually paraphrased, "The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry."

The book is about two drifters: small, quick-mannered, quick-tempered George, and big, slow-moving, amiable Lennie. Lennie is also a little slow mentally.

The two men plan to save money and buy a small farm where they can settle down. Lennie is especially looking forward to tending the rabbits--he likes to feel their soft fur--and often asks his friend to "tell me about the rabbits, George."

Lennie's love of soft things has gotten him in trouble before the story starts--he clung too long to a woman's skirt--and they have to find a new job. They end up on a farm where the Boss's son Curley dislikes Lennie and targets him for harassment.

Curley's wife is young, pretty, and bored with farm life. The men also meet Candy, an older man whose loyal sheepdog is ill. When the dog of another man, Slim, has puppies, Candy agrees to take one, and lets a man named Carlson put down his old dog.

Looking for a better life, Candy agrees to add his life savings--$350--to what George and Lennie have, if he can just live with them. They are one step closer to fulfilling their plan.

One night, while George is in town, Lennie meets Crooks the stableman, a black man who lives separate from the others due to his race. He's excited about joining in the venture with Lennie, George, and Candy. Curley's wife shows up and flirts cruelly with the men.

Lennie also has one of Slim's puppies, and the next day he accidentally kills it by squeezing it too hard. Curley's wife comes in and, learning how Lennie likes to stroke soft things, lets him touch her hair. But she becomes afraid and, as she tries to get away, Lennie accidentally breaks her neck, and again runs away.

The other men form a mob to lynch Lennie, but George knows where he's hiding. When he gets there, Lennie again asks about the farm and the rabbits. After telling him one more time, George shoots Lennie dead to prevent the violent vengeance of the lynch mob: his last act of protection. The others arrive seconds later. Slim understands, and quietly consoles George.


Read more:

Practice: Match the term to its definition below:

  1. amiable
  2. awry
  3. consoles
  4. cruelly
  5. drifters
  6. flirts
  7. loyal
  8. lynch
  9. put down
  10. vengeance

  1. faithful; devoted
  2. kill; euthanize
  3. friendly; agreeable
  4. revenge; getting even
  5. talks in an attractive, suggestive way
  6. hang outside of the law
  7. not kindly
  8. comforts
  9. off course; not as planned
  10. homeless people

Answers are in the first comment below.

Submitted to the Shenzhen Daily for November 4, 2021

1 comment:

  1. Answers to the Practice: 1. c; 2. i; 3. h; 4. g; 5. j; 6. e; 7. a; 8. f; 9. b; 10. d