The novel opens with two workers who are crossing the country on foot to find work. George is a cynical, irresolute man. George looks after his companion, Lennie--treating him like a brother. Lennie is a giant man of incredible strength, but has a metal disability that makes him slow-to-learn and almost child-like. George and Lennie had to flee the last town because Lennie touched a woman's dress and he'd been accused of rape.
They begin to work at a ranch, and they share their dream: they want to own their own piece of land and farm for themselves. These people--like them--feel dispossessed and unable to control their own lives. The ranch becomes a microcosm of the American underclass at that time.
The climactic moment of the novel revolves around Lennie's love of soft things. He pets the hair of Curley's wife, but she gets scared. In the resulting struggle, Lennie kills her and runs away. The farmhands form a lynch mob to punish Lennie, but George finds him first. George understands that Lennie cannot live in the world, and he wants to save him the pain and terror of being lynched, so he shoots him in the back of the head. The literary power of Of Mice and Men rests firmly on the relationship between the two central characters, their friendship and their shared dream. These two men are so very different, but they come together, stay together, and support each other in a world full of people who are destitute and alone. Their brotherhood and fellowship is an achievement of enormous humanity.
They sincerely believe in their dream. All they want is a small piece of land that they can call their own. They want to grow their own crops, and they want to breed rabbits. That dream cements their relationship and strikes a chord so convincingly for the reader. George and Lennie's dream is the American dream. Their desires are both very particular to the 1930's but also universal.
Triumph of Friendship: Of Mice and Men
Of Mice and Men is a tale of...
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