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Of Mice and Men  
First edition cover
Author John Steinbeck
Cover artist Ross MacDonald
Country United States
Language English
Genre(s) Novella
Publisher Covici Friede
Publication date 1937
Media type Print (Hardback & Paperback)
Pages 107
ISBN 978-0-14-017739-8
OCLC Number 29187600

Of Mice and Men is a novella written by Nobel Prize-winning author John Steinbeck. Published in 1937, it tells the tragic story of George Milton and Lennie Small, two displaced migrant ranch workers during the Great Depression in California.

Based on Steinbeck's own experiences as a bindlestiff in the 1920s (before the arrival of the Okies he would vividly describe in The Grapes of Wrath), the title is taken from Robert Burns's poem, To a Mouse, which read: "The best laid schemes o' mice an' men / Gang aft agley."

Required reading in many high schools, Of Mice and Men has been a frequent target of censors for what some consider offensive and vulgar language; consequently, it appears on the American Library Association's list of the Most Challenged Books of 21st Century.


Plot summary

Two migrant field workers in California during the Great Depression—George Milton, an intelligent and cynical man, and Lennie Small, an ironically-named man of large stature and immense strength but limited mental abilities—come to a ranch near Soledad southeast of Salinas, California to "work up a stake." They hope to one day attain their shared dream of settling down on their own piece of land. Lennie's part of the dream, which he never tires of hearing George describe, is merely to tend to (and touch) soft rabbits on the farm. George protects Lennie at the beginning by telling him that if Lennie gets into trouble George won't let him "tend them rabbits." They are fleeing from their previous employment in Weed where they were run out of town after Lennie's love of stroking soft things resulted in an accusation of attempted rape when he touched a young woman's dress.

At the ranch, the dream appears to move closer to reality. Candy, the aged, one-handed ranch-hand, even offers to pitch in with Lennie and George so they can buy the farm by the end of the month. The dream crashes when Lennie accidentally kills the young and attractive wife of Curley, the ranch owner's son, while trying to stroke her hair. A lynch mob led by Curley gathers. George, realizing he is doomed to a life of loneliness and despair like the rest of the migrant workers and wanting to spare Lennie a painful death at the hands of the vengeful and violent Curley, shoots Lennie in the back of the head before the mob can find him after George gives him one last retelling of their dream of owning their own land.


I was a bindlestiff myself for quite a spell. I worked in the same country that the story is laid in. The characters are composites to a certain extent. Lennie was a real person. He's in an insane asylum in California right now. I worked alongside him for many weeks. He didn't kill a girl. He killed a ranch foreman. Got sore because the boss had fired his pal and stuck a pitchfork right through his stomach. I hate to tell you how many times I saw him do it. We couldn't stop him until it was too late.

John Steinbeck, interview by The New York Times, 1937[1][2]

  • George Milton: A quick-witted man who is friends with Lennie. He looks after Lennie and dreams of a better life.
  • Lennie Small: A mentally disabled, but strong man who travels with George.[2] He dreams of "living off the fatta' the lan'" and being able to tend to rabbits.
  • Candy: A ranch worker (described as a "swamper") who lost a hand in an accident and is near the end of his useful life on the ranch. He wishes to join Lennie and George in their "dream" of a homestead.
  • Candy's dog: A blind dog who is described as "old" and "crippled", and is killed by Carlson. The death of Candy's dog foreshadows Lennie's fate.
  • Curley: The boss' son, a young, pugnacious character, once a semi-professional boxer. He is described by others, with some irony, as "handy". He is very jealous and protective of his wife and immediately develops a dislike toward Lennie.
  • Curley's wife: A young, pretty woman, who is mistrusted by her husband, Curley. The other characters refer to her only as "Curley's wife," which makes her the only significant character in the novel without a name. This lack of personal definition underscores this character's purpose in the story: Steinbeck explained that she is "not a person, she's a symbol. She has no function, except to be a foil – and a danger to Lennie."[2]
  • Slim: A "jerkline skinner," the main driver of a mule team. Slim is greatly respected by many of the characters and is the only character that Curley treats with respect.
  • Crooks: The only black ranch-hand. Like Candy, he is crippled. His nickname refers to a crooked back resulting from being kicked by a horse. He sleeps segregated from the other workers and is embittered from discrimination. He is frequently seen rubbing liniment into his spine.
  • Carlson: A "thick bodied" ranch-hand, he kills Candy's dog with little sympathy.
  • Whit: A ranch-hand.
  • The Boss: Curley's father, the superintendent of the ranch. The ranch is owned by "a big land company" according to Candy.
  • Aunt Clara: Lennie's Aunt, only mentioned in references to the past.


In every bit of honest writing in the world there is a base theme. Try to understand men, if you understand each other you will be kind to each other. Knowing a man well never leads to hate and nearly always leads to love. There are shorter means, many of them. There is writing promoting social change, writing punishing injustice, writing in celebration of heroism, but always that base theme. Try to understand each other.

John Steinbeck in his 1938 journal entry[3]

Steinbeck emphasizes dreams throughout the book. George aspires for independence, to be his own boss, to have a homestead, and most importantly to be "somebody". Lennie aspires to be with George on his independent homestead, and to quench his fixation on soft objects. Candy aspires to reassert his responsibility lost with the death of his dog, and for security for his old age — on George's homestead. Crooks aspires to a small homestead where he can express self-respect, acceptance, and security. Curley's wife dreams to be an actress, to satisfy her desire for fame lost when she married Curley.

Loneliness is a significant factor in several characters' lives. Candy is lonely after his dog is gone. Curley's wife is lonely because her husband is not the friend she hoped for —- she deals with her loneliness by flirting with the men on the ranch, which causes Curley to increase his abusiveness and jealousy. The companionship of George and Lennie is the result of loneliness. Crooks states the theme candidly as "A guy goes nuts if he ain't got nobody. Don't make no difference who the guy is, long's he's with you."[4] The author further reinforces this theme through subtle methods by situating the story near the town of Soledad, which means "solitude" in Spanish.[5]

Despite the need for companionship, Steinbeck emphasizes how the nature of loneliness is sustained though the barriers established from acting inhuman to one another. The loneliness of Curley's wife is upheld by Curley's jealousy, which causes all the ranch hands to avoid her. Crooks's barrier results from being barred from the bunkhouse by restraining him to the stable; his bitterness is partially broken, however, through Lennie's ignorance.

Steinbeck's characters are often powerless, due to intellectual, economic, and social circumstances. Lennie possesses the greatest physical strength of any character, which should therefore establish a sense of respect as he is employed as a ranch hand. However, his intellectual handicap undercuts this and results in his powerlessness. Economic powerlessness is established as many of the ranch hands are victims of society during the Great Depression. As George, Lennie, Candy, and Crooks wish to purchase a homestead, but they are unable to generate enough money.

Fate is felt most heavily as the characters' aspirations are destroyed as George is unable to protect Lennie. Steinbeck presents this as "something that happened" or as his friend coined for him "non-teleological thinking" or "is thinking", which postulates a non-judgmental point of view.[3]


Of Mice and Men was Steinbeck's first attempt at writing in the form of novel-play termed a "play-novelette" by one critic. Structured in three acts of two chapters each, it is intended to be both a novella and a script for a play. He wanted to write a novel that could be played from its lines, or a play that could be read like a novel.[6]

Steinbeck originally titled it Something That Happened, however, he changed the title after reading Robert Burns's poem, To a Mouse.[6] Burns's poem tells of the regret the narrator feels for having destroyed the home of a mouse while plowing his field; it suggests that no plan is fool-proof and no one can be completely prepared for the future.[citation needed]

Steinbeck wrote this book, along with The Grapes of Wrath, in what is now Monte Sereno, California. An early draft of the novel was eaten by Steinbeck's dog.[7]


Attaining the greatest positive response of any of his works up to that time, Steinbeck's novella was chosen as a Book of the Month Club selection before it was published. Praise for the work came from many notable critics, including Maxine Garrard (Enquirer-Sun)[8], Christopher Morley, and Harry Thornton Moore (New Republic).[9] New York Times critic Ralph Thompson described the novel as a "grand little book, for all its ultimate melodrama."[10][11]

The novella has been banned from various American public and school libraries or curricula for allegedly "promoting euthanasia", being "anti-business", containing profanity, racial slurs, and generally containing "vulgar" and "offensive language".[12] Many of the bans and restrictions have been lifted and it remains required reading in many other American, Australian, British, New Zealand and Canadian high schools. As a result of being a frequent target of censors, Of Mice and Men appears on the American Library Association's list of the Most Challenged Books of 21st Century (number 4).[13]



Of Mice and Men was adapted to film several times, the first in 1939, only two years after the publication of the novel. This adaptation of Of Mice and Men stars Lon Chaney Jr. as Lennie, Burgess Meredith as George, and was directed by Lewis Milestone.[14] It was nominated for four Oscars.[14] In 1981 it was made into a TV movie. This version stars Randy Quaid as Lennie, Robert Blake as George, Ted Neeley as Curley, and was directed by Reza Badiyi.[15]

The most recent film version of Of Mice and Men (1992) was directed by Gary Sinise (who also played the part of George), who was nominated for the Palme d'Or at Cannes.[16] The role of George's opposite, Lennie, was played by John Malkovich. For this adaptation, both men reprised their roles from a 1980 Steppenwolf Theatre Company production.[17]


Stage adaptations have also been produced. The first production was produced by Sam H. Harris and directed by George S. Kaufman and opened on November 23, 1937, in the Music Box Theatre on Broadway.[18] Running for 207 performances, it starred Wallace Ford as George and Broderick Crawford as Lennie.[18] The role of Crooks was performed by Leigh Whipper, the first African-American member of the Actors' Equity Association.[19] Whipper repeated his role in the 1939 film version.[14] It was chosen as Best Play in 1938 by the New York Drama Critics' Circle.[20] In 1939 the production was moved to Los Angeles, still with Wallace Ford in the role of George, but with Lon Chaney, Jr., taking on the role of Lennie. Chaney's performance in the role resulted in his casting in the movie.

The play was revived in a 1974 Broadway production in the Brooks Atkinson Theatre starring Kevin Conway as George and James Earl Jones as Lennie.[21] Noted stage actress Pamela Blair played Curley's Wife in this production.

In 1970 Carlisle Floyd wrote an opera based on this novel. One departure between Steinbeck's book and Floyd's opera is that the opera features The Ballad Singer, a character not found in the book.[22]

Other references

Numerous works have referred to or parodied aspects of the book, perhaps most notably the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies cartoons, which often had one character asking another, à la Lennie, "which way did he go, George; which way did he go?",[23] or the abominable snowman, referring to Bugs Bunny, saying, "I will name him George, and I will hug him and pet him and squeeze him." The line "Tell me about the rabbits" has also been frequently parodied.

See also



  1. ^ Mice, Men, and Mr. Steinbeck, The New York Times, 1937-12-05, p. 7 
  2. ^ a b c Parini, Jay (1992-09-27), FILM; Of Bindlestiffs, Bad Times, Mice and Men, The New York Times,, retrieved 2008-06-17 
  3. ^ a b Tracy Barr, Greg Tubach,, ed (2001) [2001]. Cliff Notes: On Steinbeck's Of Mice and men. 909 Third Avenue, New York City, New York: Wiley Publishing. ISBN 0-7645-8676-9. 
  4. ^ Of Mice and Men, p. 71
  5. ^ Kirk, Susan Van (2001) [2001]. Tracy Barr, Greg Tubach,. ed. Cliff Notes: On Steinbeck's Of Mice and men. 909 Third Avenue, New York City, New York: Wiley Publishing. ISBN 0-7645-8676-9. 
  6. ^ a b Dr. Susan Shillinglaw (2004-01-18). "John Steinbeck, American Writer". The Martha Heasley Cox Center for Steinbeck Studies. Retrieved 2006-12-28. 
  7. ^ Robert McCrum (2004-01-18). "First drafts". Guardian Unlimited.,6109,1125534,00.html. Retrieved 2006-12-27. 
  8. ^ "John Steinbeck - The Contemporary Reviews"
  9. ^ "John Steinbeck and His Novels - an appreciation by Harry Thornton Moore"
  10. ^ McElrath, Joseph R.; Jesse S. Crisler, Susan Shillinglaw (1996). John Steinbeck: The Contemporary Reviews. Cambridge University Press. pp. 71–94.,M1. Retrieved 2007-10-08. 
  11. ^ CliffNotes: Of Mice and Men : About the Author. Wiley Publishing, Inc.. 2000-2007. pp. 71–94.,pageNum-2.html. Retrieved 2007-10-08. 
  12. ^ "Banned and/or Challenged Books from the Radcliffe Publishing Course Top 100 Novels of the 20th Century". American Library Association. 2007. Retrieved 2007-10-08. 
  13. ^ "American Library Association list of the Most Challenged Books of 21st Century". American Library Association. 2007. Retrieved 2009-08-25. 
  14. ^ a b c "Of Mice and Men (1939)". Internet Movie Database Inc.. 1990-2007. Retrieved 2007-10-08. 
  15. ^ "Of Mice and Men (1981)". Internet Movie Database Inc.. 1990-2007. Retrieved 2007-10-08. 
  16. ^ "Of Mice and Men (1992)". Internet Movie Database Inc.. 1990-2007. Retrieved 2007-10-08. 
  17. ^ "Of Mice and Men (1992)". Rotten Tomatoes / IGN Entertainment, Inc.. 1998-2007. Retrieved 2007-10-08. 
  18. ^ a b "Internet Broadway Database: Of Mice and Men". The League of American Theatres and Producers. 2001-2007. Retrieved 2007-10-08. 
  19. ^ "Internet Broadway Database: Leigh Whipper". 2001-2007. Retrieved 2007-10-08. 
  20. ^ "National Steinbeck Center: About John Steinbeck : Facts, Awards, & Honors". National Steinbeck Center. Retrieved 2007-10-08. 
  21. ^ "Internet Broadway Database: Of Mice and Men (1974)". The League of American Theatres and Producers. 2001-2007. Retrieved 2007-10-08. 
  22. ^ "NY Times Review of 1983 City Opera production"., October 14, 1983. Retrieved 2009-07-17. 
  23. ^ Interview with artist "Joe" on Accessed June 17, 2008.


External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010
(Redirected to John Steinbeck article)

From Wikiquote

The writer is delegated to declare and to celebrate man's proven capacity for greatness of heart and spirit — for gallantry in defeat — for courage, compassion and love. In the endless war against weakness and despair, these are the bright rally-flags of hope and of emulation.

John Ernst Steinbeck III (February 27, 1902December 20, 1968) was one of the best-known and most widely read American writers of the 20th century. A winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1962, he is best known for his novella Of Mice and Men (1937) and his Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Grapes of Wrath (1939), both of which examine the lives of the working class and migrant workers during the Great Depression.

See also: The Grapes of Wrath, East of Eden, The Winter of Our Discontent



  • We are lonesome animals. We spend all our life trying to be less lonesome. One of our ancient methods is to tell a story begging the listener to say — and to feel — ”Yes, that’s the way it is, or at least that’s the way I feel it. You’re not as alone as you thought.”
    • “In Awe of Words,” The Exonian, 75th anniversary edition, Exeter University (1930)
  • The discipline of the written word punishes both stupidity and dishonesty.
    • “In Awe of Words,” The Exonian, 75th anniversary edition, Exeter University
  • What good men most biologists are, the tenors of the scientific world — temperamental, moody, lecherous, loud-laughing, and healthy. Your true biologist will sing you a song as loud and off-key as will a blacksmith, for he knows that morals are too often diagnostic of prostatitis and stomach ulcers. Sometimes he may proliferate a little too much in all directions, but he is as easy to kill as any other organism, and meanwhile he is very good company, and at least he does not confuse a low hormone productivity with moral ethics.
  • I have come to believe that a great teacher is a great artist and that there are as few as there are any other great artists. It might even be the greatest of the arts since the medium is the human mind and spirit.
    • " captured fireflies" (1955); also published in America and Americans and Selected Nonfiction (2003), p. 142
  • One man was so mad at me that he ended his letter: “Beware. You will never get out of this world alive.”
    • “The Mail I’ve Seen” Saturday Review (3 August 1956)
  • Writers are a little below clowns and a little above trained seals.
    • Quote magazine (18 June 1961)
  • The President must be greater than anyone else, but not better than anyone else. We subject him and his family to close and constant scrutiny and denounce them for things that we ourselves do every day. A Presidential slip of the tongue, a slight error in judgment — social, political, or ethical — can raise a storm of protest. We give the President more work than a man can do, more responsibility than a man should take, more pressure than a man can bear. We abuse him often and rarely praise him. We wear him out, use him up, eat him up. And with all this, Americans have a love for the President that goes beyond loyalty or party nationality; he is ours, and we exercise the right to destroy him.
    • America and Americans (1966)
  • In utter loneliness a writer tries to explain the inexplicable.
  • The writer must believe that what he is doing is the most important thing in the world. And he must hold to this illusion even when he knows it is not true.
    • New York Times (2 June 1969)
  • Syntax, my lad. It has been restored to the highest place in the republic.
    • When asked his reaction to John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address
    • Quoted by Atlantic magazine (November 1969)
  • If lowborn men could stand up to those born to rule, religion, government, the whole world would fall to pieces...[Merlin replies]...So it would; so it will...then the pieces will be put together again by such as destroyed it.
    • The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights
  • Unless a reviewer has the courage to give you unqualified praise, I say ignore the bastard.

Of Mice and Men (1937)

  • George:Lord knows you don't need no brains to buck barley.
    ("Buck" here means to work at lifting and throwing the sacks of barley.)
  • Lennie:We could live offa the fatta the lan’.
    Ch. 3, p.57
  • What the hell kind of bed you giving us, anyways. We don’t want no pants rabbits (crabs).
    Ch. 2, p.20
  • Well, that glove's fulla vaseline.
    Vaseline? What the hell for?
    Well, I tell ya what - Curley says he's keepin' that hand soft for his wife."
    Ch. 2, p.29
  • George:I never seen no piece of jail bait worse than her. You leave her be.
    Ch.2, p.32
  • His ear heard more than was said to him, and his slow speech had overtones not of thought, but of understanding beyond thought.
    Ch.2, p.35
  • Guy don't need no sense to be a nice fella. Seems to me sometimes it jus' works the other way around. Take a real smart guy and he ain't hardly ever a nice fella.
    Ch.3, p.41
  • Crooks: Books ain’t no good. A guy needs somebody – to be near him. A guy goes nuts if he ain’t got nobody.
    Ch.4, p.72
  • I seen too many guys with land in their head. They never get none under their hand.
    Ch.4, p.75
  • Curleys wife:You watch your place, nigger. I could get you strung up on a tree so easy, it ain't even funny.
    Ch.4, p.80
  • You ain't worth a greased lack pin to ram you into hell.
    Ch.6, p.101

The Grapes of Wrath (1939)

These are just a few samples, for more quotes from this work see: The Grapes of Wrath
  • Man, unlike anything organic or inorganic in the universe, grows beyond his work, walks up the stairs of his concepts, emerges ahead of his accomplishments.
    Ch. 14
  • How can we live without our lives? How will we know it’s us without our past?
  • Prayer never brought in no side-meat. Takes a shoat to bring in pork.

Cannery Row (1945)

  • Cannery Row in Monterey in California is a poem, a stink, a grating noise, a quality of light, a tone, a habit, a nostalgia, a dream. [Opening sentence.]

East of Eden (1952)

These are just a few samples, for more quotes from this work see: East of Eden
This I believe: that the free, exploring mind of the individual human is the most valuable thing in the world.
  • Our species is the only creative species, and it has only one creative instrument, the individual mind and spirit of a man. Nothing was ever created by two men. There are no good collaborations, whether in art, in music, in poetry, in mathematics, in philosophy. Once the miracle of creation has taken place, the group can build and extend it, but the group never invents anything. The preciousness lies in the lonely mind of a man.
    And now the forces marshaled around the concept of the group have declared a war of extermination on that preciousness, the mind of man. By disparagement, by starvation, by repressions, forced direction, and the stunning blows of conditioning, the free, roving mind is being pursued, roped, blunted, drugged. It is a sad suicidal course our species seems to have taken.
    And this I believe: that the free, exploring mind of the individual human is the most valuable thing in the world. And this I would fight for: the freedom of the mind to take any direction it wishes, undirected. And this I must fight against: any religion, or government which limits or destroys the individual. This is what I am and what I am about. I can understand why a system built on a pattern must try to destroy the free mind, for it is the one thing which can by inspection destroy such a system. Surely I can understand this, and I hate it and I will fight against it to preserve the one thing that separates us from the uncreative beasts. If the glory can be killed, we are lost.
    Part 1, Ch. 13
  • Maybe that's the reason," Adam said slowly, feeling his way. "Maybe if I had loved him I would have been jealous of him. You were. Maybe-maybe love makes you suspicious and doubting. Is it true that when you love a woman you are never sure-never sure of her because you aren't sure of yourself? I can see it pretty clearly. I can see how you loved him and what it did to you. I did not love him. Maybe he loved me. He tested me and hurt me and punished me and finally he sent me out like a sacrifice, maybe to make up for something. But he did not love you, and so he had faith in you. Maybe — why, maybe it's a kind of reverse.
  • "What freedom men and women could have, were they not constantly tricked and trapped and enslaved and tortured by their sexuality! The only drawback in that freedom is that without it one would not be a human. One would be a monster."
  • It seems to me that if you or I must choose between two courses of thought or action, we should remember our dying and try so to live that our death brings no pleasure on the world.
  • Eventlessness has no posts to drape duration on. From nothing to nothing is no time at all.
  • There are no ugly questions except those clothed in condescension.
  • We all have that heritage, no matter what old land our fathers left. All colors and blends of Americans have somewhat the same tendencies. It's a breed-- selected out by accident. And so we're overbrave and overfearful-- we're kind and cruel as children. We're overfriendly and at the same time frightened of strangers. We boast and are impressed. We're oversentimental and realistic. We are mundane and materialistic-- and do you know of any other nation that acts for ideals? We eat too much. We have no taste, no sense of proportion. We throw our energy about like waste. In the old lands they say of us that we go from barbarism to decadence without an intervening culture. Can it be that our critics have not the key or the language of our culture? That's what we are, Cal-- all of us.
  • Sometimes a kind of glory lights up the mind of a man. It happens to nearly everyone. You can feel it growing or preparing like a fuse burning toward dynamite. It is a feeling in the stomach, a delight of the nerves, of the forearms. The skin tastes the air, and every deep-drawn breath is sweet. Its beginning has the pleasure of a great stretching yawn; it flashes in the brain and the whole world glows outside your eyes. A man may have lived all his life in the gray, and the land and trees of him dark and somber. The events, even the important ones, may have trooped by faceless and pale. And then—the glory—so that a cricket song sweetens the ears, the smell of the earth rises chanting to his nose, and dappling light under a tree blesses his eyes. Then a man pours outward, a torrent of him, and yet he is not diminished…

Sweet Thursday (1954)

  • Men do change, and change comes like a little wind that ruffles the curtains at dawn, and it comes like the stealthy perfume of wildflowers hidden in the grass.
  • Where does discontent start? You are warm enough, but you shiver. You are fed, yet hunger gnaws you. You have been loved, but your yearning wanders in new fields. And to prod all these there’s time, the Bastard Time.

The Winter of Our Discontent (1961)

  • A little hope, even hopeless hope, never hurt anybody.
  • "You know how advice is. You only want it if it agrees with what you wanted to do anyway."
  • The misery stayed, not thought about but aching away, and sometimes I would have to ask myself, Why do I ache? Men can get used to anything, but it takes time.
  • A man is a lonely thing.
  • To be alive at all is to have scars.
  • "Ellen, only last night, asked, 'Daddy, when will we be rich?' But I did not say to her what I know: 'We will be rich soon, and you who handle poverty badly will handle riches equally badly.' And that is true. In poverty she is envious. In riches she may be a snob. Money does not change the sickness, only the symptoms."

Nobel Prize acceptance speech (1962)

Speech at the Nobel Banquet (10 December 1962) (with links to audio file)
  • In my heart there may be doubt that I deserve the Nobel award over other men of letters whom I hold in respect and reverence — but there is no question of my pleasure and pride in having it for myself.
    It is customary for the recipient of this award to offer personal or scholarly comment on the nature and the direction of literature. At this particular time, however, I think it would be well to consider the high duties and the responsibilities of the makers of literature.
  • Such is the prestige of the Nobel award and of this place where I stand that I am impelled, not to squeak like a grateful and apologetic mouse, but to roar like a lion out of pride in my profession and in the great and good men who have practiced it through the ages.
  • Literature was not promulgated by a pale and emasculated critical priesthood singing their litanies in empty churches — nor is it a game for the cloistered elect, the tinhorn mendicants of low calorie despair.
    Literature is as old as speech. It grew out of human need for it, and it has not changed except to become more needed.
    The skalds, the bards, the writers are not separate and exclusive. From the beginning, their functions, their duties, their responsibilities have been decreed by our species.
  • Humanity has been passing through a gray and desolate time of confusion. My great predecessor, William Faulkner, speaking here, referred to it as a tragedy of universal fear so long sustained that there were no longer problems of the spirit, so that only the human heart in conflict with itself seemed worth writing about.
    Faulkner, more than most men, was aware of human strength as well as of human weakness. He knew that the understanding and the resolution of fear are a large part of the writer's reason for being.
    This is not new. The ancient commission of the writer has not changed. He is charged with exposing our many grievous faults and failures, with dredging up to the light our dark and dangerous dreams for the purpose of improvement.
  • The writer is delegated to declare and to celebrate man's proven capacity for greatness of heart and spirit — for gallantry in defeat — for courage, compassion and love. In the endless war against weakness and despair, these are the bright rally-flags of hope and of emulation.
    I hold that a writer who does not passionately believe in the perfectibility of man, has no dedication nor any membership in literature.
  • With humanity's long proud history of standing firm against natural enemies, sometimes in the face of almost certain defeat and extinction, we would be cowardly and stupid to leave the field on the eve of our greatest potential victory.
  • We have usurped many of the powers we once ascribed to God.
    Fearful and unprepared, we have assumed lordship over the life or death of the whole world — of all living things.

    The danger and the glory and the choice rest finally in man. The test of his perfectibility is at hand.
    Having taken Godlike power, we must seek in ourselves for the responsibility and the wisdom we once prayed some deity might have.
    Man himself has become our greatest hazard and our only hope.
    So that today, St. John the apostle may well be paraphrased: In the end is the Word, and the Word is Man — and the Word is with Men.

Travels With Charley: In Search of America (1962)

  • A journey is like marriage. The certain way to be wrong is to think you control it.
    • Pt. 1
  • When I was very young and the urge to be someplace was on me, I was assured by mature people that maturity would cure this itch. When years described me as mature, the remedy prescribed was middle age. In middle age I was assured that greater age would calm my fever and now that I am fifty-eight perhaps senility will do the job. Nothing has worked.... In other words, I don’t improve, in further words, once a bum always a bum. I fear the disease is incurable.
    • Pt. 1
  • Four hoarse blasts of a ship’s whistle still raise the hair on my neck and set my feet to tapping.
    • Pt. 1
  • The sound of a jet, an engine warming up, even the clopping of shod hooves on pavement brings on the ancient shudder, the dry mouth and vacant eye, the hot palms and the churn of stomach high up under the rib cage.
    • Pt. 1
  • The techniques of opening conversation are universal. I knew long ago and rediscovered that the best way to attract attention, help, and conversation is to be lost. A man who seeing his mother starving to death on a path kicks her in the stomach to clear the way, will cheerfully devote several hours of his time giving wrong directions to a total stranger who claims to be lost.
    • Pt. 1
  • When the virus of restlessness begins to take possession of a wayward man, and the road away from Here seems broad and straight and sweet, the victim must first find himself a good and sufficient reason for going.
    • Pt. 1
  • And now, our submarines are armed with mass murder, our sill, only defense against mass murder.
    • Pt. 1
  • The mountains of things we throw aware are greater than the things we use. In this, if in no other way, we can see the reckless exuberance of our production and waste seems to be the index.
    • Pt. 1
  • Oh, we can populate the dark with horrors, even we who think ourselves informed and sure, believing nothing we cannot measure or weigh. I know beyond all doubt that the dark things crowding in on me either did not exist or were not dangerous to me, and still I was afraid.
    • Pt. 1
  • The new American finds his challenge and his love in the traffic-choked streets, skies nested in smog, choking with the acids of industry, the screech of rubber and houses leashed in against one another while the townlets wither a time and die. This is not offered in criticism but only as observation. And I am sure that, as all pendulums reverse their swing, so eventually will the swollen cities rupture like dehiscent wombs and disperse their children back to the countryside.
    • Pt. 2
  • Even while I protest the assembly-line production of our food, our songs, our language, and eventually our souls, I know that it was a rare home that baked good bread in the old days. Mother’s cooking was with rare exceptions poor, that good unpasteurized milk touched only by flies and bits of manure crawled with bacteria, the healthy old-time life was riddled with aches, sudden death from unknown causes, and that sweet local speech I mourn was the child of illiteracy and ignorance. It is the nature of a man as he grows older, a small bridge in time, to protest against change, particularly change for the better.
    • Pt. 2
  • I am in love with Montana. For other states I have admiration, respect, recognition, even some affection, but with Montana it is love.
    • Pt. 2
  • I guess this is why I hate governments. It is always the rule, the fine print, carried out by the fine print men. There's nothing to fight, no wall to hammer with frustrated fists.
    • Pt. 2
  • This monster of a land, this mightiest of nations, this spawn of the future, turns out to be the macrocosm of microcosm me.
    • Pt. 3
  • The Mojave is a big desert and a frightening one. It’s as though nature tested a man for endurance and constancy to prove whether he was good enough to get to California.
    • Pt. 3
  • There used to be a thing or a commodity we put great store by. It was called the People. Find out where the People have gone. I don’t mean the square-eyed toothpaste-and-hair-dye people or the new-car-or-bust people, or the success-and-coronary people. Maybe they never existed, but if there ever were the People, that’s the commodity the Declaration was talking about, and Mr. Lincoln.
    • Pt. 3
  • He wasn't involved with a race that could build a thing it had to escape from.
    • Pt. 3
  • I wonder why progress looks so much like destruction.
    • Pt. 3
  • We value virtue but do not discuss it. The honest bookkeeper, the faithful wife, the earnest scholar get little of our attention compared to the embezzler, the tramp, the cheat.
    • Pt. 3
  • Life could not change the sun or water the dessert, so it changed itself.
    • Pt. 3
  • Texas is a state of mind. Texas is an obsession. Above all, Texas is a nation in every sense of the word. And there’s an opening convey of generalities. A Texan outside of Texas is a foreigner.
    • Pt. 4
  • Sectional football games have the glory and the despair of war, and when a Texas team takes the field against a foreign state, it is an army with banners.
    • Pt. 4
  • A question is a trap, and an answer your foot in it.
    • Pt. 4
  • He doesn't belong to a race clever enough to split the atom but not clever enough to live at peace with itself.
    • Pt. 4

Writers at Work (1977)

Fourth Series, ed. George Plimpton
  • A book is like a man — clever and dull, brave and cowardly, beautiful and ugly. For every flowering thought there will be a page like a wet and mangy mongrel, and for every looping flight a tap on the wing and a reminder that wax cannot hold the feathers firm too near the sun.
    • On Publishing
  • Give a critic an inch, he’ll write a play.
    • On Critics
  • Time is the only critic without ambition.
    • On Critics
  • It is true that we are weak and sick and ugly and quarrelsome but if that is all we ever were, we would millenniums ago have disappeared from the face of the earth.
    • On Intent
  • I have owed you this letter for a very long time — but my fingers have avoided the pencil as though it were an old and poisoned tool.
    • Letter to his literary agent, found on his desk after his death in 1968


  • Boileau said that Kings, Gods and Heroes only were fit subjects for literature. The writer can only write about what he admires. Present-day kings aren't very inspiring, the gods are on a vacation and about the only heroes left are the scientists and the poor.
  • Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen.
  • It is a common experience that a problem difficult at night is resolved in the morning after the committee of sleep has worked on it.
  • No one wants advice, only corroboration.
  • Power does not corrupt. Fear corrupts... perhaps the fear of a loss of power.
  • So in our pride we ordered for breakfast an omelet, toast and coffee and what has just arrived is a tomato salad with onions, a dish of pickles, a big slice of watermelon and two bottles of cream soda.
    • On travelling in the USSR
  • ...there is a base theme. Try to understand men, if you understand each other you will be kind to each other. Knowing a man well never leads to hate and nearly always leads to love. There are shorter means, many of them. there is writing promoting social change, writing punishing injustice, writing in celebration of heroism, but always that base theme. Try to understand each other.
  • If I wanted to destroy a nation, I would give it too much and I would have it on its knees, miserable, greedy and sick.

External links

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Up to date as of January 23, 2010

From Wikibooks, the open-content textbooks collection

Of Mice and Men is a John Steinbeck novel set in the 1930s telling the story of migrant ranch workers and their dreams. The story focuses on two main characters, Lennie and George, who travel together. Lennie is a large, strong, mentally challenged man, while his friend, George, is small-framed, quick and intelligent. The name of the novel "Of Mice and Men" comes from a famous poem written by Robert Burns called "To a Mouse" which summarizes very well what happens in the story.

The best laid schemes o' mice an' men
Gang aft agley,
An' lea'e us nought but grief an' pain
For promis'd joy.



The story begins as Lennie and George are about to arrive at a ranch near Soledad, California. Previously, they had been chased out of another town, Weed, because Lennie had accidentally given the appearance that he was attempting to molest a young girl. The basic characterization of George and Lennie starts near a stream when George speaks to Lennie about not getting into trouble. He also tells about their dream of owning their own farm, and having control over their lives.

The next morning they arrive at the ranch and start working. They meet Candy, the Boss, Curley, Curley's wife, Slim, and a few other ranch hands. That night one of the workers, Carlson, tries to convince Candy to have his old dog shot to put it out of its misery, but really just wants it to stop stinking out the bunkhouse. After Slim "passes verdict" on the issue, Candy reluctantly agrees, but it is evident he is very unhappy.

Later, he tells George he should have shot the dog himself. Then Curley comes in, looking for his wife. He almost gets into a fight with Slim, but instead attacks Lennie, because he dislikes him for his size. At first Lennie doesn't even defend himself, but then, growing angry, he crushes Curley's hand. Curley agrees to pretend he got it caught in a machine so he isn't embarrassed by his loss to the simple-minded Lennie, and is taken to a doctor.

The next day after some work Candy hears of George and Lennie's plan to buy their own farm, and offers a large sum of the money needed in exchange for a place to live there, as he will probably soon be fired since he lost his hand. Suddenly the dream is much closer, and the three become excited. That night, when most of the men have gone into town, Lennie childishly stumbles into Crooks' room. Crooks first tells him to leave, but then allows him to sit down and tries to get Lennie to see the terrible life he has as a black man. When Candy joins them, Crooks too says he may help on the new farm. However, Curley's wife interrupts the meeting and threatens Crooks, reminding him of his place in society.

The third day is not a working day, so most of the men are engaged in a horseshoe tournament. Lennie is in the barn, playing with a puppy Slim gave him. He accidentally kills it, and fears George's anger. Curley's wife finds him there, and tries to start a conversation. When Lennie touches her soft hair, she becomes frightened, and as he tries to keep her quiet, he accidentally kills her. Lennie runs back to the stream introduced in the first scene where George had told him to go in case of trouble. Candy discovers the body and tells George. They both know Lennie must be captured and the dream has been shattered. The rest of the men are told of Curley's wife's death and go looking for Lennie. George finds Lennie at the meeting spot, and gently tries to calm him. Then, to prevent the others from killing Lennie, he does it himself, shooting him just like Carlson shoots Candy's dog.

The title of the book comes from a line in a 1785 poem "To a Mouse" by Robert Burns ("The best-laid schemes o' mice an 'men/Gang aft agley" [i.e., "So often go awry"]). This idea of unforeseeable failure applies to Lennie, George, and Candy's plan to buy a farm on which Lennie will tend rabbits. Lennie is killed by George at the end of the book, for Lennie's own good, because 1) George thinks that Lennie will do other bad stuff, 2) George knows that Curley and his men will kill Lennie anyway because Lennnie killed Curley's wife and 3) George is doing it now, without Lennie having any pain or without him knowing this is the end.

Character Sketches

Lennie Small

Lennie is "a huge man, shapeless of face, with large, pale eyes, with wide, sloping shoulders." He is mentally challenged and travels with George. Lennie respects George and counts on him for leadership and companionship. A passive, timid man, Lennie is reluctant to get involved in fights, except when he perceives that someone might be threatening George. Lennie is very slow to understand what's going on and can't remember anything for very long. However, with George's tutoring and repetition, Lennie is capable of memorizing important instructions. Lennie likes to pet soft things, such as furry animals (he never forgets the rabbits) or strips of velvet cloth. This affinity leads to his downfall, when Curley's wife offers him her hair to pet. It is significant that he is attracted to women for their softness; he will be unaware of any physical or psychological attraction that he as a man will innately have for women. He more often than not creates trouble. He shared the dream of having a farm with George and growing their own crops and pets; being their own bosses.

George Milton

George is Lennie's one and only best friend. He is "small and quickwitted, dark of face, with restless eyes and sharp, strong features." Every part of him is defined: small, strong hands, slender arms, a thin and bony nose. A man who keeps to himself, he is slow to trust others but quick to read them. It doesn't take long for him to see that Curley is trouble or that Curley's wife is even more trouble. George seems to be the kind of man whom other men take a quick liking to, and this likability makes it possible for the other ranch-hands to accept Lennie. George harbors dreams of owning his own property and being his own boss, but wonders if he believes in his own "best-laid plans." He hates to see his friend in pain so he shoots Lennie after Lennie kills Curley's wife and runs.


Candy, a "tall, stoop-shouldered man," is an old swamper who has made a permanent residence on the ranch. He knows that it is only a matter of time before he is fired from the ranch because of both his age and his handicap: His right hand was cut off in an accident some time before. He seeks refuge in the idea of living on the farm George and Lennie plan to buy, even offering to pay for more than half of the necessary price. His constant companion is a very old dog he's "had from a pup," an almost lame pet whose awful smell the other ranch-hands regularly complain about. Was a nice individual.


The son of the owner of the ranch, Curley is a "thin young man with a brown face, with brown eyes and a head of tightly curled hair." He is a small man who likes to pick fights with big men. George's take on Curley is that fighting big men makes Curley feel more macho and controlling. Curley is frequently looking for his flirtatious wife, and seems not to trust his father's employees around her. The workers necessarily listen to him, but are not shy about their dislike for him, which seems to feed his need to prove himself. He picks a fight with Lennie, much to his misfortune. Curley is also a conceited man - he wears leather boots to show his power over the other men at the ranch, and boasts of the hand he keeps soft in vaseline.

Curley's Wife

Flirts with the ranch workers. Her early dream aspiration was to become an actress, the achievement of which was thwarted by the objections of her mother (although it is never clear whether there ever really were any letters - the promise of sending letters could well be another deception by the man to get what he wants). She is presented as and remains an unnamed character, and her degraded status personifies the inferior role to which women were relegated in early-twentieth century American society. She was reared in a childhood environment characterized by violence and suspicion, the influences of which culminated in her marrying Curley. She longs for attention, and displays her sexual attractiveness to obtain it. This became all she could identify with, and was most likely what attracted Curley, but it was this that intimidated the ranchers and caused them to ostracize her. While many may believe Curley's wife is a "tart" or a slut we would say these days one must remember that Curley's wife is most likely only 15, 16 or 17 at the oldest. Curley's wife is lonely and tries her best to have a friend. She tries to make companionship with anyone who will just exchange just a few words with her. She is so drawn to Lennie because as most young children are accepting to new friendships so is Lennie. Lennie isn't judgmental like all the other ranch workers who base what they think about her by what others tell them. She does many things to get others to look at her.


Tall, thin and quiet. Slim is both respected and admired. Everyone seeks his approval, even Curley; he seems to be content, reason and understanding. He cares about and listens to what others have to say. Slim is the kind of man that many men would want to develop into - a natural, charismatic leader. Also toward the beginning when they meet, Slim was able - almost just by being with him - to encourage George to open up about what happened in Weed.


Carlson is presented as a nice enough person in the novel, but lacks concern for other people's feelings in that he doesn't take time to understand them. His sole drive is practicality--he represents the lack of sentiment among men in this time period. This lack of sentiment means that while his actions may not be outwardly hostile, they still create tension. Carlson's character is meant to be brutally honest, not idealistic this is why it was him who shot Candy's dog.


Crooks is a lively, sharp-witted, black stable-hand, who takes his name from his crooked back. Like most of the characters in the novel, he admits that he is extremely lonely. When Lennie visits him in his room, his reaction reveals this fact. At first, he turns Lennie away, hoping to prove a point that if he, as a black man, is not allowed in white men's houses, then whites are not allowed in his, but his desire for company ultimately wins out and he invites Lennie to sit with him. Like Curley's wife, Crooks is a disempowered character who turns his vulnerability into a weapon to attack those who are even weaker. He plays a cruel game with Lennie, suggesting to him that George is gone for good. Only when Lennie threatens him with physical violence does he relent. Crooks exhibits the corrosive effects that loneliness can have on a person; his character evokes sympathy as the origins of his cruel behavior are made evident. Perhaps what Crooks wants more than anything else is a sense of belonging—to enjoy simple pleasures such as the right to enter the bunkhouse or to play cards with the other men. This desire would explain why, even though he has reason to doubt George and Lennie's talk about the farm that they want to own, Crooks cannot help but ask if there might be room for him to come along and hoe in the garden.


In the book there is a a lot of foreshadowing going on. For example, Lennie's kills get more important as the book goes on, from a mouse to a pup to Curley's wife, showing a clear pattern. Another is when Candy's dog is shot, which foreshadows the ending where George shoots Lennie, but one note must be that Candy says he should have shot the dog himself, so this applies to George in the end, as he copies the action onto Lennie. Another example of foreshadowing is George tells Lennie that if he gets into trouble to come back and hide in the bush, this tells us that most definitely Lennie will get into trouble. Also, George warns Lennie of Curley's wife and tells Lennie that she will cause trouble, this leads to Curley's wife causing trouble for Lennie and all the men. The men refer to Curley's wife as a rat trap and Lennie's love for mice leads to the accidental killing of Curley's wife for Lennie kills all the mice he's ever owned.


An interesting example is Candy's dog, suggestive of the senescent American dream that wants rejuvenation (symbolized by one of Slim's pups). Candy's dog also is symbolic of his love and friendship towards another animal. In a way, the useless old dog is a reflection of Candy and his old, handicapped state. The death of Lennie and Candy's dog seem similar. Both seem to have a test to spare the one's they love. Candy must spare his dog from the pain of staying alive. George must spare Lennie from the wrath of Curley.


Weakness and Human Nature

Throughout the story we come across weakness in characters. These characters prey upon those weaker than themselves as part of their human nature. Examples of this include Curley's wife's threat to the crippled Crooks: 'you keep your place then, Nigger. I could have you strung up on a tree so easy it ain't even funny.'; Crooks' taunting of Lennie, zeroing in on his most sensitive fears: that George will abandon him to pursue the 'swell time' he says he could have without Lennie in his life; and that Lennie's dream of a life with George and the rabbits is never going to happen. It is these malicious attacks of the weak, upon the weak that support the claim that the most strong, hurtful and soul destroying forms of oppression are born of weakness.

Loneliness and Isolation

Isolation is shown in many ways. For one the towns name Soledad when translated it means Isolation. Despite living together communally as a small group with similar needs, the ranch workers do not form meaningful friendships of any lasting significance. They are timid and reluctant to initiate or recognize social contact. They move from ranch to ranch like wandering nomads in constant search for work. The opportunity to create relationships becomes lost in the drive to promote basic survival.

Curley's Wife is also very lonely. She is married, well-off and surrounded by people - yet she is depressed and lonely, lacking female friends to share her interests. She lacks any human contact and conversation as she said that not even Curley talks to her much.

Other lonely characters include Crooks, who is relegated to an inferior social status by others not of his race, and Candy, whose age and physical disability place him outside the circle of acceptance of the society he interacts within on a restricted level.

George and Lennie are the exception to this: at the beginning of the novel George talks about how they are different to other ranch-workers; as Lennie puts it "cos I got you an' you got me."

The ranch itself is a desolate and isolated area, separated by many miles from any town or city. Its isolation is dramatized by the absence of any means of transportation connecting it to the next town ten miles distant. It can be reached by infrequent visitors such as George and Lennie who come to it by means of a dusty, untended dirt road that is barren of directional signs.

Unfulfilled Dreams

George and Lennie's dream is to have their own little place in the country, able to do what they want when they want and have nobody ordering them around. Candy eventually joins in this dream, offering to pay for most of it, and Crooks also fleetingly wishes to join but bows out, from fear and the realization that his dream will never come true.

Curley's wife also has dreams, dreams of becoming an actress and going to Hollywood. Her dream is also not possible and she ends up married to Curley and feeling utterly miserable and alone. Curley's wife also wants someone to talk to and companionship, as she is lonely on the ranch and has no one to talk to so flirts with the workers.

The theme that I will examine first is Loneliness, All the characters are extremely lonely and unhappy with their lives (except Slim, who is the only character that seems to be confident and happy with his life), and none of them can escape this unhappiness Because of the period the novel is set in, it is obvious that the men are a mobile workforce and never have the chance to lay down roots. To study the technique of loneliness in “Of Mice and Men”, we will study loneliness in Crooks, Candy and Curley's wife.

Crooks is a black man that experiences isolation because in those days black people were looked at and treated differently from white people. The quote "A guy goes nuts if he ain't got nobody. Don't matter no difference who the guy is, longs he with you. I tell ya a guy gets too lonely an he gets sick" was his means of finding a personal connection to Lennie. Like Lennie, Crooks has a 'relationship' with loneliness. Crooks is rejected from every group of people and cannot socially interact with others, just like Lennie who can’t socially interact properly because of his mental-disability. "Cause I'm black. They play cards in there, but I can't play because I'm Black. They say I stink. Well I tell you, you all stink to me!" Crooks is lonely because he is black; others treat him unfairly because he is different from them given that he is black. Crooks isn’t allowed to play games with white people such as card games. He is treated unfairly and acts the same way towards the white people who have treated him differently. Even if all people are miserable when they are lonely, the consequences of friendship can be even worse. When one of the members of a friendship is removed, it causes misery and pain; when Candy lost his dog, he kept thinking about him, and felt terrible because he kept thinking that he should have shot his dog himself, and looks for friendship elsewhere. When George had to shoot Lennie, he felt terrible, because he had just shot his best friend, his lifetime companion, his only friend in the world. Because of this, he has to live the rest of his life, in guilt, alone and knowing that he killed his only friend.

Candy, like Crooks is also different from everyone else because his age and physical disability make him different from the rest of the men on the ranch, but he always tries to talk and play games with them as much as he can. Candy’s best friend in the world, is his dog, which he cannot even talk to. However, when his dog dies, he has to look for a different friendship. He hopes that these friends can be George and Lennie. Because of his age and disability, he feels as if he is useless “They’ll call me purty soon”. Candy thinks that nobody wants to be friends with him because of this disability. Eventually, he tries to find friendship by trying to join the dream of George and Lennie. Candy offered his help to become a part of George and Lennie's friendship and dream, this is one of Candy's attempts to find a place in the world by making himself useful to someone, by doing the things he could do to show that he is in fact useful and could bring a lot in the dream as well and the friendship “I could cook and tend the chickens and hoe the garden some” “you’ll let me hoe in the garden…An’ I’ll wash the dishes an’ little chicken stuff like that”. After Candy lost his dog, he felt much more lonely than he was before. The dog was something that Candy had owned and shared his life with. Candy and his dog had the same relationship that George and Lennie had shared for so many years.

Curley's Wife's loneliness has a different reason for being lonely; her husband causes it. Even though Curley's wife is mentioned quite a lot, nobody asks what her name is. Nobody wants to talk her because people are afraid of Curley; he is jealous and would start a fight with anyone who tried to talk to her. She does not like Curley, and he doesn’t talk to her at all because of it, and there's no one in her life she can share her feelings with, and longs for a good friend. She dresses the way she does, to gain the attention of the ranchers and to help her loneliness. Doing this gives her a feeling of relief and makes her feel wanted so she can share her Thoughts and memory’s with, she notices that Lennie finds her “purty” and tries to talk to him and get close to him a few times. She also makes sure that Lennie is listening to her when she speaks "You listenin'?", since she is not used to talking to anyone, she wants to be sure that what she is saying is being heard. Her death could be thought of as a negative thing, but as a positive thing as well because it ended her Loneliness; being the only woman in the ranch and having married a man like Curley. But now that she is dead, she will not have to worry about being lonely ever again.


  • Steinbeck, John. Of Mice and Men. New York: Covici-Friede, 1937.

See also

Simple English

Of Mice and Men is a book written by John Steinbeck in 1937. It is a story about two farm workers, George Milton and Lennie Small, during the Great Depression. Steinbeck said the character of Lennie was based on a real person he had worked with during the 1920's.[1]



The title comes from Robert Burns' poem To a Mouse: "...the best-laid plans of mice and men often go astray...", meaning that even if something is planned well, it can still go wrong.

George and Lennie hope to buy their own farm one day and to be their own bosses. Even though George and Lennie have great dreams, they "go astray" when Lennie kills a woman.


It takes place in the 1930s, in California. In the 1930s, racial segregation was common and many people were poor.


  • Lennie Small, one of the story's two main characters, is a big, strong man. However, he is not smart, and in many ways is like a child. Lennie likes soft, pretty things like mice. Sometimes Lennie gets into trouble, and he needs someone to take care of him.
  • George Milton, the other main character, takes care of Lennie like a brother. Lennie makes George's life difficult. When Lennie gets into trouble on a farm, George must decide how to help him. Lennie accidentally kills a woman and George decides he must shoot Lennie before the other workers can kill him
  • Curley, the son of the boss, a mean man who is newly married. He is very jealous and protective of his wife. He takes a dislike to Lennie .
  • Slim, a tall man who is a jerkline skinner, that is the driver of a mule team, and everybody takes his opinion to heart. He is the only person who Curley respects.
  • Candy, also known as the "swamper", is an old man with only one hand. Candy also offers to work for Lennie and George if and when they get their own land.
  • Aunt Clara, who used to take care of Lennie. She has died before the story begins. She is a background character who is mentioned in the story,, but of no special importance.
  • Crooks, a stable worker, called the stablebuck. He is the only African-American on the farm and the other workers discriminate against him. He has to sleep by himself. He has been kicked by a horse, and his back has been painfully injured.
  • Carlson, he is the one to shoot Candy's dog, and he has a Luger (type of gun)
  • Curley's wife, recently married to Curley to get away from her mother, gets awfully lonely because nobody will talk to her, just because she is a women. She is the only important character in the story without a name. This shows her purpose in the story: Steinbeck said that she is "not a person, she's a symbol. She has no function, except to be a foil – and a danger to Lennie."[2]


Of Mice and Men is a story about friendship and loneliness. It also talks about the American Dream: the hope that in America, anyone can become rich or famous if they work hard.


Of Mice and Men was made into a movie several times, the first in 1939, only two years after the publication of the novel. This version of Of Mice and Men stars Lon Chaney Jr. as Lennie, Burgess Meredith as George, and was directed by Lewis Milestone.[3] It was nominated for four Oscars.[3] In 1981 it was made into a TV movie. This version stars Randy Quaid as Lennie, Robert Blake as George, Ted Neeley as Curley, and was directed by Reza Badiyi.[4] The most recent movie version of Of Mice and Men (1992) was directed by Gary Sinise (who also played the part of George). He was nominated for the Palme d'Or at Cannes.[5] The role of Lennie, was played by John Malkovich. Both men had played these roles on stage in the 1980 Steppenwolf Theatre Company production.[6]


  1. [Expression error: Unexpected < operator Mice, Men, and Mr. Steinbeck], The New York Times, 1937-12-05, p. 7 
  2. Parini, Jay (1992-09-27), FILM; Of Bindlestiffs, Bad Times, Mice and Men, The New York Times,, retrieved 2008-06-17 
  3. 3.0 3.1 "Of Mice and Men (1939)". Internet Movie Database Inc.. 1990-2007. Retrieved 2007-10-08. 
  4. "Of Mice and Men (1981)". Internet Movie Database Inc.. 1990-2007. Retrieved 2007-10-08. 
  5. "Of Mice and Men (1992)". Internet Movie Database Inc.. 1990-2007. Retrieved 2007-10-08. 
  6. "Of Mice and Men (1992)". Rotten Tomatoes / IGN Entertainment, Inc.. 1998-2007. Retrieved 2007-10-08. 

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