Saturday, September 24, 2011

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

Why I read it: A going-out-of-business sale at my local Borders.

Summary: An American classic; George and Lennie struggling to keep the American dream alive during the Great Depression.

My Thoughts: There are certain books we avoid as high schoolers, that list that English teachers gush over. The Fountainhead. Wuthering Heights. Anything by a Bronte. In most cases, attempting to get anyone between the ages of 13 and 18 to appreciate the beauty of classic literature is an exercise in futility.

Somewhere down the line, though, the connection is made. The realization that you may have missed out on a cornerstone of the American experience (or, perhaps, British) hits you. You start to look at the list. Read that, missed that, never read that...haven't even heard of that one. Recognition turns to slight shame, then sudden desire. You dive into the classics.

I'm there.

And now it all makes sense. Bugs Bunny once ran into an abominable snow monster who delivered a famous line that stuck with me through my childhood, and apparently into the extended childhood that is my current life. He picks up Bugs and locks him into a bear hug: "I will love him and hug him and call him George!" Unknowing of his own strength, he practically crushes Bugs. (*Slap to the forehead*). He's Lennie! It took me until 40 years of age to figure that out?

The novel is a place of broken dreams for a failed wannabe actress, an African-American forever locked in an incongruous place, a one-handed ranch hand who knows he will someday soon be deemed useless and discarded, wanderers living only in the present. As much as they all dream about a future, it doesn't exist.

George and Lennie are bound together for life. George promised to bring Lennie with him through life, to protect him, and finds that most of the time he has to protect him from himself. Steinbeck's portrayals are brutal, as were the times in which the story is set. Nobody gets any more than their fair shake.

So yes, I'm there. I've got the list, and it's time to catch up with the rest of society.

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