I finished Of Mice and Men last night. A friend sent it as a gift, and it was mysteriously enthralling from the start. I read the little novella a chapter at a time late at night. I would pick it up every few days when I was at the end of my rope, tired and sometimes frustrated. In those moments, the book just felt right. Steinbeck portrays a beautiful, broken word with hard-working, gritty, often tired, characters.
I told my friend after reading the first chapter that the book drew me in powerfully and it was hard to say exactly why. The two main characters were strange and rough but they struck me as genuine human beings and true friends. I suppose that’s the hook right there.
I was told to hang on. The gravity only intensifies. You see it coming and grit your teeth but you can’t stop looking. That proved to be true. Each chapter hit me as increasingly heavy, and as the little book built to a climax I could sort of see what was coming. Nevertheless, “No, surely not.”
The last sentence of the book was so jarring:
“Now what the hell you supopse is eatin’ them two guys?”
Trying my best to put words to the emotion I felt might sound something like, “How can they say that?! What did I miss?! That’s the end?! What … Ok, think.” That last sentence casts a bright spotlight on Slim and George and leaves the rest of the characters standing in the dark.
Slim strikes me as a character representing duty and compassion, patients and love. He’s Christ-like. George is a loving, true friend but he is bound to duty and all the heartache it requires in such a broken world. The other guys? Drunken, money-grubbing, violence thirsty, passion following normals. Slim and George — and certainly Lennie, too — know what is important in the world. They are, in their own ways, men with chests.
Of Mice and Men is beautiful and dark, unsettling and comforting, and oh-so Dostoevsky. I didn’t think I would find a modern author I could be as captivated with as Dostoevsky, but I’m sold on Steinbeck. Thanks, Barak.