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Booked for the Day

Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck

Our group had an interesting discussion about this classic novella, first published in 1937 into chapters, with what is believed as the author’s intent of being adaptable into a play format. Plays at the time of this original publication date were not prominent; however, this novella was written in a way to have objective descriptions relating to the characters and settings.

Several members researched the background of the book that became a play. When people later saw the play, different emotions about the book’s content were evoked and then the play was often modified. In the play, Slim had a greater role in whether or not George should kill Lennie, while in the book, Slim tries to be supportive of George after he shoots Lennie by saying, “….Do what you have to do…” There was sharing of personal stories regarding this book including one member noting participation as the character Candy in a community theater group that performed the play.

There were comments in the discussion about experiences with hearing the audio book narrated by actor Gary Sinese, who also starred in the movie with John Malkovich. Watching the movie on YouTube was also a great representation of the book, especially when George and Lennie talked about the future and their dreams with motivation for them to live differently than others. However, the dreams start to break down in an analogy to a broken heart in a failed romance, along with the joy of having a dream and then losing it.

Members commented that the writing style of the content and the dialogue were often difficult to conceptualize. This book was ahead of its time based on the relationships to social injustices that are often still prevalent in today’s society. There was a lack of compassion in the way Lennie was treated as is sometimes the case today with special needs individuals; often in tragic times, the most vulnerable are affected.

Steinbeck also had an interesting way of bringing up prejudices and labels that were placed on people, which helped to give members a different perspective when reading the novella perhaps for the second time since high school. Migrants in the book had a feeling of loneliness and isolation along with unrest, anger, and riots, similar to our experiences the past 18 months due to the pandemic.

Although the imagery in the book was very good, several members were uncomfortable with the killings of animal and human lives, the lack of reliance on any type of technology, and the description of characters being overdone. There was discussion about the Texas Supreme Court Case, The Lennie Standard, regarding the legality of punishment by death of intellectually disabled individuals.

A discussion question was posed regarding the title, thoughts about the wording, and whether or not this book was worthy of the Nobel Prize. Members expressed a comparison of mice and men as Lennie was somewhat obsessed with mice. Each person in the book had a dream that was not fulfilled, and there was nothing each one could change in their lives, showing that the best laid plans can go awry. Some were definite that this book deserved the Nobel Prize and others were not in agreement.

Our group rated Of Mice and Men as the highest rating of 5 for how much they enjoyed this book and also gave the rating of 4 for how willing they are to recommend this book to others. The themes selected for this book are Courage, Culture, Ethics, Fate, Friendship, History, Relationships, Racism, and Setting.

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