Summary

The book Of Mice and Men is about a guy named George, hot-tempered yet thoughtful man, and Lennie, his traveling partner who is oversized and mentally retarded. The two travel to ranches across the country looking for work so that they can one day have their fantasy lifestyle and dream ranch. After being kicked out of the last town, Weed, because of Lennie's strange obsessions for soft things, the two find themselves on their way to a ranch near the Salinas River Valley. Though Lennie often times gets into trouble and makes George blow up with rage, they always end up reciting their dream in which they own a ranch. They emphasize the part which allows them to be beholden to nobody, they can do what they want, and most importantly for Lennie, he gets to tend the rabbits. Once George and Lennie reach the new ranch, they meet many interesting people such as Curley, the boss's son, who likes to pick fights with big guys such as Lennie. Curley's wife also waltzes in, flirting with the ranch hands. George predicts the trouble that will occur with both Curley and his wife telling Lennie to steer clear of both of them. They also meet Candy, an old sweeper with no hand, and Crooks, a black stable buck, who eventually become a part of the dream as Candy offers to pay 300 dollars for the down payment on the ranch. Many events occur on the ranch such as Carlson shooting Candy's dog, Lennie crushing Curley's hand, and Candy and Lennie talking with Crooks. Curley's wife was flirting with Lennie one day when she told him to stroke her hair. Out of panic he didn't let go, similar to his actions in Weed, and ended up killing her by breaking her neck. When George discovers this he is torn and steers the rest of the angry mob, headed by Curley, away from where he thinks Lennie ran off to. When finally reaching Lennie, he does what he thinks is best for him and while reciting their dream life together aloud, shoots him in the back of the head to protect him from Curley coming to kill him.

Major Characters

George- Arguably the main character, George is a small, but defined man who took on the "burden" of taking care of Lennie. George at moments falls for him and Lennie's dream because he has to recite it so much, but is the main person who keeps reality in check. George spends his time keeping Lennie out of trouble and creating plans to do so until he finally resorts to killing him to protect him from the pain and agony that awaits him with Curley's clang.
Lennie- George's mentally retarded companion who always seems to be getting into trouble even though he doesn't mean it. He constantly beckons George to restate their dream ranch which he believes will come true where he will get to tend rabbits and fulfill his obsession for soft things. Though this all abruptly ends when he accidently kills Curley's wife and is therefore killed by George.
Slim- A tall ranch hand with and ageless face who is described as having, "gravity in his manner, and a quiet so profound that all talk stopped when he spoke" (33). He was the only one who truly understood what happened after George shot Lennie.
Curley- A young man, son of the boss, who wears high-heeled boots and a glove on his hand symbolizing the fact that he doesn't have to work hard on the ranch. He doesn't like big guys such as Lennie and continually picks fights with them, until Lennie crushes his hand.
Curley's wife- A beautiful, flirtatious woman who complains that she could have been a star in Hollywood, but instead married Curley. She is constantly in the men's bunkhouse flirting until it finally catches up with her when she tells Lennie to pet her soft hair and he accidently kills her.
Candy- An older ranch hand who after losing his hand during work received a sum of money that he wanted to use to pay for George and Lennie's dream ranch and become a part of it with them. He was the last to give up on the dream.
Crooks- The old, African American stable buck at the ranch who owns a lot of books, but confesses to Lennie that sometimes a person needs a human companion. He probably has the lowest status on the ranch as he is not included in any of the other men's games.
Carlson- One of the ranch hands who took the initiative and shot Candy's dog in the back of the head.

Likes/Dislikes

I liked how the author portrayed the importance of companionship and the presence of friends in any person's life. He showed that sometimes friends are forced to make tough decisions, like when George had to decide whether to kill Lennie or not. George was faced with what many people face with daily. Though it may not be to that extent, they have to choose to allow something to happen that will harm their friend or do something, that may temporarily fix the situation, but cause much more pain for themselves.
As is popular opinion, I did not particularly like the ending of the book. Though it did portray the great strength of the friendship, it ended in a very sad and depressing way. The reader knows that now that Lennie is dead, killed by his best friend, George will have lost his greatest companion, and it's not going to be easy for him to overcome. It is also common knowledge that the fairy tale idea of their dream ranch is going up in flames along with it.


What can we learn from reading this book?

Friendship and companionship is necessary for a human being to survive in the world. They need someone who will be there for them and someone who they will always be there for. Crooks gets extremely lonely when he is left out of the games with the men and voices this loneliness to Lennie saying that books can only provide so much companionship, it’s not the same as having a real guy there just to talk to. I also learned that there is a very delicate balance between what we hope and dream will happen, the romantic perspective, and what actually happens in real life, or reality. Led by Lennie, he and George create their picture perfect future in which they own their own ranch and are beholden to nobody. Because he keeps repeating it, George mixes up their dream life and what they are actually doing to the point where he truly believes that with the help of Candy they will get their dream ranch by the end of the month. Lennie quickly puts everything back into perspective for George when he kills Curley’s wife. Sometimes a person needs something to pull them back to reality so that they can continue living their lives, just not always something like that which ends up causing so much pain in the process.

Essential Questions:

What is meant by the American Dream?
The American dream is basically the mindset that no matter the circumstances or conditions, everyone can succeed if they work hard enough. Many people have come to America for the freedom and possibilities it holds. It represents security and a chance for those less fortunate to "work their way up" if they put forth the effort. The American dream is more specifically described as having a big, nice house with an expensive car and a happy family, which is what most if not all Americans strive for in life. It is strange to think that many people have this idea of a perfect life defined like this in their future without truly knowing how it will happen or why they want.

Is the American Dream still a viable element today?
Though I believe it is defined slightly differently, it is still a viable element in today's ever changing world. In general, people still strive for that ideal lifestyle with the nice house, car and family. They strive to live the "high-life" without any cares or worries. People today still have that dream or fantasy way of life in their heads though it is bound to change a little throughout the generations because of the differences in the things that are valued.

Is the American Dream a destructive or empowering force, or a combination of both?
In a way it is a destructive force because people view things not necessarily as a privilege, but as if they deserve it. Some people believe that the American Dream means that as long as they are living in the United States, they automatically get it, instead of the reality where they have to work for it. Also, the American Dream, which basically states that if you work hard enough you can achieve, is somewhat misleading. Sometimes people are stuck with bad luck and no matter how hard they try their predicament remains the same; it’s just how the cookie crumbles. As the line from the poem where the book’s title was derived from says, “The best laid schemes of mice and men go often askew,” sometimes even hard work can’t get you anywhere.

What constitutes a genuine friendship?
A genuine friendship is not one sided, both contribute. It's about always being there for the other person no matter what the situation and standing by them throughout it all. A genuine friend is willing to sacrifice, similar to how George sacrificed his own pain of seeing his best friend die just so that Lennie would be able to die an innocent and painless death. He protected him from all the trouble and terror that he would have had and instead thrust it upon his own shoulders knowing that he would be full of pain and loneliness the rest of his life without Lennie. Genuine friends make the tough decisions with you in mind, not themselves.