Nataliya's Reviews > Of Mice and Men

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
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Jun 16, 12

bookshelves: 2012-reads
Read from June 04 to 07, 2012, read count: 1


Well, somehow I've managed to read close to 800 books by now, and none of those had been Of Mice and Men. That has been remedied now, and I'm feeling emotionally drained by it. So yeah.

I suppose pretty much everyone knows the heartbreaking story of Lennie and George. I was relatively 'unspoiled' and still knew what happened in the end. I just did not know how or why, but figured out those pretty quickly into the book. And still that did not help the sense of impending doom that was like one protracted gut punch. I think that says something about the masterful writing - where the story takes over so much that you keep reading despite the clear sense of where it is going, without having to rely on suspense or twists - instead, going forward just on the impact of the story itself
"I ought to of shot that dog myself, George. I shouldn't ought to of let no stranger shoot my dog."
I used to work with Special Education kids some time ago. And I have seen first-hand what Steinbeck describes in Of Mice and Men - the childlike vulnerability and innocence often combined with physical strength, just waiting for something bad to happen. The children we took care of - some of which topped my 5'3'' frame by a foot or so and outweighed me by a good hundred pounds (but despite that a few times I had to physically put myself on between them and a smaller child) - had, unlike Lennie, the society that is determined to protect them. They were luckier than poor George's charge. But I could not help but picture some of them, who have forever secured spots in my heart, in place of Lennie Small, feeling nothing but dread and sadness. Lennie, who is as innocent as one gets, and yet as much of a unwilling menace as one can be. And it was soul-crushing.

I think the impact of this story was that it did not have me taking sides. I felt bad for Lennie. I felt awful for Curley's wife who does not even have a NAME in this story. I felt sad for George and what he had to do. And I felt bad for the whole bunch of men who had names and stories, and a woman who got one but not the other.
"You God damn tramp," be said viciously. "You done it, di'n't you? I s'pose you're glad. Ever'body knowed you'd mess things up. You wasn't no good. You ain't no good now, you lousy tart."
And that's where this book lost stars for me. Curley's wife, the unwilling almost-antagonist/victim of this story. The woman who had no name except for the possessive one of her husband whose property - and therefore trouble for everyone else - she was viewed as. It seemed that she was the one getting the blame, not as much the crazy volatile husband of hers. After all, she *asked* for trouble, didn't she? At least that's the nagging feeling I got from this story, from the way her character was handled, from the way it was repeatedly stated that a 'tart' like her meant trouble for a man. Blame-the-victim mentality does not sit well with me, and I can't help but think that Steinbeck did that. (view spoiler).

This book is definitely a classic with a profound impact on the reader, a short read that is in no way easy. It deserves the fame and recognition that it has enjoyed for quite a few years. 3.5 stars from me (it would have been 4.5 stars, but for the literary treatment of Curley's wife).
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Reading Progress

06/04/2012 page 50
47.0% 2 comments

Comments (showing 1-50 of 60) (60 new)


Jason It definitely sucks that Mrs. C got herself (view spoiler)—wait, is that spoiler tag even necessary anymore? But you're right about Steinbeck trying to force our pity onto Lenny (which is probably the exact reason Mrs. C has no real name). How manipulative!

But on the other hand, I don't think her "tartness" fairly justifies her as an antagonist. Because she's actually kind of a jerk, too, right? I mean, she's cruel to Candy, she calls Lenny names, and she even threatens that black dude (I forget his name). She knows she can cause trouble for any of the ranch hands simply because she's married to the dude with vaseline in his glove. Basically, she has no qualms taking advantage of her position to—and this is pretty pathetic of her—to validate herself as being above the others.

Anyway, great review. It was nice to reminisce...about vaseline and tarts and what-have-you.


Lauren I don't think we the reader were necessarily meant to blame Curly's wife. But from George's perspective she WAS trouble even if she didn't mean to be. OMM was just telling it like it was back then. They were all trapped. I think it was depicted that way to display how alone she was. No one could help her without bringing trouble on themselves. It's why she didn't have friends. It's such a sad story isn't it?
The Stephen Colbert report just did a spoof of the Lennie shooting scene.
Beautiful review btw. I always hoped the book would spontaneously end and they would get their rabbit farm when I reread it.


Nataliya @Jason - Thanks! You make some great points there. There is no doubt that she is a 'jerk' - she appears selfish, mean, threatening and manipulative, and pathetic, too. But despite all that, nothing justifies her ultimate fate - and my impression of the gestalt of this story was that Steinbeck partly dismisses it as her own fault. Which it was not.

@Lauren - "They were all trapped. I think it was depicted that way to display how alone she was. No one could help her without bringing trouble on themselves. It's why she didn't have friends."
That is very well-said. That's the tragedy of the story.


Jason Nataliya wrote: "But despite all that, nothing justifies her ultimate fate - and my impression of the gestalt of this story was that Steinbeck partly dismisses it as her own fault. Which it was not."

I totally agree with your "blaming the victim" aversion. I just don't get the sense that Steinbeck wants us to blame her (remember, Lenny's gotten himself into trouble many times before Miss Thang came along). I just think he wants to focus the reader's pity and sadness onto Lenny rather than onto Miss Thang. But that's just my take.


Nataliya I think you are right in this case. I think I was quite emotional reading it, which has affected my perception of it. But I am averse to even focusing 'the reader's pity and sadness onto Lenny rather than onto Miss Thang' because that kind of ignoring one of the victims is not acceptable to me.


Lauren I think we were meant to sympathise with both characters. The only unsympathetic person was Curly himself. His wife and Lennie were both unsophisticated and childish because they couldn't put a finger on their frustrations or restrictions. Curly's wife was very childish and petty but not mean either.


Jason Oh, good point Lauren. I think you're right about that. So the way Steinbeck portrayed Mrs. C—would she be considered a "foil" of Lenny?


Jenny (Reading Envy) When I first read this in high school, I had an amazing teacher who always gave us creative opportunities to take books farther. We put on a supreme court case to try Lennie for murder.... fascinating way to immerse into the story.


Jason Did you find him guilty?


Jenny (Reading Envy) Jason wrote: "Did you find him guilty?"
Oh man that was so long ago... I think we said not guilty.


message 11: by Ken (new)

Ken Magee Nataliya, That's a very personal review of a book that has been pored over for years. You make me want to read the book again.


Nataliya Thanks, Ken! I'm actually glad I read this book now and not in high school like many people seem to have done. I would not have appreciated it at all at that age, and now I feel that I have enough life experience for it to resonate with me.


Erin (Series Addict) I loved this book. Read it when I was first getting into classics. Unlike you and most, I had no idea about the ending it had, so was a complete shocker. I agree it's a very grim, brutal tale about how unfair life can be. This book holds little hope.


Nataliya It is very sad, indeed. Very bleak, fitting for the times it was written in. Knowing the ending did not make it any easier, however. The anticipation of it was quite dreadful.


message 15: by Mike (new) - rated it 5 stars

Mike Dear Nataliya,

Wonderful review. You've hit upon one of my favorites. I understand completely your aversion to the characterization of Curley's wife. However, the problem was Curley's, not Steinbeck's, although he did have some go-rounds with his estranged wife on whom he based Catherine in East of Eden.

The portrayal of Ms. No-Name is a reflection of the times, not the personal feelings of the author. As such, I always consider the historical context in which a novel was written, including social biases and prejudices of the time. I don't agree with them. But, rather, I consider how far we've come since a literary work's initial appearance.

Please don't consider this a lecture, for it certainly is not meant to be one. But imagine if Steinbeck had written Ms. C. with the personality of Betty Friedan or Gloria Steinem. Would it have worked? And would Curley have emerged as the snake that he was?

Random thoughts on a Monday morning...

Many thanks for your dedicated reviewing in this community. You and many others inspire me to be an active member of goodreads. There will always be a need to keep the love of reading alive. You're one of those that does.

Sincerely,
Mike Sullivan


Nataliya Thanks, Mike, for the compliment and such a well thought-out comment. I do understand the points that you made, and I considered that while writing my review. I agree with you on the necessity of reading the novel while understanding its social and historical context. But it made me think that Steinbeck was definitely a man of his time and that he must have shared at least some of the viewpoints of his characters. Of course, it's inevitable - I definitely share quite a few viewpoints of my generation that are probably going to be deemed unacceptable and offensive a couple of generations down the road. I understand that, but I still cannot shake off the feeling of unease that such attitudes bring out in me. I am immensely thankful that the times have changed enough for me to even notice such things!

And you are completely right - inserting a feminist perspective into a book like Of Mice and Men would have clashed terribly with the characters and the spirit of the story. But I still wish that this particular character had been handled with more grace and compassion. It is just so hard for me to completely put my views aside when reading and approach the literary work completely unbiased. Maybe that skill will eventually come.

Again, thanks so much for the insightful comment. I love that GR gives me a chance to talk to people who make me think and question my attitudes. It is such an enriching experience!

I still need to read "East of Eden". And I definitely will now, seeing how good of a writer Steinbeck is.


message 17: by Allie (new)

Allie I actually think that the sympathy of the narrative is 100% with Curley's wife and with Lennie. The other characters say nasty things about Mrs. C, but that reflects their point of view, not Steinbeck's.


Nataliya Allie wrote: "I actually think that the sympathy of the narrative is 100% with Curley's wife and with Lennie. The other characters say nasty things about Mrs. C, but that reflects their point of view, not Steinb..."

You are probably right, but my personal perception of this story was as I said above. Maybe it was wrong (most likely it was), but I can't help the way I experienced it. It just felt to me that Lennie got way more sympathy than Mrs. C. ever did, and that she was shown as almost 'asking for trouble', if I can put it this way. Which was exactly what led me to question Mr. Steinbeck's own views.


Chrisolu Candy was also a character deserving of empathy as was the Black character . Poor candy worked all his life and didn't have a pot to piss in or a window to throw it out of and the Black character treated worse than a smelling old dog knocking on death's door.


Nataliya True on both counts. This book is a testimony to the sadness and unfairness of life, isn't it?


Chrisolu Nataliya wrote: "True on both counts. This book is a testimony to the sadness and unfairness of life, isn't it?"
That it is Nataliya.


Plucino Nataliya, I hugely liked the book but your review is very detailed and eye-opening. IMHO Steinbeck meant that Curley's wife had an attitude that covered her real, unspoilt self, that emerged when the "poor bastard" killed her. Yes - before you tell me - I agree, not good enough a reason to kill another human being! For what is worth my judgment, I give 5 stars both to Steinbeck and to you :-)


Nataliya Thanks for the praise, Plucino!
I think your take on it is valid as well - all of this multilayeredness (that definitely is NOT a word but my brain is tired) is the real beauty and strength of this book.


Chrisolu I see I gave the book 3 stars but it's really a four star book. It's one of those books that you need to reflect on a bit after reading it.


message 25: by Nataliya (last edited Jul 11, 2012 09:24PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Nataliya Chrisolu wrote: "It's one of those books that you need to reflect on a bit after reading it."

Very true. It's definitely a thought-provoking book.


Erin (Series Addict) I think it's so serious and grim, gritty in its sad realism, that it's not only thought provoking but pretty much impossible to forget.


Nataliya Erin wrote: "I think it's so serious and grim, gritty in its sad realism, that it's not only thought provoking but pretty much impossible to forget."

Fully agree. Even though I did not love it, I can easily see all the greatness that this book has.


Jessie Foxx I believe that she was given no name to emphasis the fact of her being Curley's property. I think it was a work of genius on Steinbeck's part. Curley's wife hated the idea of being property, of belonging to someone, but she did. It was a twist of sad irony that made Curley's wife all the more interesting.


Nataliya Jessie wrote: "I believe that she was given no name to emphasis the fact of her being Curley's property. I think it was a work of genius on Steinbeck's part. Curley's wife hated the idea of being property, of bel..."

Oh, I agree with that wholeheartedly. She was Curley's wife in the same way as there probably was Curley's dog and Curley's gun and Curley's underwear. Just something that belongs to the guy, and something that therefore is his and off-limits to others. A piece of property, no more, no less.


Shoal3724 I agree with your view on Curley!


message 31: by Noah (new) - rated it 2 stars

Noah Hargrove i don't know why you like this book the ending suck


Erin (Series Addict) I found the ending brilliant - it was wrapping up the main point and theme of the book (that change isn't always possible and he would continue to take care of Lenny regardless of what he had to do.)


Nataliya Noah wrote: "i don't know why you like this book the ending suck"

I agree with Erin. It could have not ended in any other way and still have the same impact on the readers. This is the book that cannot have a happy ending.


Daniel Troche @Noah...not everything in life ends happily. It is a sad and tragic ending but it makes it more powerful IMO. It's a book about having dreams and hopes and how things play out differently in reality.


Nataliya Daniel wrote: "@Noah...not everything in life ends happily. It is a sad and tragic ending but it makes it more powerful IMO. It's a book about having dreams and hopes and how things play out differently in reality."

A thousand times yes. Well said.


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Nataliya @ Mohammed: The main benefit of reading novels is your enjoyment and resulting growth and change of your personality. Otherwise there's no point doing it.


Becky Bedbug This is interesting. I don't think Steinbeck himself blamed Curley's wife. It's more a reflection of society at the time and, unfortuantely, today is not much different.


message 39: by Thomas (new)

Thomas Le The corruption of the brothel and flirtatious characters are great. Of Mice and Men explains that people need relationships, but back away because they are not confident. Of Mice and Men certainly is a strong novel that explains themes clearly. Also, people have many kinds of strengths that should be part of their character. The other main theme is that physical strength is less important than spiritual strength.


Anthony Carelly Don't you think the way Curley's wife was treated by the author might have been on purpose to emphasize the framework of societal relations then. If anything that should enhance your rating of the book! :)


message 41: by Thomas (new)

Thomas Le The way Curley's wife was treated could be exaggerated to show the society, at that time in the 20th century.


message 42: by Thomas (new)

Thomas Le Curley only uses others for his own selfish purposes. People who have close relationships with him become submissive. His power is massive, at that period in time.


message 43: by Antonio (new)

Antonio This book was indeed tragic. I felt attatched with the main characters George and Lennie throughout the book. I feel as though each human being shares characteristics with both George and Lennie. We all have a dream and keep motivating ourselves by reminding us of that particular dream.The small farm(with every little detail) that they dreamed about it is the same way we think of our dreams.Honestly I didn't see tragedy coming. I assumed this was a book that had a happy ending, but that wasn't the case.


message 44: by Maia (new) - rated it 5 stars

Maia Yeah the reason she had no name was because Steinbeck wanted us to think less of her but seriously, she was pretty much a "tart" in my opinion.


Brian Yes, it is horrible that a book set in a certain time period reflects the views of that time period accurately. I'm sure it was Steinbeck's grand plan all along to demean woman in such a way. Reminds me of the way To Kill A Mockingbird treated African Americans. Completely ruined the book for me.


Jason Ah, there's the kind of dick comment I've come to know and expect from Goodreads.

Which, by the way, I believe you've totally taken what she said here out of context. Way to go.


Nataliya Brian wrote: "Yes, it is horrible that a book set in a certain time period reflects the views of that time period accurately. I'm sure it was Steinbeck's grand plan all along to demean woman in such a way. Reminds me of the way To Kill A Mockingbird treated African Americans. Completely ruined the book for me."

Unnecessarily passive-aggressive sarcastic tone is uncalled for, Brian.


@ Jason - thanks for your comment.


Erin (Series Addict) It doesn't bother me about her being demeaned/put into a role because they all were - that was the point, they were all trapped in roles. So she doesn't stand out as a special case to me, she is as much a victim as the others IMO


Brian Not a dick comment at all, just pointing out what I thought was an extremely obvious point.

Not taken out of context, she said the reason it lost points was the treatment of his wife. I'm sorry everything can't be rainbows and butterflies, not how the world works, and would be extremely boring to read if it was.


Nataliya Brian wrote: "Not a dick comment at all, just pointing out what I thought was an extremely obvious point.

Not taken out of context, she said the reason it lost points was the treatment of his wife. I'm sorry e..."


Yes, I said that. Regardless of the time period, Steinbeck could have tried to avoid misogyny. That is not demanding rainbows and butterflies, despite the dismissive attitude you show. So please do not twist my words out of context.

The problem is the tone of your comment, Brian.


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