There are few books which reduce me to emotional breakdown, but this is one of them. Revealing the darker side of compassion, Steinbeck tells the story of two friends and what happens when one of them "does a bad thing."
Has this novel become over-taught in high schools? Definitely - and people's perception of the novel suffers because of it. People have to want to read this book because nobody wants such a harsh, violent story placed upon them as an obligation to read.
This is a very different "American Dream" story than what most people think of (which is usually "The Great Gatsby"). It is about turn-of-the-century working men, who live week-to-week and month-to-month, always building better lives in their heads than can ever be built by their work. It about trying to get ahead, but always having a handicap - brutality (Lennie), being crippled (Candy), being unwanted (Crooks), or having to take care of someone else (George). It is about young men and their dreams, and old men and their dogs, and the dream that all Americans carry of running away and living off the fat of the land.