Douglas's Reviews > Of Mice and Men

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
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's review
Mar 01, 2008

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Recommended to Douglas by: Frank Bass
Recommended for: just about anyone, but with a warning of the terrible message

** spoiler alert ** You won't get any complaint from me that this book is skillfully written, in it's vivid descriptions of settings, detailed descriptions of characters, and realistic dialogue.

However, I believe this book has a bad message, and the bad message is about how it's ok to put the weak, infirm and dependent to death. It started with the discussion of Candy's aged dog. The book gave the impression that the dog's age made him no good to even himself, the "quality of life" argument that has been advanced to support euthanizing the elderly, weak and infirm.

After discussing Candy's dog, the argument proceded to Candy himself, where he longs to be euthanized when he can no longer work.

Finally, we come to George's murder of the retarded Lennie, which is completely justified by Slim, the voice of the one sympathetic character in the book. I believe that George was looking for an opportunity to divest himself of Lennie, and that opportunity presented itself when Lennie killed Curley's wife. It was also mentioned that if Lennie was institutionalized, it would be worse than death. I realized there are conflicting opinions about the moral nature of George, but I don't believe he was a good character.

As I was writing this review, I recalled Proverbs 31:8-9 "Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy." Of Mice And Men describes a world where the advocates for euthanizing the weak and infirm prevail.
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Reading Progress

Started Reading
September 24, 2007 – Finished Reading
March 1, 2008 – Shelved

Comments (showing 1-5 of 5) (5 new)

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I think you make a great point about the suffering of the weak and infirm in this book, but to me the book was saying the opposite. The people who committed the acts you describe took the easy way out (not Lennie and Curley's wife, as that is an accident). Even with the death of the dog, I got a profound sense of regret on the part of the owner after it was done. Except for the black man, everyone who did not fit in to the society of the farmhands died. I think that Lennie's death, for example, took something away from the humanity of George and others. Maybe I'm remembering it wrong. I would have to go back and look.

Paul I also disagree that this was the message of the book. It was however, a theme of the book (one of many). I think he is portraying these things in the way that they were, not the way they should be...and the event and reactions of those around them are what hide what he is really saying about them.

Yes, Candy agrees to let the others put down his dog, but only because he feels no other way, and will not just say no. His statement of euthanizing himself after not being able to work is only out of hopelessness and depression...he does not want to die and longs for a better way. And with the killing of Lennie, George does give up his humanity, his hope, his dreams, he gives up everything.

This is a story is a microcosm of society as a whole. As you both pointed out, those that did not fit into the society perished, or suffered. A story of those that fit in the society and those that don't - and the despair of those that do not. They are pushed along to conform, often feeling powerless to effect any change in their circumstances, and feelign forced to go along with the will of the group.

This can all be related to larger society as well. How often are we all shoved along down the path? How often do we feel powerless, and that we have to do or make choices that we would rather not?

I think this book is, like much of Steinbeck's work, designed to show us, and get us to think about, the dark side of ourselves and our society, to show the flaws, the injustices, the lost opportunities. And maybe, just maybe, challenge us to find a better way?

Jeremy Pardon He's saying the exact opposite. You're supposed to feel bad about these things, not celebrate them. Though I will say when he kills his freind he does so to save him from a terrible death. But it doesn't glorify it. It's a trajedy after all.

Luke Scicluna Lennie wasn't put to death because he was 'weak, infirm and dependent'. George killed him because he was his friend, and he would rather kill him himself than have Curley or Carlson kill him, just like Candy'd rather have killed his dog (and best friend) himself, rather than have someone else do it.

message 5: by Juan (last edited Dec 04, 2014 03:52PM) (new)

Juan Mitchell I personally don't believe that this story conveys any type of acceptance of putting the old and useless to death. For me it only deepened the emotion and made it more saddening. I don't think George necessarily wanted to kill Lennie either, seeing as how close they were. It was more of a personal issue for Lennie that George reluctantly relieved Lennie of. Still, it would've been nice if Lennie never got caught up with temptress, Curly's wife.

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