June 1, 2008 @ 11:03 pm
When I turned over the last page of this book and stared at the blank page that publishers put in before the jacket takes over, I couldn’t get myself to put this book down. For this particular book, the blank page actually was a necessity. I needed a placeholder to fix my eyes on as my mind continued to marvel at the fabulous book that I had just finished. Detailed sketches of the story and the emotions drew themselves on that bare page and I finally put this book down with reverence, firmly believing that this was one of the best books I had read so far.
George and Lennie are ranch workers, migrating from one ranch to the other, in the hope of making some money, saving it, and then heading off to utopia. Utopia, for these labourers, is a piece of land for themselves, which they sow and harvest on their own terms. Utopia, for Lennie, is a place where they can “live of’ the fatta’ the lan’ “. However, there is one slight problem. Lennie is mentally challenged and George has been around since his childhood to help him sail through life’s complexities.
For George, Lennie has been like the proverbial albatross around his neck, preventing him from leading a worry-free life. But, this is an albatross he loves. And takes good care of. When one of Lennie’s acts causes the two to run away from their employer’s ranch, they head South and get work in another ranch. Another ranch where the work remains the same, their dream remains the same. Lennie continues to wait for living off the fatta’ the lan’ and George continues to keep him away from trouble from intellectually refined men around him. But till when can George continue to do so? When does the albatross become too heavy to carry around? What does Lennie do to make George question himself? Read the book, is my simple answer.
Steinbeck, through his writing, paints brilliantly the American ranch way of living, American dreams and in the process, makes the reader come on a head to head confrontation with one of the book’s most painful moment. What happens next? Do you deal with the moment? Does it simply go away leaving you to contemplate on just what happened? Or does it consume you leaving you at the mercy of the hopelessness of your role as a reader?
Of mice and men derives its title from a Robert Burns’s poem titled “To a mouse” which has given English the now famous literary quote “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry”.
There is something about books whose titles are inspired by Robert Burns’s poems. The other famous book to have done so is Salinger’s masterpiece – The Catcher in the Rye. This is a personal favourite and is also a book which I cherish the most.
Ladies and gentlemen, read Of Mice And Men and prepare to be taken into the depths of human understanding. And of course, remember to buy an edition which has a blank page at the end. You will need it.
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