John Steinbeck’s novel, Of Mice and Men , was first published in 1937. At the time, America was still suffering the grim aftermath of the depression and the itinerant workers who form the basis of the novel were very much within the consciousness of a nation separated by wealth yet driven by the idea of ‘the American dream’. Steinbeck’s novel is, however, essentially a tale of loneliness, of men struggling alone against a cold, uncaring and faceless destiny.
The central protagonists, George and Lennie are, as they are proud to proclaim, different from the others because they have each other. They are an odd couple, George the shrewd, wiry yet ultimately caring protector of the ironically named Lennie Small, who is, in fact, a huge man who doesn’t know his own strength and is mentally incapable of making the smallest of decisions for himself; he relies on George completely but equally, George needs Lennie as he gives him a reason to keep going. Lennie, despite his lack of intellect, senses this because when he knows George feels guilty for being angry with him, he takes advantage of the moment to manipulate George into repeating the story of their ‘dream future’, especially the rabbits they intend to keep with which Lennie is obsessed.