The Best Laid Schemes of Mice and Men....
When I first picked up this book, I was not thrilled. I had heard the worst from a friend, and, frankly, I have never been a great fan of Steinbeck. However, as the book was only around a hundred pages long and a "classic," I decided it would be worth reading. I am very glad that I chose to do so.
The book focuses on the relationship between two characters: George, small and streetwise, and Lenny, simple minded but incredibly strong. It is set in the Great Depression; a time when jobs where scarce and every man worked for himself. Because of this, it is very odd that two men, especially two men so different as George and Lenny, would choose to travel together. As the reader follows the story, they come to understand what keeps them together.
This bond is a fine contrast to the rest of the characters. The central theme to this book is loneliness, which can easily be found in characters like Crooks and Curley's wife, but is also evident in many more, such as Candy, Carter, and even Curley. Steinbeck develops a very bleak setting, where everyone longs for companionship, but, due to distrust, race, sex, or the wish for independence, they are unable to confide in one another.
The story is punctuated beautifully with the tragic ending. I will not go into the details in this review, but I will say that, despite the hopes that all of the characters had and shared, the theme of loneliness prevails. It is a dark finish, characteristic of Steinbeck, but not a hopeless one. It is, without doubt, an incredibly potent and touching scene, contrasting the often callous feel of other parts of the story.
This book is unusual in the sense that it does not really go into the characters' thoughts. Everything that can be determined about their thoughts and motives must be interpreted from their words and actions. The whole tale is set up almost like a play, portraying a great deal of emotion without too many words. Steinbeck's skill is greatly evident throughout this concise, blunt, yet oddly moving novella. I still, reading over the "Guys like us" speech in the last chapter, cannot help but choke up slightly.
I would highly suggest this book to anyone. It's only a little over a hundred pages long; it only takes a few hours to read, and, in my opinion, is worth every minute.