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Laura Amy Schlitz

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10. Of Mice and Message

Of Mice and Men

John Steinbeck, 1937
Famous for: Bunnies, an “interesting” perspective on women, a horrible, tragic ending.

Romeo and Juliet looks at consequences of social entanglements, like Of Mice and Men.In Of Mice and Men, John Steinbeck makes it easy for you. He tells you exactly what he wants you to see, and how he wants you to see. He helps you feel what he feels, think what he thinks.

Of Mice and Men has its critics. They complain that Steinbeck’s story of George and Lennie is more about the author’s political agenda than it is about George and Lennie.

Perhaps. But give Steinbeck this: Never has a political tract been written more vividly, more dramatically, more cinematically. Steinbeck dresses his agenda with a kind of theatrical immediacy that you lets you forget all about George and Lennie’s real purpose–to advance the author’s views about the reality of the American Dream.

Propagandist. Novelist. Artist. Call Steinbeck what you will. Just call him a master.


The comic consequences of complicated social obligations. Unlike those in Of Mice and Men.

Check out our 60second Book Review of
The Importance of Being Earnest
by Oscar Wilde

There are lots of things to like about Of Mice and Men. It’s short. You know what’s going to happen, right from the beginning. And did I mention that it reads like a play?

So if you watched Recap 9, you know that the way Steinbeck uses setting in Of Mice and Men is one of the things that makes it feel like a play.

Another thing? It’s divided up into three acts. Think of the first two chapters as the first act, the second two chapters as the second act, and so on.

Well, whoop-de-do for Steinbeck, you may be thinking. Glad he could write his novel-as-play or play-as-novel or whatever it is. But what’s in it for me, the reader? How about this:

What’s the fun of live theatre? It’s less work for you the audience member, right? You don’t have to imagine what things look like. In a way, a play invites participation. You’re a player in the story.

That’s what I love about Of Mice and Men. The fact that it’s “staged” made me feel like I was standing in that bunkhouse, or that harness room, invited to observe—even play a role in—Steinbeck’s world.

If Of Mice and Men is Steinbeck’s gift to theatre junkies … It’s also a gift to lazy readers. Because the other thing about Steinbeck’s staging is that it doesn’t leave much up to the imagination.

Wouldn’t it be nice if all those other authors did the work for you, too?

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck | 60second Recap study guide resources


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