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A Short But Great American Masterpiece
on May 23, 2005
The story starts with George and Lennie running away from their previous town of occupation, where Lennie, in his childlike manner, wants to touch a girl's red dress but doesn't let go, resulting in shouts of rape, mass chaos, and the pair of them getting chased out of town (you don't learn all this immediately, though.) They find work at a nearby ranch, which is where most of the story takes place.
One of the things that immediately stuck out to me about this book is Steinbeck's writing style. Heavily focused on dialogue, the overall terseness and efficient use of words is only interrupted occasionally when Steinbeck describes a new scene, where he goes into great detail. Otherwise, all you see on paper is exactly what you need to understand the story; this prevents it from dragging too much, and it allows the story to progress more quickly without spending forever on the same topic. This results in a natural flow of events that won't leave you reading the same thing re-stated 10 times; as a result, you'll want to read more because you know good things are always around the turn of the page. To almost put it in a blatantly simple manner, this reads like a very complex bedtime story.
Probably the thing that sticks out most to me is the incredibly well portrayed characters. Steinbeck takes a very Hemingway-like approach in both quantity and quality of characters; he keeps the book very condensed in terms of plots, sub-plots, complex characters, etc ...(it's barely 100 pages), which means you won't be scratching your head after every chapter going, "What on earth just happened?" It's a testament to his writing style that each character is so individually portrayed in a span of barely 100 pages, yet I didn't feel like anything was missing; I could visualize every one of the characters in real life. He does an excellent job of fleshing out the characters simply through what they say, not having to rely on superfluous dialogue or extraneous details to get their personalities across.
Finally, the ending of Of Mice and Men is very powerful. It illustrates a theme that must have been particularly prevalent in them minds of most people during the Great Depression: "When do we draw the line on tolerance and do what has to be done?" Although the entire book is impressive in its lucidity, the ending is particularly impressive because it brings extreme tragedy to the novel without a change in style; it's perfectly believable, yet not something you really want to believe. Part of it is due to the memorable characters (I assure you you won't forget Lennie after the ending of the book), part of it is just Steinbeck's genius. Pick up a copy of this classic book! Another novel I need to recommend -- completely unrelated to Steinbeck, but very much on my mind since I purchased a "used" copy off Amazon is "The Losers' Club: Complete Restored Edition" by Richard Perez, an exceptional, highly entertaining little novel I can't stop thinking about.