Friendship in an age of individuality

Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck

The first thing that I wonder into my mind when I look back on this book is how many times I have actually read it? Was it twice or was it three times? I know that I read it when I went to adult re-entry school because I remember sitting in English with the discussion around how much we all hated Curley. However I am also wondering whether I read this when I was in high school the first time, though I am not sure whether we were also having a discussion on whether we hated Curley (and since it was a Christian school that I went to I am not sure whether we are supposed to talk about who we hated, though I do know that we all hated the people that went to the public school that was next to us because, well, they hated us because we all went to a Christian school, so we generally reciprocated in kind – they called us greenies, and snot, because our uniform was green, and their uniform was brown so I'm sure you can guess what we called them – and it wasn't brownies, though there was one student who would refer to them as aid's carriers, and while it was funny at the time, I am sure that wasn't fair to aids carriers).

Anyway, enough of high school politics and let us have a little discussion about this wonderful, and quite painful, little book that I am sure we have all had forced down our throat at High School. As such I am sure I don't need to run through the synopsis again, and for those of you have have not actually read it then I highly recommend reading it because, well, it is quite short, and very well written. However, there is one thing that I feel that I should mention, and that is that the book seems to be written as if it was supposed to be a play, however [author:Steinbeck] seems to have decided to write it as a novel instead. Mind you according to Goodreads, Steinbeck didn't write any plays, but then again it is probably easier to be a successful author (which is actually not all that easy in the first place) as opposed to a successful playwright because all you need to do to be a successful author is to find somebody who wants to publish your book (or at least these days people who are willing to read your book and then recommend it to all their friends on Goodreads) where as a playwright will need to find people who want to act in the performance, as well as a place to put the performance on (and this is not going down to road of arranging for props and such, though some people do get away with having only one actor in a play, but then they are probably stand-up comedians).

Once again I have gone off on a tangent, so let us get back on track by talking about Curley. Actually, lets not because from what I can remember nobody likes Curley, so because nobody likes Curley (not even his wife) let us not talk about him. Actually, his Dad likes him, but that is beside the point. Instead, lets talk about George, because George is an interesting character in that he is voluntarily looking after Lennie (or we believe he is because we are not told as to why he is looking after Lennie, and we know that his claim that he is Lennie's cousin is a lie because Lennie reveals that to be the case), though he comes across as being very impatient with him. I admire him for looking after Lennie, however he seems to not realise what is required because he is always willing to go off and leave Lennie alone, which results in Lennie getting into trouble – and we know that Lennie always gets into trouble because Lennie tells us that he does. So, what do I think of George. Well, first of all I think he is noble because he is willing to look after Lennie, however he is somewhat irresponsible because he will leave Lennie alone knowing that if he does Lennie is liable to get into trouble (which he does).

Then there is the dream, or is it a goal that can be reached but circumstances make it difficult to accomplish. They talk about buying some land and then living off of it, and Lennie dreams of breeding rabbits because he loves to stroke things that are soft (and that is why he gets into trouble because he does not know his own strength, and when he gets scared he panics and that is when he gets into trouble – as George says he can't have mice because while he likes to pet mice, when the mice bite him he always kills them). In a way the story itself is a tragedy because we know that they are not going to reach their dream (and the title says it all, coming from the saying 'the best laid plans of mice and men are apt to go astray'), but also because Lennie is simply not going to be able to stay out of trouble, and George is not going to be able to keep him out of trouble.

I can relate to George because I have a brother who needs to be looked after, but my brother is not Lennie because he is smart enough to stay out to trouble, and I can leave him alone for a while and go out and do other things. While there are things that my brother cannot do for himself, he does not require as much care and guidance as Lennie does. The difference is that Lennie needs to be watched because, as is clear, while George may tell Lennie not to do something, or to stay away from something or somebody, Lennie is not necessarily going to do that, and sooner or later Lennie is going to get into trouble. However George is torn between needing to look after Lennie and being like the other guys and going out and spending their money on sex and alcohol. As is said at the beginning, they are not like other guys because they have each other, and they don't go and spend their money in town. However, as it turns out, that is not the case because, in the end, George is like the other guys.

The other aspect of the story is an essence of loneliness. Every character we see in this book, even the married ones, are lonely. The only ones who are not lonely are George and Lennie, however that is not going to remain that way. George does have an opportunity to see their dream come true, however he makes the decision to be like everybody else and goes into town. Then there is the essence of friendship, and a friendship that simply does not exist among the other people because people are individuals, and we can see that desire in George to be an individual. He doesn't want Lennie, Lennie is too much trouble – he just wants to be like everybody else, yet while he gets his wish, we know that in the end that wish comes to nothing because while he may be an individual, he is also now alone.