George and Lennie are migrant laborers floating through ranches to make ends meat during the Great Depression. George takes Lennie under his wing in an attempt to channel Lennie’s strength and simplicity and keep him grounded with fantasies of a settled life with a tiny house and garden of their own. The two jump to new jobs within a couple of months, fleeing whenever problems arise.
I’ve heard polarized opinions on John Steinbeck; it seems people either love or hate him. I actually really enjoyed this book. The characters followed very strong archetypes and had straight forward personalities, bordering on flat, but I think that allowed the story to flow easier. The classic sleazy, small, and cunning guy paired with his kind, large, and oblivious friend is the basis of the novel, which made me wonder if this is where these types sprung from.
The story is quick and simple, but the dry structure of the plot leave room for interpretation and symbolism hidden under the seemingly pointless events the two go through. It brings up questions of strength in mind and body, friendship, and moral decisions based on the greater good.
The only thing I didn’t like is the inevitable sexist portrayal of women. Another motif is the bond between men and strength in their brotherhood, and women were always the corrupting force. In their fantasy of their own home, a woman was not mentioned, and the tragic events in the book all stemmed or revolved around women. Maybe this interpretation of women made a migrant lifestyle without a family easier, or maybe Steinbeck is just sexist. Either way, I wasn’t necessarily offended because of the times and the situation, but I also didn’t feel like it was important to the novel to be that blatantly sexist.
Overall, though, I enjoyed reading the book. It’s a quick classic, so it’s easy to impress people with, but not too hard to handle. The plot is straightforward, but the themes dig deeper, and depending on how you read it, the story can really make you think.