Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Of Mice, Men and Death

You know the story of Of Mice and Men. I know it too. I read the book first when I was in college. I have seen a couple of movies based on Of Mice and Men. I know a lot about the story, the setting, etc. But I was still not prepared for my recent re-reading.

First of all, I love the writing of John Steinbeck. I have never been disappointed by any of his work. I went into a depression for weeks after I finished Grapes of Wrath. I still cannot think about nursing mothers in the same way. Steinbeck has a way of moving me that no one else does. His work is informative and educational without being preachy. I find it to be moving without corny-ness.

So I knew that I would enjoy Of Mice and Men. What I didn't expect (or remember) was the lessons that there are to learn here. If you have never read this book- or haven't read it recently- do it right away.
  • Killing a man for killing a man is worse- at least harder- than just killing a man. There is some violence in this book. There is no way around it. In fact, there is no story without the violence. Lennie, a large, powerful and simple-minded man, is not a violent character. He is a man who does not know his own strength and does not understand the consequences of his actions. His co-worker/ best friend George is trapped in a relationship with Lennie that is fraught with difficulties. George learns that some times death is better than other options, but that it is never good.
  • Sometimes a person is killed for mercy. Without giving away too much of the plot line, let me say that death is sometimes better than life. Animals are destroyed when they are injured or too ill to recover. Of Mice and Men seems to endorse that thought, even for humans. One more step to euthanasia.
  • This story reminded me of the Clint Eastwood film, Million Dollar Baby. There are no boxers or car accidents here, but the issues are sometimes similar. Read the book, then watch the movie and see if you don't agree.

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