I was quite sure I wanted to read something by Steinbeck for the Classics Challenge but for the longest time I couldn't decide between Of Mice and Men and The Grapes of Wrath. I went with Of Mice and Men because I read somewhere (probably Wikipedia) that it is one of the most frequently censored, banned and challenged books of all time. Apparently, it’s been challenged for obscenity, racial slurs and misrepresentation of the community. I wanted to see what all the fuss was about but frankly, I don’t see it. The language is positively mild by today’s standards and it’s plain to see that Steinbeck was not condoning racism.
Set during the Great Depression, Of Mice and Men follows protagonists George and Lennie to a ranch in Soledad, California. George is small and clever; Lennie is strong but has the mind of a child. George is protective and very mindful of Lennie and the relationship between the two friends is really the backbone of this story. The two men share a dream of someday owning a piece of land where they could live and work as they please. When they both find employment at the ranch in Soledad, their dream suddenly, seems very attainable and within reach. However, as the title suggests, the best laid plans of mice and men go awry.
What struck me the most about the book was the characters. Every single one of them is very distinct and well drawn although the descriptions and back stories are kept to a minimum. There is a thread of loneliness that connects these men (and woman) but nobody including the author harps on it. The setting feels very stark and cheerless, emphasizing this loneliness.
Having said all of that, I’ll be honest with you; this wasn't my favorite classic of this year. I can see why it is such a classic and there definitely is a lot to this book, but I just couldn't connect with it. Maybe it was the setting, maybe it was the plot, I grew a bit fatigued with it towards the end, which is crazy because it’s such a short book. Don’t let that dissuade you if you were planning to read this because, like I said, there is a lot to like here.