Summary
Of Mice and Men is the story of two men, George Milton and Lennie Small. They aspire to one day own a ranch of their own where they can live off the land and be entirely independent. The story starts when George and Lennie are on their way to a new ranch. They had previously been run off of a ranch in the town of Weed because Lennie scared a girl. Lennie has an obsession with soft things that gets him in trouble sometimes because of his inability to understand his surroundings. George and Lennie start to work at this new ranch, they need around four hundred and fifty dollars for their own ranch, but only have ten dollars saved between the two of them. Curley, the bosses son, immediately dislikes George. After their first experience with Curley, George instructs Lennie to say away from him so avoid conflict. About halfway through the story, as the two men start to get to know their coworkers, Candy, an old and crippled ranch hand, is forced by the other workers to execute his old, stinky dog. Later on Curley starts to provoker Lennie, so he retaliates by grabbing and crushing Curley's hand. This is the first major evidence that shows how Lennie's mental condition and physical strength are not a good combination. Candy talks to George later about joining on their plan. He had a good amount of money he could contribute and was sick of feeling useless. George agreed and this made the dream suddenly within grasp. Lennie formed somewhat of a relationship with Crooks, a black man who worked on the farm. Since he was black he could not stay in the same bunk house as the rest of the ranch hand so he had part of the barn to himself. One day while the rest of the men where in town, Lennie went up to the barn and talked to Crooks. Crooks liked this because he didn't get to have much human contact during the day. He talked to Lennie and because of Lennie's limited attention span, he didn't have to worry about anything he said leaking out. Later on Lennie was in the barn by himself with one of his pups. He started to pet it and before he knew it he had strangled it. Due to his lack of understanding he had not known how bad what he did actually was, however he knew it was bad so he hid the pup's corpse in hay. A few minutes later Curley's wife came into the barn. Curley's wife had been described as a "tart" because of her flirtatious behavior, however it had not been a major problem until this point in the book. She started talking to him and they discovered their mutual feelings about soft things. She told him to pet her hair, and getting carried away, Lennie accidentally strangled her. Once again he had known that what he had done was bad, however he did not understand the magnitude of it. He stole a gun, fled the ranch and went back along the path that he and George had walked on their way to the ranch. Once the rest of the men found her body, Curley immediately knew that it was Lennie. He set up a search party which he demanded that George be involved in so that he knew that George wasn't involved. George was the first person to find Lennie, and he talked to him for a few minutes about their dream before sneaking the gun away from Lennie and shooting him in the back of the head.

Character Descriptions
George Milton - George is one of the two main characters. He is a more logical thinker. He is somewhat short however is well "defined." He has strong, small hands, slender arms, a bony nose, and strong features. He travels with Lennie, and although his rational side knows their dream of one day owning a ranch was improbable, Lennie's company strengthens his hope. Although traveling with Lennie has made them very close, he ultimately has to make a sacrifice by killing Lennie.

Lennie Small - Lennie is the direct opposite of George. He is very tall, sometimes described being bear like. He has no definite shape, has pale eyes, and has wide, sloping shoulders. Lennie has some sort of mental disorder because he cannot comprehend things the way others do. He has a hard time remembering things and has to be constantly reminded to control himself. Lennie also has an obsession with furry things, and given his mental state he can sometimes get himself into trouble. An example of that is the incident that drove them out of the last ranch they worked at. A woman had a dress that looked soft to Lennie, so he went up to her and felt it which startled her and she started screaming. Her screaming caused Lennie to panic so he held on tighter. Although Lennie does not know his strength and can get carried away, he is very innocent because he does not understand what he is doing. However in the interest of everyone's safety, George decides that it is best to kill him at the end of the book.

Curley - Curley is the boss's son. He is thin, has curly hair, and wears nice clothes. He wears high-heeled boots to show his importance. He is a smaller man who becomes bitter when he first sees Lennie because he is jealous of his size. He also wears a glove that is supposedly filled with Vaseline for his wife. He is not a good husband and cannot keep track of his wife. Curley's temper gets him in trouble with Lennie later on.

Curley's Wife - Curley's wife is completely uncaring. She is described as a "tart" due to her flirtatious behavior. She also explains to Lennie that she had aspired to be an actress however when that didn't work out she decided to marry Curley because there was nothing else to do. There is absolutely no feelings between the two of them. Curley's wife's name is never told so that she is entirely defined by her husband. Although her flirting made most of the workers stay away from her, it did not become a serious problem until she tempts Lennie and gets herself killed.

Candy - Old ranch hand. He has a busted hand and cannot do much work. He feels useless and can only be a janitor type person. He had an old and useless dog which was really smelly. After the ranch workers had complained a lot they basically forced him to kill the dog. Carlson took his Lugar and shot the dog in the back of the head. This is foreshadowing to George having to kill Lennie.

Crooks - Black man who works on ranch. He was not allowed to live in the same bunk house as the white workers so he had his own room in the barn. Crooks was older and had a busted hand and a crooked back. He could not do much, however he had a job on the ranch. When Lennie went up to the barn he talked to Crooks and Crooks opened up to him. Crooks told Lennie that he was really nice to talk to because he was lonely and needed to talk to someone who he knew wouldn't talk about what he said.

Likes/Dislikes
Overall this was not one of my favorite books. I did however like Steinbeck's characters. Although I did like Steinbeck's writing style and how he described all the characters, I didn't like the dialoge or the ending. I didn't like how the people talked because it was both dated and "hick-like." They talked in a way that was hard to understand and some of the sayings were much different than the sayings today. I also disliked the ending. Although, through my alternative ending essay, I realized that making a better ending was near impossible without a "happily ever after" ending, Steinbeck's ending was depressing and I did not enjoy the book because of it.

Essential Questions

What is meant by the American Dream?
The American Dream is the concept that every person has the ability to go from "rags to riches." That if you work hard you can accomplish anything and even the most seemingly pathetic person can become rich. It is the right of every person to own land, and to work for an honest living.

Is the American Dream still a viable element today?

In today's world it is near impossible for an uneducated person to raise from poverty. However if a person was genuinely down on their luck and dropped all things that made them poor they could get an education and at least have an average lifestyle. Although the concept of an American Dream still exists, the methods of getting it are extremely different. In the time that Of Mice and Men was written in order be successful you needed land. An education was not as important and did not mean you could get a job anywhere.

Is the American Dream a destructive or empowering force, or a combination of both?
The American Dream can always be considered an empowering force because it encourages hard work for a fair life. However it can also be destructive because some people consider it their right to get a decent life. They don't think that they have to work hard to get by and this leads to bad lifestyle choices.

What constitutes a genuine friendship?

Every friendship is different and they cannot be judged comparatively. If a friend is selfless and, although extremely rare, if someone can honestly say that they would die for their friend then I would constitute that as a genuine friendship. A genuine friend would also do what is best for you, even if they knew it would ruin the friendship. This is only if the things that where done had absolutely no selfish motives behind it them.

Background Research