Of Mice and Men

John Steinbeck

First Sentence:      A few miles south of Soledad, the Salinas River drops in close to the hillside bank and runs deep and green.

This is the story of two friends, George and the simple-minded Lenny. George has been looking out for his friend Lenny for many years and they come to be working on a ranch in California’s Salinas Valley. Childlike Lenny is forever getting himself in trouble, unable to control his emotions or desires. George may as well be travelling with a small child. They both share a dream of one day owning their own place and living off the “fatta the lan'”, and just when this dream is in their grasp, things go horribly wrong. This is an excellent story, one that has endured for many years, and one that will doubtless go on enduring for many years more. Steinbeck’s writing is glorious and he sets a scene like no one else, so if you haven’t read any Steinbeck before, this is as good a place as any to start.

* * * *

Last Sentence:      And Carlson said, “Now what the hell ya suppose is eatin’ them two guys?”

Last Sentence explained:      The boss’ son, Curley is a big problem for George and Lenny in this book. More of a problem is Curley’s wife (the only female character in the book…she remains nameless…). Somewhat inevitably, Lenny kills Curley’s’ wife due to his penchant for stroking soft things. It’s happened with mice, as George says early on in the book:

Trouble with mice is you always kill ’em.

and later, when Lenny kills a puppy he asks it:

Why do you got to get killed? You ain’t so little as mice.

So when Lenny and Curley’s wife are alone in the barn together we can see the imminent disaster approaching. At the very end, George shoots Lenny and kills him as it is the best possible outcome for all concerned.

The final sentence is Carlson (a ranch worker) asking Curley what the problem is with George and Slim (another ranch worker). George has just confessed to Slim that he killed Lenny…


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