I had already heard about John Steinbeck, since I watched two impressive movies based on his novels: John Ford’s “The Grapes of Wrath” (1940) and Elia Kazan’s “East of Eden” (1955). Yet, I had never read any of his books. He has always been known as a great storyteller who had been able to build so strong and unforgettable characters like Tom Joad and Cal Trask (played in the cinema by Henry Fonda and James Dean, respectively).
Thus, being in the EOI’s library, searching for a book to read in my last Christmas holiday, I had no doubt when I saw his “Of Mice and Men” laying unnoticed on a shelf: “This one”, I thought.
Apart from being a biography lover, I have always been interested in knowing the writer’s historical context, in search of the motives that made him or her devote himself/herself to the art of writing.
John Steinbeck (1902-1968) was born in California, in a region famous by its immigration tradition, which made him grow up influenced by social problems of poor people from working class, many of them migrant workers.
“Of Mice and Men” is a gripping novel about two friends who, having neither family, nor a place of their own, search for employment in some ranch, after having lost their former job in a farm.
George promised Aunt Clara, Lennie’s only relative, to look after the mentally handicapped guy. Since her death, they both become inseparable. Yet sometimes George loses his patience with his dumb friend.
Some of the most pleasant passages of the story are related to the times when Lennie asks George, for the umpteenth time, to talk about their dream of having their own ranch. After refusing it firmly, George ends up agreeing to his friend childish claim, providing him with a wonderful description of a paradisiacal place in which they both would be finally happy.
The author manages to impress the reader by showing not only a beautiful pure friendship between two grown-up men, but also the imaginative resources to which they appeal to escape from the long-suffering lives they have here and there.
Yet, the story has an unexpected sorrowful ending which in no way diminishes the sympathy the reader feels towards these two modest men.
Although the book is written in a simple style, I sometines found it a little bit difficult to get accustomed to the colloquial language, plenty of slang, Steinbeck employed to give realism to his characters’ dialogues. Nevertheless, the reading rapidly turns into a delightful experience, boosted by this odd language itself.
Steinbeck won both Pulitzer (for “The Grapes and Wrath”) and Nobel Prizes for Literature in 1940 and 1962, in the order given.
By Helga Maria Saboia Bezerra