I remember watching the movie adaption of Of Mice and Men (1937) when I was younger, and I can still picture the horrible end. It is all I remember and when reading the book, I knew what it was going to lead up to from the start. It made me feel even more for both George and Lennie.
The book in itself is short, but in its roughly 140 pages, it still manages to get the reader to invest feelings into the story. And that is what I love about Steinbeck. I have already praised his Grapes of Wrath (1939) and Of Mice and Men deserves it too. It is a heart-breaking book and we can probably discuss whether George did the right thing or not in the end, and do so for a long time. Is he really a true friend of Lennie´s? I believe he is. Maybe you don’t.
At the end of the day, I do not think that George wants to hurt Lennie, but would rather end his life on their terms. It is sad that they do not actually end up getting the farm they have dreamed about, but by telling Lennie about it once more at the end, it kind of feels as if he is given a happy ending, if there ever was one.
George is a good man who is forced to do something terrible. He takes care of Lennie and treats him relatively well, and he is also the one person who understands his flaws better than anyone else. Imagine the pain he will have to live, having killed the one person he can count as family. And at the same time, imagine the pain of watching him being beaten to a pulp by an angry mob, or even worse, being taken away from the only person who ever was his friend – George.
Of Mice and Men is a powerful book in a small package, written by a true master. And even if you have seen the movie, the book is worth your time, if only for Steinbeck’s words.