Transcript - Of Mice and Men

Author: John Steinbeck
Title: Or Mice and Men
Plot: A gripping story about one drifter who looks after his slow friend despite his shortcomings
Note: This is an excellent story!

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Full Transcript

Hey, welcome back!

Today I will be reviewing of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck.

I would imagine some of you are wondering why I broke Of Mice and Men into a three part series, when the combined total of all 3 podcasts is the size of one. Why do that? I did that because on my first draft of this episode, my fans complained that the review was too vague and they wanted more. Instead of caving into the pressure, I decided to have a little bit of fun with them. So I gave them more in part two, but I made it a cliffhanger.

And so as you are about to see, I was somewhat vague with this first book review that fell flat, but I redeemed myself by responding to complaints by being a jerk.

What a fantastic book! On a scale of one to five stars, this one deserves 6!
The best audience of the book is anyone who enjoys fiction. I would classify this story as a drama with some comedy in it.

In an earlier podcast (20,000 Leagues Under the Sea) I commented that there is no such thing as a spoiler. And since I explained that there, I won’t rehash it here, but I confess I am conflicted about reviewing his book in detail. I knew nothing about it apart from the popularity of the title when I read it. And when I put it down I was stunned! And I don't want to deprive you of that same experience

John Steinbeck was born in February 1902, he died at age 66. Just four years after he won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1962 for his realistic and imaginative writings.

During his writing career, he authored 27 books, including 16 novels.
And you may know him for names like:
  1. East of Eden, 
  2. The Red Pony,
  3. The Grapes of Wrath

And that last one by the way sold 14 million copies in 75 years which is really good! 

His writing career was bumpy. He traveled to New York City where he took odd jobs while trying to write. And when he failed to publish, he returned to California and worked as a tour guide and a caretaker. At one point he tried making money by making plaster mannequins.

And after running out of money he moved back in with family and survived on the kindness of others accepting paper and ink for his writing, and living on loans that enabled him to focus on his work. During the great depression he grew his own food and survived on that combined with hunting, fishing and stealing bacon from a local grocery store. But he always shared with his friends.

I love the way the story opens! I’ve never been a fan of descriptions of nature, but somehow Steinbeck convinced me that his description was integral to the plot. And shortly thereafter it was so vivid, I didn’t care if it wasn’t part of the plot or not, I lost myself in the scene due to the way that he brought it to life.

Now there are two main characters in his story: George and Lennie.

These two couldn't be more opposite: one is heavy and big, the other is skinny and small; one smart the other dumb. I couldn’t shake the sense that somehow Steinbeck’s work was the inspiration for the movies the Green Mile and the Rainman.

George saddled himself with the responsibility of caring for Lennie, who was slow in every sense of the word. He had trouble remembering things he was told, he lacked self control, and he was kind, but in a very simple way.

Lennie makes George’s life difficult and George has no compunction about blurting out his thoughts on the matter. They both lead the lives of drifters who take on odd jobs working for farms and such. And they often find themselves fleeing from one community to another because of something stupid that Lennie did.

I love the way Steinbeck built and dragged the story out to the point where I found myself wondering, what is the point? And just as I nearly gave up on the book, he grabbed my attention and I couldn’t put it down without completing it. I loved the way he did that it gave me the idea that he had such control in writing that he knew, when I the reader would get a little bit bored with his work, and how long he could dangle me along before he finally satisfied me with the point of the story.

It’s not often that I read a book that leaves me stunned at the end. I was shell shocked and I found myself re-reading the last few paragraphs. And that’s all I’m going to say, this book it’s great! I think everyone should read it for themselves. I mean it's beyond it's copyright now. I certainly don't want to give you so much information that you decide not to read it. Everyone should read this book, it's fantastic!

As always, have a brilliant week and y'all come back now, ya here?

Part 2

Hey, welcome back!

Today I will be reviewing of Mice and Men, again...

Okay! okay! You spoke and I listened.

The feedback I got from the last review was that I made people curious. And so they couldn’t wait to find out how the book ends they wanted to know now. So consider this a part 2 book review. Bear in mind this review is a total spoiler. Meaning I'm going to tell you how the book ends, but you should still read the book. In an earlier podcast I mentioned there is no such thing as a spoiler because knowing what’s coming builds anticipation. I’ll prove that to you with this podcast: I’m going to tell you right now that someone or something is going to die by the end of the book. And I’ll even tell you that Lennie is going to kill it.

I’ll say it again, it is a fantastic book! It left me shell shocked at the end! On a scale of one to five stars, this one gets 6.

The best audience is anyone who enjoys fiction. Particularly those who liked Rainman and The Green Mile.

The book opens to a scene by a river only a half mile away from a job that George and Lennie were about to take. Lennie is a big strong man who constantly gets in trouble because he’s slow. And when George tells Lennie to remember this location in case he does anything bad, because they will run back to it. It emphasizes that Lennie has a self control problem. One that's serious, it's so bad George plans for future catastrophes.

And during the opening scene we discover that Lennie loves to pet pretty things. Yeah... He carried a dead mouse in his pocket that he was petting and George told him that one day they would buy a farm together so they could retire and stop running. And that it would have rabbits and dogs for Lennie to play with and pet. And of course George insisted that Lennie throw that mouse away.  Lennie reluctantly complied even though he went and retrieved it at one point. But once again George made him get rid of it. The author makes it clear that Lennie doesn’t know his own strength. And whenever he becomes afraid or gets nervous he panics committing to the worst decision imaginable. For example, he once saw a pretty girl in a pretty dress and mesmerized by the scene he grabbed her dress to pet it.

She of course freaked out and started screaming and so Lennie gripped the dress tighter and tighter. The more she screamed the tighter he gripped. And so he and George were chased from a town called Weed by a mob of people who were defending the girl.

George emphasizes the importance to Lennie that he do no talking. When they arrive at the job, George will answer all the questions. Because so long as the people first get to see Lennie work, they'll be welcome — even if they discover him to be stupid later. But if Lennie opens his mouth, they’ll get fired before they start.

The next morning they arrive on the job late and the owner chews them out and notices Lennie doesn’t talk much. Lennie of course then gives us a demonstration of his self control issues by blurting out a reply and nearly losing them the both the job.

And time goes by... The people do get to see Lennie work and they marvel at how strong this guy is. Of course the owner’s son is short and insecure and so he picks a fight with everyone. Though George told Lennie to steer clear of the man named Curley, Curley does something to Lennie that makes even George so mad that he tells Lennie to let Curley have it. What ensued afterward was not the most compelling fight scene I’ve ever seen. After Curley throws Lennie a beating aimed primarily at his face. Lennie becomes angry and catches Curley’s fist. He then  squeezes it so hard he breaks every bone in Curley’s hand. And this is when we truly appreciate just how strong this man is. Though we had heard it described, we were skeptical, but now we are beginning to believe.

And though this fight scene wasn’t glamorous it taught us two very important things about Lennie: 

  1. He was incredibly strong and
  2. he wasn’t particularly agile or smooth. 

He won the fight by catching the fist and getting so nervous he couldn’t let go, squeezing tighter and tighter the way he did with the girl and her dress. Now I told you earlier someone or something was going to die and now you know how he’s going to kill it. But I didn’t need to tell you that, because you figured out that out, didn’t you?

John Steinbeck, who is the author, then does something very human with his story. He allows Lennie to blurt out the dream to buy a farm with rabbits and dogs to a man named Candy who lost his hand to a machine on the ranch. As compensation Candy received $250 which he kept in the bank. And so despite George’s stern objections that Lennie keep this dream to themselves, Lennie of course blurts it out. And now Clay wants a stake. He’s willing to purchase more than half of the property to get it. Of course the secret circulates and more people want in. And suddenly the dream is threatening to become a nightmare, but one with benefits. The property George found is only $600 and before you know it, they have a realistic plan to purchase it in only one month. And with only 3 buyers.

Then we come to find out that Slim’s dog recently had pups. The dog had nine which was four more than Slim figured he could give away so he killed four.

This pup scene was useful because Candy’s dog was old and so Carlson offered to shoot him.

It was hard scene to read because Candy loved his dog having been a faithful companion for a decade. And being without a hand, we sensed he needed the comfort provided by the dog. However, Carlson gestured to a spot on the back of the dog’s neck and he assured Candy that when he shot him there, the dog would die instantly without feeling a thing. He added that the dog needed to be put out of his misery, he was stinking the place up and that it was an act of cruelty to let him live.

Slim promised Candy one of his pups and of course upon hearing that, Lennie wanted one, too. Slim agreed. And while Carlson led one dog to his death, Lennie skipped and hopped out to the barn to pet his new pup.

Probably the most rattling part of that scene was the realization that Carlson wanted the dog dead because he stank, not so much because he cared about the dog's wellbeing.

George caught Lennie attempting to sneak the pup into his bunk so he could pet him all night. And explained that if he didn’t return the dog to his mother for milk, he’d die. Lennie reluctantly agreed, but spent so much time in the barn with his dog in the future that George started rebuking him for it.

Meanwhile Curly's new bride was regularly making an appearance in the story.

She was gorgeous, and Curly was jealous. And though they were recently married it was obvious she just viewed marriage as a more complex stage of dating. Everyone was convinced she was sleeping with Slim even though there was no evidence to prove it. And she made a daily routine of walking over to the bunkhouse to flirt with all of the men.

Being the inquisitive sort that she was, she discovered the lie that her husband got his hand mangled in a machine. After only one conversation she realized that the men concocted that lie so that Lennie wouldn’t get fired and because it saved Curley’s dignity. He didn’t want it circulating he was beat in a fight. This piqued her interest in Lennie of course. And since she loved to flirt, and he was resisting her, he became a challenge.

Finally we come to a scene where the men are outside the barn making a ruckus while playing a game and placing their bets. The scene was setup beautifully because Curley’s wife had just commented that all the drifter ranchers with big dreams of buying property always wasted their money on girls and gambles. As soon as the money stacked up, they’d get a whore or bet it all on a game and lose it making their dream impossible.

We wonder if this is happening with George because after being talked into a night on the town at a whorehouse, we discover he’s now gambling outside the barn with the men. And we wonder if he’s losing the money at the same time we discover that Lennie is petting and playing with his dead pup in the barn.

Curley’s wife walks in on him while he’s contemplating what to do with the dog. Does he burry it and hide it and deny killing it? Or will George know the truth? Of course George will know the truth, George always finds out. And so he wonders does he run to the spot they agreed on in the woods, or can he confess and receive forgiveness so they can stay at the ranch?

He realizes this might ruin the dream of buying that new place because if they get fired, they’ll need to find work somewhere else. And even if they get the new place, George may never let him get or play with rabbits after what he’s done to this dog.

He tries to put fix the dog, but realizes that’s no use.
And then we come upon the scene where Curley's wife sees him and consoles him.She tries to have a conversation with him, but he can’t focus on anything beyond the dog and his dream, so she has one conversation while he has another.

She talks about her dream of being a model or in movies being disrupted. And because she was hurt, she rebounded and married Curley. She views her marriage to Curley as a barrier to getting the thing she really wanted.

And then suddenly the two conversations converge when Lennie explains that he killed the dog because he likes to pet pretty things.

Curley’s wife realizes she’s pretty and so she encourages him to pet her hair.
He does, but he does it so rough it hurts and so she starts screaming. This throws him into a panic and so he covers her mouth, but that throws her into a panic and she fights and screams louder.

All of this is happening while the men are outside gambling and causing a ruckus. A few moments later she's quiet and Lennie realizes it’s time to go the emergency spot and wait for George.

Candy enters the barn and finds Curley’s wife laying dead on the ground next to Lennie’s dead pup. He quietly gets George and shows him what Lennie did. At first Candy asks George who he thinks is responsible, but George faces the music and says of course Lennie killed Curley’s wife. And that the authorities must be told. He realizes that when Curley finds out, he’ll try to kill Lennie himself, but he also knows that he might be implicated. So he asks Candy to wait five minutes while he returns to the bunkhouse so that when everyone is called into the barn, George won’t look like an accomplice. Candy agrees and that’s the way it plays out.

And that’s all the time we have for today...

That’s right, I’m going to leave you hanging this week. Tune in next week for the conclusion. Or buy a copy of the book to find out how it ends for yourself.

I have news for you folks: As interesting as this podcast might be, there are so many wonderfully artistic things that John does with his book that you’re missing out if you don’t read it for yourself.

But wait, there is more! My most popular podcast is Start with Why by Simon Sinek. 

As always, thank you for listening.

Y'all come back now, ya here?

Part 3

Hey, welcome back!

to the third and final installment of the Of Mice and Men Podcast.

Yes, that’s right! Today I will be reviewing of Mice and Men, again...

In my last podcast I left you hanging. Now as a reminder, after part 1 you asked me to give you a spoiler, which became part 2. And then I left you hanging at the end because I can be a jerk like that sometimes.

I will assume part 2 then is fresh in your mind, but I will remind you of the final scene in last week’s podcast:

Candy enters the barn and finds Curley’s wife laying dead on the ground next to Lennie’s dead pup. He quietly gets George and shows him what Lennie did. At first Candy asks George who he thinks is responsible, but George faces the music and says of course Lennie killed Curley’s wife. And that the authorities must be told. He realizes that when Curley finds out, he’ll try to kill Lennie himself, but he also knows that he might be implicated. So he asks Candy to wait five minutes while he returns to the bunkhouse so that when everyone is called into the barn, George won’t look like an accomplice. Candy agrees and that’s the way it plays out.

And so part 3 begins:

Candy informs the men outside who rush into the barn to see Curley’s wife and while they’re standing there George enters. Curley tells him they’re going to lynch Lennie for what he done. And if George knows what’s best he’ll help them or else. George nods in agreement and everyone agrees to get their weapons and meet outside the barn.

When the meet, they discover that Carlson who shot Candy’s dog was unable to locate his pistol. And after a quick regrouping they strike out in search of Lennie.

Of course George and Lennie agreed on a meeting place in the event of trouble so you and I both know that George knows exactly where to find Lennie.

Soon we arrive at that nature scene the one we suspected in the beginning would be relevant in the end. Once again, John Steinbeck describes a scene in such vivid detail we find ourselves sitting next to Lennie and George by the river.

And with all the skill of an experienced storyteller, we stumble into a scene that was reminiscent of the opening of the book. It was the same, but different. In the opening of the book, we felt bad for Lennie based on the way George treated him. George told him how worthless he was and what a ball and chain he had become. And in the beginning it struck us as harsh.

But now Lennie was begging George to say those things again. He was egging him on starting sentences and begging George to finish them. And this time we can tell that George only complies because he loves his friend. But we can’t help but wonder if George retrieved Carlson’s gun when he was waiting to be called into the barn by Candy. And so as we sit next to Lennie and George, our skepticism is heightened and we look for clues that will confirm our suspicion. And while we do this we recall what Carlson said when he was convincing Candy that if he loved his dog, he would put him down. That it was an act of mercy. That if Carlson didn’t put the barrel at the base of the dogs skull and give him a humane death, that the dog would most certainly experience one delivered by time itself. One of pain and discomfort.

We listen to Lennie once again speak of leaving George to dwell in caves and eliminate the burden he placed on George’s life. And then we listen to George describe the dream house with rabbits and horses, dogs and a farm in the peaceful outskirts of town where they can live a life without trouble.

But then we learn about the bulge in George’s jacket. And of course from it emerges Carlson’s gun. George puts it on the ground behind Lennie and works up the strength to lift it aiming it at the bace of Lennie’s skull.

In the background we here the sound of the lynch mob. They’re drawing near and we sense that time is running out. George’s hand is shaking uncontrollably behind Lennie’s back

And of course Lennie turns to look at George, but George gestures into the distance and tells Lennie to focus and see if he can see their dream home from there.

He says he does. He can see it and he describes it. While George lifts the gun aiming it at the base of Lennie’s skull. And all of this happens with the sound of dogs and men approaching.

And that’s all the time we have for today...

I’m kidding! I know that sucks! I disrupted the intensity for the sake of a joke and it is hard to get that intensity back, I know. So I suggest you read the book because as I said, it is fantastic!

Do you want to know what happens next? 

Okay, for those of you who do. George lifts the gun, aims it at the base of Lennie’s skull. And Lennie turns to George who quickly redirects his gaze into the distance asking him to focus on that dream home of theirs, which he does and as he describes what he sees, and with the noise of the mob approaching and growing louder. George steadies his hand and pulls the trigger. His friend Lennie leans forward falling over dead in the river.

And that is all folks.

Now maybe this story struck me so hard because I’ve been in a similar position. My cat was dying after being hit by a car. And I recall thinking, “I’m only killing you because I love you so much.” Somehow that statement manages to make complete sense and no sense. And I heard those words ringing in my ears as I read John’s book. 

I think that would have happened even if I hadn't had that experience with my cat. Instinctively we understood that’s exactly what George was doing. It is an awful feeling a horrible position to be in! I describe my experience in detail at the end of my book titled the Battle for Your Soul which is scheduled to come out in the fourth quarter of 2020.

When I finished John’s book I could hear the shot that killed Lennie ringing in my ears. I was so stunned by his ending, even though I saw it coming, that I re-read the last paragraph three times.

Once again I gave his book six stars out of a possible five because it was that good! I love this book! and I will be re-reading it again in a few years. It is a good reminder that life isn’t always fair, justice isn’t always served, and our decisions aren’t always easy or even good. But we do what we must and somehow we find the strength to move on.

As always thank you for listening. Have a brilliant week and y’all come back now. Ya hear?

Podcasts mentioned in this episode

Listen to "Start With Why by Simon Sinek [11 Mins]" on Spreaker.

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