Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck – Book Review

I read this back in high school and all I could remember decades later was that Lenny was a “gentle giant” (and that this was a euphemism for having an intellectual disability) and that it was set in the Great Depression. Reading it again, I really didn’t like it, though I wonder if my complaints have a lot to do with when it was written.

Lennie travels with George, a man who feels obligated to take care of him. They look for work and have an eventual joint dream of getting a farm together. But in this time of depression, even having a roof over their heads and food in their bellies is more than they can get a lot of the time. However, Lennie is unaware of his own strength and finds himself in situations that he can’t cope with.

The book has often been challenged for its use of vulgar language. For me, I found the depiction of disability and race problematic. Not to mention that the only female character isn’t even graced with a name, and like most characters in the book, is barely a sketch of a character. I didn’t like it, perhaps it was a book of its time, but it doesn’t do much for me now.

It certainly raised the question for me: do classics remain classics when there are other books, perhaps more modern books, which may address the same issues with a more contemporary tone, or with greater depth?

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