Review: “Of Mice and Men” by John Steinbeck

The main theme of Of Mice and Men is the issue of euthanasia.  Sparta, a city-state of Ancient Greece, strongly upheld its pro-stance on this act by promptly terminating the lives of all infants who were not born fully healthy.  However, all that John Steinbeck achieved in his modern horror tale about two unlikely friends who end up killing each other is a disturbing atmosphere of violence and irrationality.

The ending of Of Mice and Men is in particular a letdown, because Steinbeck literally forces his main characters into a “Hobson’s choice.”  George kills Lenny because Lenny accidentally killed Curly’s wife and now has to pay for his unintentional crime.  However, Lenny is not really a “lovable giant” whom a reader can warm to in spite of his obvious mental disabilities, just as George is no devoted companion the reader can sympathize with.  Steinbeck never really makes it clear what George’s motives are in staying with Lenny, which becomes vexing as George continually states that Lenny is stupid and a burden.  Lenny’s past is also left in the dark; when he kills creatures by accident is when Of Mice and Men goes from being contemplative to morbid.

True, euthanasia is a controversial subject, but Steinbeck refused to choose what his stand on the issue was.  He mentions that perhaps this “mercy killing” is a kindness toward sick animals and even toward sick humans, but he never mentions the most important part: free will.  Euthanasia was meant to be a choice of death, but animals are usually dominated by humans and have no say in whether they should continue to live or die.  Despite this, every living being cannot choose that it is born, but it can still choose death if it wants to.  Granted that no one knows the hour of his/her death, death is a state of being which every human can choose to attain.  In Of Mice and Men, Lenny did not have the mental capability to choose this course, but George also did not have the right to make this choice for him, lynching mob or no.

In conclusion, Of Mice and Men is a poor account of the arguments regarding euthanasia; its plot is limp with dry dialogue and a boring environment.

Original review: Part 3: ‘The Pearl’ versus ‘Of Mice and Men’,


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