“My heart hurts,” said one of my students, crouching near her desk, after we finished the book recently. She then asked if she could go in the hallway because her pain in response the story was so acute. Some others had tears in their eyes–the girls visibly so while the boys tried to hide or deny theirs. I had a lump in my throat and waited until I had control over my emotions so that I could formulate my words to speak. In all, I reveled in this particular moment.
There is something thrilling, satisfying, and affirming about seeing someone else fall in love with a book that you, yourself, love. When that someone else is a group of not and non-readers, the experience becomes magical. Such is the case for me every year when I introduce my students to John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men (1937), a heartbreaking historical novella about the friendship between migrant workers George Milton and Lennie Small.
In as few as 103 pages, Of Mice and Men packs a strong emotional punch. This is because Steinbeck zooms in on themes that relate to us all at our core: the desire for friendship and companionship, to belong, to be of use, to have purpose, and to remain hopeful. Of Mice and Men reminds us that sometimes, we have to make sacrifices that result in no true winners. That sometimes, life does not always go according to plan.
Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men is a masterpiece that highlights Steinbeck’s craft in storytelling: his characters are vibrant, the dialogue is authentic, the conflicts are true to life, and the overall plot is accessible by all. Written as a form of social criticism, it’s no wonder that seventy-seven years after it was published, my students find Of Mice and Men to be so relevant to their current lives. The novella is a spellbinding classic that I highly recommend.