Of Mice and Men Digitally Enhanced Essay

As a quick point of reference, Of Mice and Men was one of my favorite books as a high schooler. It was the first high school-assigned book I can distinctly remember having a lasting impact on me. I believe we read it in my 9th-grade Honors English class. I can still remember the Socratic seminars about it and where I sat in the room, little details that I have forgotten for almost every other class. George and Lennie’s story of friendship and loyalty deeply resonated with me at a time in my life when I was trying to figure out who I was and who I wanted to be. Friendship is essential but far less so if not surrounded by the right kind of people. This is why, to this day, I prefer to have a small circle of friends with whom I know would do anything for me as I would for them. In my eyes, Real friendships are supposed to be an extension of one’s family.

Of Mice and Men is about George Milton and Lennie Small, two struggling ranch workers who migrate together throughout California (during the Great Depression era), looking out for work and for each other. From the onset, it becomes evident that Lennie has some kind of intellectual disability and that he is highly devoted and dependent on George. George seems to be frustrated at times by this guardianship kind of role he has with Lennie, but it is also apparent that George cares a great deal about Lennie. George and Lennie are hired to work at the ranch and meet two men, Candy, who is an older soft-spoken ranch hand, and Curley, who is the son of the ranch owner and extremely possessive over his wife. The two then meet a man named Slim, who has much influence on the ranch as a skilled mule driver. One day, Candy overhears George and Lennie’s plan to have their own ranch and live on their own terms. He is intrigued, and the three men decide to keep it a secret between them.

Lennie has always been fond of soft things and is given a puppy from Slim (whose dog just had puppies). This makes Lennie incredibly happy, but it is short-lived. A few days later, Lennie accidentally kills his dog and is inconsolable; overhearing Lennie’s cries, Curley’s wife tries to console Lennie. He tells her how he’s always liked soft things, to which she lets him feel her hair. Lennie grabs too tightly, and Curley’s wife screams out; in an effort to quiet her, Lennie accidentally breaks her neck, killing her. Realizing what he’s done, Lennie returns to the river pool, where he and George spent their first night before traveling to the ranch. The other ranchers find Curley’s wife’s body and assemble a lynch mob. George finds Lennie at the river. He isn’t angry with him but disturbed by what he feels he has to do. George begins to tell Lennie the story of the ranch they’d hoped to share; as the mob approaches and George tells Lennie about the rabbits he has always wanted, George shoots Lennie in the back of the head in an act of mercy.

Of Mice and Men provides a harrowing story of how mental illness was still very much taboo at the time that the story is set. (1920’s) It allows readers/viewers to see the way people with mental illnesses were marginalized and by most of general society, seen as burdens. George’s care of Lennie is by no means representative of how most people from that time would have handled someone with Lennie’s condition. George’s killing of Lennie serves as a final act of love for a friend that it seems only he ever really understood. He killed his friend because he knew that was going to be his fate one way or another, and he didn’t want Lennie’s last memories to be filled with agony, pain, and fear.

Of Mice and Men provides a compelling retrospective lens pointed toward the way/manners in which society treated people with mental illness. I hope readers/viewers today are as moved by Lennie and George’s story as I was/am as a 15-year-old and now at 22. I feel like, as a society, we need to emphasize stories like this to help keep us from reverting to such ill-considerate methods of care for those with mental illnesses.