Character Review of Of Mice and Men
Of Mice and Men is a novel set on a ranch in the Salinas Valley in California during the Great Depression of the 1930s. The title of the book is a reference to Robert Burns's poem To a Mouse. (1759 - 96):
The best laid schemes o' mice and men
Gang aft agley [often go wrong]
And leave us nought but grief and pain
For promised joy!
In the book, Of Mice and Men, John Steinbeck created memorable characters that play out two dramatically realistic, neonaturalist themes: Friendship and Loneliness. "Ending the glitter and excess of the Jazz Age, the catastrophe of the 1929 stock-market crash ushered in the "angry decade" of the 1930s. Many novels of neonaturalism and social protest were written, inspired by the rigors of the Great Depression (World Almanac, n.pg.)" Loneliness is a common trait, shared among all of the main characters of the story. Each seemed to exist alone and without a purpose, except for George Milton and Lennie Small. The characters are so vivid and impressive, that the setting and scene change rarely. The detail given to the main characters creates a history: a peek into each of their lives. But the lives that the characters lead are not so appealing. There was often negative criticism toward the characters, calling them barbaric and subhuman. Critic Mark Van Doren wrote, "All but one of the persons in Mr. Steinbeck's extremely brief novel [Of Mice and Men] are subhuman … Two of them are evil, one of them is dangerous without meaning to be, and all of them are ignorant…(Van Doren, 275)."
Although this could be true of the characters, it is clear that their dreams and shortcomings, as well as the hardships of life during the Great Depression drive them to these points of subhuman madness. This could be true of every individual who has ever experienced repeated tragedy; there is always motivation towards that madness. In this case, loneliness is the biggest tragedy.
Crooks is the stable buck. He is different from the rest because he is black, in a time where racial prejudice is strong. He has also been crippled, and so his life is very bad. He lives separately to the others in his own room, the harness room. He has books on his shelves, which shows that he is more intellectual than the others. He has fond memories of his past, when he and his white friends would play on their chicken ranch, and were oblivious as to why their parents didn't like it. Now he knows why, and he hates the fact that he can't come into the bunkhouse to play cards, but has to spend all his free time by himself. The white people exclude him, so instead of pleading with them he decides he is going to exclude them as well.
Crooks, on a black man's loneliness: "S'pose you didn't have nobody. S'pose you couldn't go into the bunk house and play rummy 'cause you was black. How'd you like that? S'pose you had to sit out here an' read books. Sure you could play horseshoes till it got dark, but...