Saturday, June 25, 2011

Salinas River Valley

Of Mice and MenOf Mice and Men 

When you read John Steinbeck you read stories in which the place is as important a character as the people. His novels are alive with the feel of the place whether it be Oklahoma or California or America as in his late book Travels With Charley. In rereading Of Mice and Men I was immediately taken with the opening paragraph, for he does not immediately introduce George and Lennie but rather he introduces the Salinas River valley and it is lush with willow trees and golden foothills and animals that enjoy the evening without an apparent worry in the world. The scene is broken by a path "beaten hard" by footsteps of boys and tramps and it is this path that is the source of the entry of two new men into this idyllic setting. These men are George and Lennie, simple working men who are heading for a planned rendezvous with jobs on a nearby ranch. The story is one of an allegorical nature that demonstrates loyalty among friends and the danger that always is present when humans congregate. But I was most impressed by the simple style in which the story plays out against the background of nature and how men attempt to do the right thing yet do not always succeed. Lennie is a simple man, but his simplicity and his intentions, limited as they may be, are not enough to overcome the brutality of men and nature whose seeming innocent beauty betrays our trust.

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck.  Penguin Editions.

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