Of Mice and Men

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Of Mice and Men is a novella written by Nobel Prize-winning author John Steinbeck. Published in 1937, it tells the tragic story of George Milton and Lennie Small, two displaced migrant ranch workers during the Great Depression in California.

Based on Steinbeck's own experiences as a bindlestiff in the 1920s (before the arrival of the Okies he would vividly describe in The Grapes of Wrath), the title is taken from Robert Burns's poem "To a Mouse", which read: "The best laid schemes o' mice an' men / Gang aft agley." (The best laid schemes of mice and men / Go oft awry.)

Required reading in many high schools, Of Mice and Men has been a frequent target of censors for vulgarity and what some consider offensive language; consequently, it appears on the American Library Association's list of the Most Challenged Books of 21st Century.


Plot summary

Section 1

Two migrant field workers in California during the Great Depression—George Milton, an intelligent and cynical man, and Lennie Small, an ironically named man of large stature and immense strength but limited mental abilities—are on their way to a ranch near Soledad southeast of Salinas, California to "work up a stake." They hope to one day attain their shared dream of settling down on their own piece of land. Lennie's part of the dream, is merely to tend to (and touch) soft rabbits on the farm. This dream is one of Lennie's favorite stories, which George constantly retells. They are fleeing from their previous employment in Weed where they were run out of town after Lennie's love of stroking soft things resulted in an accusation of attempted rape when he touched a young woman's dress. It soon becomes clear that the two are close friends and George is Lennie's protector.

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