Two men, George and Lennie, are traveling through California looking for work as ranch hands. The relationship between the two men is not clear except for the fact that George has become a sort of caretaker for Lennie because the latter is not the brightest and gets himself into trouble frequently. The two were forced to leave their last job due to an incident regarding Lennie’s behavior. They find work at a ranch in Soledad, California and meet several characters there: Candy, Crooks, Curley, and Curley’s flirtatious, new bride (what’s with all the C names?).
Curley immediately targets Lennie because of his extreme size, strength, and slowness, but George and Lennie stay positive because they have a plan. They want to own their own farm one day where they will “live off the fat of the land.” They don’t have enough money saved up yet but plan to spend as little of their wages as possible until they can afford to leave and chase the American Dream. Candy opts to share his wages in exchange for a chance to start over at their farm. Then on one fateful night after one deadly mistake, their plans are thrown off course.
I think that this story was ultimately a commentary on two things: chasing the elusive American Dream and the complexity of morality.
George and Lennie have a dream of owning their own farm one day but several of the other ranch hands mention how this is a dream that they have shared at one time or another but that it never came true. I think this is a commentary on how the American Dream is unreachable and how we are always searching for more — more money, more success, and more happiness — but that it rarely ever happens.
The other major aspect of this book is the complexity of morality. As humans, we adhere to a code of morals and a set of laws to keep us civilized and in line. Steinbeck brings up an interesting — and obviously controversial — topic when he discusses euthanasia, or, mercy killing. Is this wrong? Should we be allowed to make this decision for another living thing? Does this make us more or less moral?
Overall, I really enjoyed this book and encourage everyone to at least give it a try.