Equality, A Dream Worth Fighting For | Teen Ink

Equality, A Dream Worth Fighting For

July 22, 2021
By Jennyljn BRONZE, Shanghai, Other
Jennyljn BRONZE, Shanghai, Other
1 article 0 photos 0 comments

Reading Of Mice and Men

In the book Of Mice and Men, John Steinbeck reveals the central theme of friendship, dreams, and loneliness of the workers through detailed characterization and plot design. John Steinbeck depicts the social problems during the 1930s and successfully delivers an appeal for equality to his readers. This novella reminds us all that today equality is still a dream worth fighting for, and a bond that helps human society sustain itself.


This book traces the story of two migrant workers, George and Lennie, who travel through the country during the Depression with a dream of owning a wonderful farm for themselves. The main character is Lennie Small. Unlike his name, he is a big guy with a strong build and an intellectual disability. His friend George becomes the one who takes care of him. Lennie and George go to work on a farm in California to save money so they could one day buy farmland for themselves.  


The use of the tone, language style, and other devices facilitates the development of characters. Steinbeck uses dozens of slang and informal language styles to fit the setting of the American countryside in the 1930s. For example, “An’live off the fatta the laan”, is one of the main characters in Lennie’s line. The local and informal language style indicates Lennie’s lower-class identity. What’s more, slang such as “looloo” and “blown’ in our jack” help to create the setting and background of this novella, bringing California life vividly to life. 


Instead of letting Lennie and George achieve their dream, the author chooses a cruel ending: George had to kill Lennie to alleviate his friend’s suffering. It has been implied earlier in the book that Lennie’s efforts are doomed to be in vain. Slim tells George that it’s never his fault to kill Lennie, indicating that death serves as a relief for Lennie in a society unfriendly for the mentally impaired. Slim’s words show that the behavior of killing a disabled person can be forgiven or even accepted in that society. Instead of being treated with compassion, Lennie simply becomes a victim of a society without tolerance for mental illness. In this sense, his fate is the same as those mice that he inadvertently killed. By comparing the human and the animal world, the author alarms the reader with Lennie’s death and brings up the issue of equality in society. 


In this rural part of California, inequality goes beyond mental illness. I also noticed the unflattering and limited portrayal of women in Of Mice and Men, which portrays the real-life situation in the 1930s with accuracy and reflects the theme of equality. Curley’s wife, one of the important characters, does not have a name. Her story symbolizes both the oppression of women as well as the inaccessible American dream. Another character, Crooks, as a black on the farm, faces racial discrimination from others who live with him. For example, he is called “Crooks” because of his injured back. How other farmers tease and exclude him demonstrates the same lack of empathy on the farm. An old, disabled man with an aging dog, Candy is also a symbol of discrimination and inequality on the fictional farm.


However, Steinbeck gives hope to readers about the possibilities of achieving equality in the future. There is a “California civil code” in Crooks’ room representing his dream of an equal and inclusive society. The hope of resolving any social problems starts with an honest acknowledgment of the problems. Ultimately, through Steinbeck’s characters and story-telling, we learn that in an ideal world, equality must be applied to all the disadvantaged population groups. This still rings true today.

The author's comments:

I am a rising junior from Shanghai United International School Gubei Campus. After reading Of Mice and men,I was amazed by Steinbeck's story-telling and character design. What prompted me to write down this book review is a desire to share its timeless theme of social justice with other readers.

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