Of Mice and Men

August 29, 2013

Commitment. Honor. Duty. The damn principle of the thing. This is the consistency of the character of George, who has been carrying around a ball and chain by the name of Lenny because of a promise. If could cut Lenny lose, a big dumb giant, he would in a split second.


Its interesting to see the open-ness of the world of California pre-World War II. There are none of Eisenhower’s concrete military intrusions. Just ample and fertile soil for bearing fruits and grains, and the men that toil to put them on truck and rail.


We don’t know the exact history of George and Lenny, other than they are not from around California. They are migrant workers, seeking opportunity. This was an age where it was patently clear a man needed to work in order to eat. This was a fact of life. The old one-handed man recognized that the moment he becomes dispensable to the farm business, when he can no longer pick up the broom and sweep the boss’s porch, he’ll be thrown out like a bad apple. And what then? Where is the welfare for his security? Where would he end up? Such a harsh reality is outside of the contemporary viewer’s perception. That people starved to death is an alien condition of being.


Surely man is better today, now that such deaths can easily be avoid. And yet, which men today would carry the burden George had for so long? All Lenny would do is get him into trouble. George’s plan was a simple one: get a farm so Lenny never has to be put into jeopardy. Of course, he would get the farm twice as fast by pooling his resources with the lovable dimwit. But George would be acting out of Lenny’s interest as well as his. A true brother’s keeper.


True to the strength of Steinbeck’s writing, the film’s pacing is taut. We get to observe the generalized theme of things never going according to plan while not being bored to tears at each personality’s adversity they have had to face while on Earth. That they all convene here, at this point in time, is not simply an aspect of the plot. It has everything to do with the soul-searching a man must make on his path of life. Such an aggregation would occur in the most airy economic situations such as what is found west of the Mississippi. Logically, in the Great Depression the opportunities would strike most for those who need them in the golden hills of California which receive sunshine persistently. Thus, the scenery, which plays a minor character, is not coincidental to the story. It is this type of environment that would create this type of story.


And things do not go according to plan. George barely escapes trouble caused by Lenny at a previous work place. And in this instance, when Lenny once again stirs the pot out of his own incapacity, George has run out of options for himself. His disappointment is as much a failing at his duty as it is a failure at his design for his life. And what an inspiration. The men did not handle an ounce of resentment toward the boss. They did what they were told and were grateful for the meals and the pay. And they had dreams. They were looking outward onto what they could possess in this life. Again, another tribute to California country, where the saturated East would drip the ambitious to stake a part of history out West. It is simply the tragedy of the human condition when failure exists. Where it is now denied, then, it was embraced as what life is.


Grade: A-



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