Of Mice and Men

Book review by
Michael Berry, Common Sense Media
Of Mice and Men Book Poster Image
Moving Depression-era story of friendship, loneliness, fate.
Popular with kids

Parents say

age 14+
Based on 7 reviews

Kids say

age 15+
Based on 32 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational value

Of Mice and Men presents a vivid portrait of life in California's Salinas Valley during the Depression. Steinbeck not only depicts the hard-scrabble existences of itinerant ranch hands, but also spotlights the flora and fauna once abundant in the area.

Positive messages

Stresses the importance of social connection during times of trouble. Whatever their faults, George and Lennie are loyal to each other, and their kind of friendship is something most other characters in the novel lack.

Positive role models & representations

George and Lennie's friendship has its rough edges, but the men look out for each other when things get tough. George knows that Lennie's combination of great physical strength and limited intellectual capacity make him a liability in many situations, yet he does his best to protect his childhood friend.

Violence

Although the violence in the novel may have a big emotional impact on some readers, there is little description of actual bloodshed. A man has his hand severely injured in a fight. A woman dies from an accidental neck injury. A character is shot to death.

Sex

The only female character in the novel is viewed as a sexual threat by the men, and she is referred to as a "tramp" and "jailbait." The ranch hands interpret her behavior as flirtatious, but there is a great deal of ambiguity as to the woman's actual motives. The ranch hands visit a local bordello on Saturday evenings, but their activity there is not depicted nor discussed in any detail.

Language

The ranch hands employ a wide variety of historically appropriate curse words: "hell," "damn," "God damn," "bastard" and "son of a bitch." One use of the "N" word.

Consumerism
Drinking, drugs & smoking

Characters smoke cigarettes and drink alcohol, but it happens in passing and is historically appropriate.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this classic short novel, often required reading in middle school or high school, is one of the most affecting portraits of America during the Great Depression. It offers a glimpse of men attempting to hold onto their dreams of a better life when the odds of their success are miniscule. You may want to check out the 1992 film version on DVD, as well. 

User Reviews

Parent Written byTaylor B. January 23, 2013

My opinion

I believe this book was a very good book for the minds of young adults. I only gave it 3 stars just because I believe it could have been better. Yes, it was a f... Continue reading
Parent Written byJRae2 September 1, 2014

Not worth reading

I prefer to have my child read books that will improve their language. The language, violence, and sexual content of this book does not uplift or improve the v... Continue reading
Teen, 16 years old Written bydieada January 23, 2013

Of Mice and Men

I found the book lacked a certain enthrallment to it. I was never truly drawn into the story. Not to mention trying to understand the writing of which a majorit... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byHugeReader123 November 23, 2011

Really Good Book.

It's a very engrossing book. It has morals, freindship, and the difference from right and wrong. The cussing is a little strong, but nothing a mature ten y... Continue reading

What's the story?

George and Lennie are two itinerant ranch hands who arrive in California's Salinas Valley during the Great Depression, after being run off from their last assignment up north. Lennie possesses great physical strength but has the intellectual capacity of a child. George is the more calculating of the pair, but even he gets caught up in Lennie's dreams of owning a farm. As they find work and try to build a stake that will bring them closer to their dream, George and Lennie discover how easily Fate can upset their best-laid plans.

Is it any good?

OF MICE AND MEN is justifiably considered a classic of American literature: a short, direct meditation on friendship, loneliness, and unfulfilled dreams in trying times. Its plot and prose are straightforward and unadorned, but the impact of the final chapters is unforgettable. Lennie and George are iconic characters, and Steinbeck's presentation of their interactions with the hands at the Salinas ranch is pitch-perfect.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the values of friendship and loyalty and how they can be tested in times of economic hardship.

  • As a child, Lennie suffered some kind brain injury that impeded his intellectual development. How has society's treatment of the mentally disabled changed over the decades?

  • Lennie and George dream of owning a farm of their own, one where Lennie can take care of the rabbits. What kinds of dreams of the future do people have today? What are some of the obstacles they might encounter in trying to achieve them?

Book details

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