The strangeness of their partnership is evident both to the reader and to the people who George and Lennie encounter.
Even Slim, the level-headed mule driver whom the two men admire notes, “I hardly never seen two guys travel together […] It jus’ seems kinda funny a cuckoo like him and a smart little guy like you travelin’ together.” Stranger still might be George and Lennie’s shared dream of owning a place of their own.
Given our country’s growing wealth gap and stagnating wages, it’s hardly a surprise that the book carries contemporary weight, politically speaking.
It’s a novel that clearly condemns exploitation, that exalts a dream of communal subsistence living, and in which a mercy killing is an honorable and humane alternative to “justice.” And that’s why I’m ambivalent about falling out of the ALA’s top 10 most challenged books.
I could build a smoke house like the one gran’pa had, an’ when we kill a pig we can smoke the bacon and the hams, and make sausage an’ all like that. When the fruit come in we could can it—and tomatoes, they’re easy to can. Maybe we’d have a cow or a goat, and the cream is so God damned thick you got to cut it with a knife and take it out with a spoon.” by William S.
Because the artists have—in these famous cases and in others—won out, it seems all too easy to assume that America generally values the rights of writers and readers.
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It’s a tragedy about how even the simplest dream can provide hope in the face of desperation.
It’s a tragedy in which the bond between two men is so strong that it leads George to the impossibly difficult and ultimately loving act of sparing Lennie a violent and painful execution at the hands of men who despise him.