Many of us probably read John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men in school, and if you haven’t I highly suggest it. Steinbeck had a talent for telling stories about people who are not considered “high brow,” and making them truly dynamic and interesting. Whether you’ve read it or not, these facts about the novel may surprise you!
1) Steinbeck had something in common with the main characters
Just like George and Lennie, Steinbeck also worked as a “bindle-stiff,” or ranch hand, for some time. In an interview with The New York Times in 1937, he described how it inspired him to write about this profession that does not appear in literature or high culture.
2) Lennie is based on a real person
In the same New York Times interview, Steinbeck revealed that Lennie is based on a real person he knew while working on a ranch. According to Steinbeck “He didn’t kill a girl. He killed a ranch foreman. Got sore because the boss had fired his pal and stuck a pitchfork right through his stomach. I hate to tell you how many times. I saw him do it. We couldn’t stop him until it was too late.” Yikes.
3) Steinbeck used the oldest excuse in the book when he lost his first draft
Apparently, you can’t find the original first draft of the novel because Steinbeck’s dog ate it! He had fully written it on a notepad that Toby, his dog, just couldn’t resist taking a chunk out of. I bet it tasted like success!
4) The book has been challenged for interesting reasons
Other than the story’s sexual scenarios, violence, and strong use of language, the book has received backlash for its questionable patriotism. A youth organization in Chattanooga, Tennessee banned it from their summer reading list because of the “anti-business” attitude they felt it had.
5) The house Steinbeck wrote the novel in is now a landmark
You can visit the house in Monte Sereno, California at 16520 Greenwood Lane where Steinbeck and his wife lived from 1936 to 1938. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1989, as it was where he wrote both Of Mice and Men and The Grapes of Wrath! While you’re there, his childhood home is located nearby in the town of Salinas.
6) Of Mice and Men inspired several Looney Tunes characters
After its release, Looney Tunes drew inspiration from Lennie for several of their characters including a hound dog in “Lonesome Lenny,” a cat in “Hoppy Go Lucky,” and a huge yeti in “The Abominable Snow Rabbit.” Who knew it would inspire this kind of storytelling?
7) The original title was more straight forward
Short, sweet, and to the point; Steinbeck planned on releasing the story as Something That Happened. The title we know today was ultimately inspired by Scottish writer Robert Burns’ 1785 poem “To a Mouse, on Turning Her Up in Her Nest with the Plough.”
8) Steinbeck’s agents were disappointed with the novel at first
After submitting it to his agents in 1936, they told him that they were unhappy with how shallow the meaning was. Imagine! Steinbeck wrote them back saying “The microcosm is rather difficult to handle and apparently I did not get it over – the earth longings of a Lennie who was not to represent insanity at all but the inarticulate and powerful yearning of all men.”
9) The novel was written with theater staging in mind
This was Steinbeck’s first attempt at a “play-novella,” or a novel that could be read as a play and vice versa. Each chapter is arranged as a scene, which explains why it’s confined to four settings! After he finished the novel, he immediately began writing an adaptation for the stage.
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