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I wrote in the above post that Steinbeck's novella has an "indoor" feeling to it and consists of just a few sets. The main set is the bunkhouse. The characters enter and exit this one set on weak pretexts. Curley's wife enters looking for Curley, and Curley enters looking for his wife. I just noticed in the eNotes introduction to "Of Mice and Men" that the book was made into a play. Here is a quote from eNotes:
With the success of the novel, Steinbeck worked on a stage version with playwright George Kaufman, who directed the play. Of Mice and Men opened on Broadway in New York City on November 23, 1937, with Wallace Ford as George and Broderick Crawford as Lennie. The reviews were overwhelmingly positive, and the play ran for 207 performances, winning the prestigious New York Drama Critics' Circle Award.
This suggests that Steinbeck was thinking of his story as a potential stage play from the beginning. The book was published in February of 1937 and the play opened in November of the same year, which barely gave Steinbeck and Kaufman time to write the stage version and to assemble a cast and go through rehearsals. See the eNotes introduction at the site shown below.
I have the suspicion that Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men is a failed experiment--that he intended to write an epic novel about the hard lives of migrant workers in California but realized that he wasn't ready for it because he didn't know enough about his subject. What is conspicuously missing in this long short story, or novella, is depictions of the kinds of work the men and horses do out in the vast fields under the hot sun. Steinbeck associated with the kind of men he wrote about, but he had no practical experience doing the kind of work they did. At most he probably picked fruit during the summer months when he was young and wasn't going to college. His novella has an "indoor" feel to it. It almost reads like a play, with just a few sets. The main set is the bunkhouse. Everybody comes to the bunkhouse on some pretext or other, just as actors come onstage in plays. We see all the men rushing off to the mess hall to eat, but we don't even see the interior of that room or see what they are given to eat. We hear them pitching horseshoes outside, but we don't even see them doing that. We hear the horses stomping their feet, but we never see them outside their stables. All the men wash up outside after a hard day's work--but we don't see them washing; we only see them coming into the bunkhouse with wet hair. There are a whole lot of scenes that belong in the book but are conspicuous by their absence. Steinbeck finally wrote his epic novel about migrant workers a few years later with The Grapes of Wrath. Of Mice and Men has what editors used to call a "shotgun ending." Killing off one of the principal characters is a way of getting rid of a writing project when the author finds that he has run out of ideas. Maybe Steinbeck should have titled his novellette "The Great Indoors."
Usually a discussion over the novel's conclusion explores the moral aspects of George's actions. By shooting Lennie, George committed a crime, but did he commit a sin? Did he act in a moral or an immoral way? Can someone's actions be moral even though they are illegal? Also, can someone's actions be immoral even though they are legal?
Another interesting question about George's shooting Lennie is this one: Did George commit an act of courage or of cowardice? Also, did George act rashly? Was there any other way he might have saved Lennie from the agonizing death Curley intended to inflict upon him? What might have happened, for instance, if George had stood up to Curley and the others. Would Slim have backed him up? Could Slim have exercised any influence or control over Curley? Slim was a principled man. He was insightful and good with people. Could he have played any role in saving Lennie? There are no objective answers to these questions, of course, but they all would lead to good discussions.
Finally, I think the last sentence in the novel should be discussed. As Slim and George walk away together from Lennie's body, Carlson asks Curley, "Now what the hell ya suppose is eatin' them two guys?" Carlson's question surely points to several major contrasts in the development of the characters. It also directs us to one of Steinbeck's deeper themes; "What's eatin' them two guys" is both profound and universal, relating both to the human condition and the nature of society.
I thorougly enjoyed the book, but I believe the storyline of killing Lennie was innapropriate. For me it was too far to kill off such a loveable character, as he didn't understand the things he'd done. His naivity and innocence was what made me like him so much :( I hoped through the whole book that Lennie would get his dream of tending the rabbits at their own little ranch D,:
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