SparkNotes: Of Mice and Men: Study Questions & Essay …
English Literature: Loneliness: Of Mice and Men- Steinbecks
Literature has sometimes flourished under despotic regimes, but,as has often been pointed out, the despotisms of the past were nottotalitarian. Their repressive apparatus was always inefficient,their ruling classes were usually either corrupt or apathetic orhalf-liberal in outlook, and the prevailing religious doctrinesusually worked against perfectionism and the notion of humaninfallibility. Even so it is broadly true that prose literature hasreached its highest levels in periods of democracy and freespeculation. What is new in totalitarianism is that its doctrinesare not only unchallengeable but also unstable. They have to beaccepted on pain of damnation, but on the other hand, they arealways liable to be altered on a moment's notice. Consider, forexample, the various attitudes, completely incompatible with oneanother, which an English Communist or "fellow-traveler" has had toadopt toward the war between Britain and Germany. For years beforeSeptember, 1939, he was expected to be in a continuous stew about"the horrors of Nazism" and to twist everything he wrote into adenunciation of Hitler: after September, 1939, for twenty months,he had to believe that Germany was more sinned against thansinning, and the word "Nazi", at least as far as print went, had todrop right out of his vocabulary. Immediately after hearing the 8o'clock news bulletin on the morning of June 22, 1941, he had tostart believing once again that Nazism was the most hideous evilthe world had ever seen. Now, it is easy for the politician to makesuch changes: for a writer the case is somewhat different. If he isto switch his allegiance at exactly the right moment, he musteither tell lies about his subjective feelings, or else suppressthem altogether. In either case he has destroyed his dynamo. Notonly will ideas refuse to come to him, but the very words he useswill seem to stiffen under his touch. Political writing in our timeconsists almost entirely of prefabricated phrases bolted togetherlike the pieces of a child's Meccano set. It is the unavoidableresult of self-censorship. To write in plain, vigorous language onehas to think fearlessly, and if one thinks fearlessly one cannot bepolitically orthodox. It might be otherwise in an "age of faith",when the prevailing orthodoxy has long been established and is nottaken too seriously. In that case it would be possible, or might bepossible, for large areas of one's mind to remain unaffected bywhat one officially believed. Even so, it is worth noticing thatprose literature almost disappeared during the only age of faiththat Europe has ever enjoyed. Throughout the whole of the MiddleAges there was almost no imaginative prose literature and verylittle in the way of historical writing; and the intellectualleaders of society expressed their most serious thoughts in a deadlanguage which barley altered during a thousand years.
SparkNotes: Of Mice and Men: Character List
The book is very short and the story is a simple one. A youngbachelor is prevailed on by his sister to look after her house andher two sons, aged five and three, while she and her husband go ona fortnight's holiday. The children drive him almost mad by anendless succession of such acts as falling into ponds, swallowingpoison, throwing keys down wells, cutting themselves with razors,and the like, but also facilitate his engagement to "a charminggirl, whom, for about a year, I had been adoring from afar". Theseevents take place in an outer suburb of New York, in a societywhich now seems astonishingly sedate, formal, domesticated and,according to current conceptions, un-American. Every action isgoverned by etiquette. To pass a carriage full of ladies when yourhat is crooked is an ordeal; to recognise an acquaintance in churchis ill-bred; to become engaged after a ten days' courtship is asevere social lapse. We are accustomed to thinking of Americansociety as more crude, adventurous and, in a cultural sense,democratic than our own, and from writers like Mark Twain, Whitmanand Bret Harte, not to mention the cowboy and Red Indian stories ofthe weekly papers, one draws a picture of a wild anarchic worldpeopled by eccentrics and desperadoes who have no traditions and noattachment to one place. That aspect of nineteenth-century Americadid of course exist, but in the more populous eastern States asociety similar to Jane Austen's seems to have survived longer thanit did in England. And it is hard not to feel that it was a betterkind of society than that which arose from the suddenindustrialisation of the later part of the century. The people inHELEN'S BABIES or LITTLE WOMEN may be mildly ridiculous, but theyare uncorrupted. They have something that is perhaps best describedas integrity, or good morale, founded partly on an unthinkingpiety. It is a matter of course that everyone attends church onSunday morning and says grace before meals and prayers at bedtime:to amuse the children one tells them Bible stories, and if they askfor a song it is probably "Glory, glory Hallelujah". Perhaps it isalso a sign of spiritual health in the light literature of thisperiod that death is mentioned freely. "Baby Phil", the brother ofBudge and Toddie, has died shortly before HELEN'S BABIES opens, andthere are various tear-jerking references to his "tiny coffin". Amodern writer attempting a story of this kind would have keptcoffins out of it.