Beyond “Mice and Men”

John Steinbeck, who is one of my favourite authors, won the Nobel Prize in literature in 1962. His novella entitled Of Mice and Men would undoubtedly be considered one of John Steinbeck’s literary gems. Although shorter than some of his other masterpieces, which include Grapes of Wrath and East of Eden, it is on par with their greatness. This morning, I was struck by an epiphany, which I believe may be at least part of what dear Mr. Steinbeck desired to share with the reader. The revelation relates to the subject matter of my blog and my passion for sharing knowledge related to our higher nature. For those who may not be familiar with his novella, the plot is summarized as follows:

The protagonists of the novella, which is set in Soledad, California during The Great Depression, are George Milton and Lennie Small. George is an intelligent man and plays the role of a brotherly figure to Lennie, who is big, strong, and mentally challenged. They both work as migrant farm labourers whenever opportunity presents. We first meet them in a secluded setting down by a river. Lennie has convinced George to retell the details of their dream to one day own a little place which they can call home.

The following day, they begin work on a nearby ranch. As usual, George guides Lennie forward, and all goes well for a while. Key characters are introduced, including the boss’s son, Curley, and his wife. As the plot unfolds, we’re given a glimpse of the character’s underlying hopes, fears, and dreams. It’s also revealed that Lennie enjoys petting mice, which he often likes to keep in his pocket. At one point, George discovers that Lennie has accidentally killed another mouse, an issue that he has previously warned him against. Within a few days, Lennie accidentally kills a puppy he’s been given, which foreshadows more drama to come.

The suspense builds towards the climax when Lennie accidentally kills Curley’s flirtatious wife by breaking her neck. He’s clearly incapable of controlling his inherent nature. When her body is discovered, several of the farmworkers form a lynch mob and search for George and Lennie, who have fled the ranch and sought refuge back at the secluded location by the river. The book ends with George mercifully shooting his friend before the lynch mob, who are approaching, has a chance to hang him.

Although the specific details relating to characters, setting, and goals differ from ours, are the general ones really that dissimilar? Don’t all of us (who are known by different names and forms, and live in varied settings) desire to find our place in the sun in which we’ll feel content and at peace?

However, all of our hopes and dreams–even if one day achieved–will eventually pass away. To the masses, this may seem tragic; but such will appear particularly so if we’re deeply invested in the person, which is our false identity. Buddha referred to the human condition as dukkha, which loosely translates as suffering or frustration. Jesus endured persecution by the ignorant masses in an effort to reveal to us our true nature. Must we die, as did the helpless mouse and puppy? Human incarnation is a precious gift; for it provides a unique opportunity to recognize our essential nature. Unfortunately such is often squandered by the masses. Is there an escape from such a seemingly tragic predicament? Yes.

The solution is to discover (re-cognize, know again) that deeper dimension–the true Self–that transcends the polar and ultimately dissatisfying environment related to the person. The person is apparently real but actually illusory. We are so much more than body-minds. Discovering Truth requires that we become earnestly curious about our essential nature. In a strange paradox, we discover What–not who–we are by investigating and, thus, shedding the layers of the false self. Our true Self is eternal, immortal, and irreducible. And that, my dear friends, is a glorious non-end worth realizing before your character and its life manuscript, draw to a conclusion. Right here and now is a great place to begin.

Dare to dream (and care for one another).


Art Russell
Art Russell
Arthur Russell is a retired paramedic of thirty-five years of service and currently lives in Lindsay, Ontario, Canada. An author of both fiction and non-fiction, his previous published works include an e-book entitled Hold That Thought regarding the Law of Attraction and, more recently, a book entitled This Taste of Flesh and Bones about enlightenment and our spiritual nature. Now sixty-three, he wishes to share his knowledge regarding enlightenment to help alleviate human suffering. Proud father to a son and a daughter, he is currently working on his next book. In his spare time, he enjoys travel, adventure, motorcycling, and meeting new people, all of which enrich his life in countless ways.

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  1. I loved all of Steinbeck’s stuff as well, and Of Mice and Men may be my favorite. In reference to your admonition to ‘shed our false layers,’ I heard a great quote recently which said people don’t meet us at first, they always meet our bodyguard. It seems to take us a while to reveal who we truly are, even to ourselves.

    Thanks, Art.


    • Hello Byron,

      I just smiled, thinking about our love of Steinbeck’s stuff–it’s so wonderful. Oh, I love your quote about people first meeting our bodyguard! Yes, it’s so true; it can take quite a bit of apparent time before we shed those false layers. Thanks for being “real,” and also for your kind words!

      With warm regards,