Of mice and men, p.1
Table of Contents
OF MICE AND MEN
OF MICE AND MEN
Born in Salinas, California, in 1902, JOHN STEINBECK grew up in a fertile agricultural valley about twenty-five miles from the Pacific Coast--and both valley and coast would serve as settings for some of his best fiction. In 1919 he went to Stanford University, where he intermittently enrolled in literature and writing courses until he left in 1925 without taking a degree. During the next five years he supported himself as a laborer and journalist in New York City and then as a caretaker for a Lake Ta-hoe estate, all the time working on his first novel, Cup of Gold (1929). After marriage and a move to Pacific Grove, he published two California fictions, The Pastures of Heaven (1932) and To a God Unknown (1933), and worked on short stories later collected in The Long Valley (1938). Popular success and financial security came only with Tortilla Flat (1935), stories about Monterey's paisanos. A ceaseless experimenter throughout his career, Steinbeck changed courses regularly. Three powerful novels of the late 1930s focused on the California laboring class: In Dubious Battle (1936), Of Mice and Men (1937), and the book considered by many his finest, The Grapes of Wrath (1939). Early in the 1940s, Steinbeck became a filmmaker with The Forgotten Village (1941) and a serious student of marine biology with Sea of Cortez. He devoted his services to the war, writing Bombs Away (1942) and the controversial play-novelette The Moon Is Down (1942). Cannery Row (1945), The Wayward Bus (1947), The Pearl (1947), A Russian Journal (1948), another experimental drama, Burning Bright (1950), and The Log from the Sea of Cortez (1951) preceded publication of the monumental East of Eden (1952), an ambitious saga of the Salinas Valley and his own family's history. The last decades of his life were spent in New York City and Sag Harbor with his third wife, with whom he traveled widely. Later books include Sweet Thursday (1954), The Short Reign of Pippin IV: A Fabrication (1957), Once There Was a War (1958), The Winter of Our Discontent (1961), Travels with Charley in Search of America (1962), America and Americans (1966), and the posthumously published Journal of a Novel: The East of Eden Letters (1969), Viva Zapata! (1975), The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights (1976), and Working Days: The Journals of The Grapes of Wrath (1989). He died in 1968, having won a Nobel Prize in 1962.
BY JOHN STEINBECK
Cup of Gold
The Pastures of Heaven
To a God Unknown
In Dubious Battle
Saint Katy the Virgin
Of Mice and Men
The Red Pony
The Long Valley
The Grapes of Wrath
The Moon is Down
The Wayward Bus
East of Eden
The Winter of Our Discontent
The Short Reign of Pippin IV
Sea of Cortez: A Leisurely Journal of Travel and Research
(in collaboration with Edward F. Ricketts)
Bombs Away: The Story of a Bomber Team
A Russian Journal (with pictures by Robert Capa)
The Log from the Sea of Cortez
Once There Was a War
Travels with Charley in Search of America
America and Americans
Journal of a Novel: The East of Eden Letters PLAYS
Of Mice and Men
The Moon Is Down COLLECTIONS
The Portable Steinbeck
The Short Novels of John Steinbeck
Steinbeck: A Life in Letters OTHER WORKS
The Forgotten Village (documentary)
Viva Zapata! (screenplay) CRITICAL LIBRARY EDITION
The Grapes of Wrath (edited by Peter Lisca)
Published by the Penguin Group
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Rosebank, Johannesburg 2196, South Africa Penguin Books Ltd, Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England
First published in the United States of America by Covici, Friede, Inc., 1937
Published by The Viking Press Inc. 1938
First Published in a volume with Cannery Row in Penguin Books 1978
This edition published 1993
Copyright John Steinbeck, 1937
Copyright renewed by John Steinbeck, 1965
All rights reserved
eISBN : 978-1-4406-3390-4
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OF MICE AND MEN
A FEW MILES south of Soledad, the Salinas River drops in close to the hillside bank and runs deep and green. The water is warm too, for it has slipped twinkling over the yellow sands in the sunlight before reaching the narrow pool. On one side of the river the golden foothill slopes curve up to the strong and rocky Gabilan mountains, but on the valley side the water is lined with trees--willows fresh and green with every spring, carrying in their lower leaf junctures the debris of the winter's flooding; and sycamores with mottled, white, recumbent limbs and branches that arch over the pool. On the sandy bank under the trees the leaves lie deep and so crisp that a lizard makes a great skittering if he runs among them. Rabbits come out of the brush to sit on the sand in the evening, and the damp flats are covered with the night tracks of 'coons, and with the spread pads of dogs from the ranches, and with the split-wedge tracks of deer that come to drink in the dark.
There is a path through the willows and among the sycamores, a path beaten hard by boys coming down from the ranches to swim in the deep pool, and beaten hard by tramps who come wearily down from the highway in the evening to jungle-up near water. In front of the low horizontal limb of a giant sycamore there is an ash pile made by many fires; the limb is worn smooth by men who have sat on it.
Evening of a hot day started the little wind to moving among the leaves. The shade climbed up the hills toward the top. On the sand banks the rabbits sat as quietly as little gray, sculptured stones. And then from the direction of the state highway came the sound of footsteps on crisp sycamore leaves. The rabbits hurried noiselessly for cover. A stilted heron labored up into the air and pounded down river. For a moment the place was lifeless, and then two men emerged from the path and came into the opening by the green pool.
They had walked in single file down the path, and even in the open one stayed behind the other. Both were dressed in denim trousers and in denim coats with brass bu
The first man stopped short in the clearing, and the follower nearly ran over him. He took off his hat and wiped the sweat-band with his forefinger and snapped the moisture off. His huge companion dropped his blankets and flung himself down and drank from the surface of the green pool; drank with long gulps, snorting into the water like a horse. The small man stepped nervously beside him.
"Lennie!" he said sharply. "Lennie, for God' sakes don't drink so much." Lennie continued to snort into the pool. The small man leaned over and shook him by the shoulder. "Lennie. You gonna be sick like you was last night."
Lennie dipped his whole head under, hat and all, and then he sat up on the bank and his hat dripped down on his blue coat and ran down his back. "Tha's good," he said. "You drink some, George. You take a good big drink." He smiled happily.
George unslung his bindle and dropped it gently on the bank. "I ain't sure it's good water," he said. "Looks kinda scummy."
Lennie dabbled his big paw in the water and wiggled his fingers so the water arose in little splashes; rings widened across the pool to the other side and came back again. Lennie watched them go. "Look, George. Look what I done."
George knelt beside the pool and drank from his hand with quick scoops. "Tastes all right," he admitted. "Don't really seem to be running, though. You never oughtta drink water when it ain't running, Lennie, " he said hopelessly. "You'd drink out of a gutter if you was thirsty." He threw a scoop of water into his face and rubbed it about with his hand, under his chin and around the back of his neck. Then he replaced his hat, pushed himself back from the river, drew up his knees and embraced them. Lennie, who had been watching, imitated George exactly. He pushed himself back, drew up his knees, embraced them, looked over to George to see whether he had it just right. He pulled his hat down a little more over his eyes, the way George's hat was.
George stared morosely at the water. The rims of his eyes were red with sun glare. He said angrily, "We could just as well of rode clear to the ranch if that bastard bus driver knew what he was talkin' about. 'Jes' a little stretch down the highway,' he says. 'Jes' a little stretch.' God damn near four miles, that's what it was! Didn't wanta stop at the ranch gate, that's what. Too God damn lazy to pull up. Wonder he isn't too damn good to stop in Soledad at all. Kicks us out and says, 'Jes' a little stretch down the road.' I bet it was more than four miles. Damn hot day."
Lennie looked timidly over to him. "George?"
"Yeah, what ya want?"
"Where we goin', George?"
The little man jerked down the brim of his hat and scowled over at Lennie. "So you forgot that awready, did you? I gotta tell you again, do I? Jesus Christ, you're a crazy bastard!"
"I forgot," Lennie said softly. "I tried not to forget. Honest to God I did, George."
"O.K.--O.K. I'll tell ya again. I ain't got nothing to do. Might jus' as well spen' all my time tellin' you things and then you forget 'em, and I tell you again."
"Tried and tried," said Lennie, "but it didn't do no good. I remember about the rabbits, George."
"The hell with the rabbits. That's all you ever can remember is them rabbits. O.K.! Now you listen and this time you got to remember so we don't get in no trouble. You remember settin' in that gutter on Howard Street and watchin' that blackboard?"
Lennie's face broke into a delighted smile. "Why sure, George, I remember that . . . but . . . what'd we do then? I remember some girls come by and you says . . . you say . . ."
"The hell with what I says. You remember about us goin' into Murray and Ready's, and they give us work cards and bus tickets?"
"Oh, sure, George. I remember that now." His hands went quickly into his side coat pockets. He said gently, "George . . . I ain't got mine. I musta lost it." He looked down at the ground in despair.
"You never had none, you crazy bastard. I got both of 'em here. Think I'd let you carry your own work card?"
Lennie grinned with relief. "I . . . I thought I put it in my side pocket." His hand went into the pocket again.
George looked sharply at him. "What'd you take outta that pocket?"
"Ain't a thing in my pocket," Lennie said cleverly.
"I know there ain't. You got it in your hand. What you got in your hand--hidin' it?"
"I ain't got nothin', George. Honest."
"Come on, give it here."
Lennie held his closed hand away from George's direction. "It's on'y a mouse, George."
"A mouse? A live mouse?"
"Uh-uh. Jus' a dead mouse, George. I didn' kill it. Honest! I found it. I found it dead."
"Give it here!" said George.
"Aw, leave me have it, George."
"Give it here!"
Lennie's closed hand slowly obeyed. George took the mouse and threw it across the pool to the other side, among the brush. "What you want of a dead mouse, anyways?"
"I could pet it with my thumb while we walked along," said Lennie.
"Well, you ain't petting no mice while you walk with me. You remember where we're goin' now?"
Lennie looked startled and then in embarrassment hid his face against his knees. "I forgot again."
"Jesus Christ," George said resignedly. "Well--look, we're gonna work on a ranch like the one we come from up north."
"Oh, sure. I remember. In Weed."
"That ranch we're goin' to is right down there about a quarter mile. We're gonna go in an' see the boss. Now, look--I'll give him the work tickets, but you ain't gonna say a word. You jus' stand there and don't say nothing. If he finds out what a crazy bastard you are, we won't get no job, but if he sees ya work before he hears ya talk, we're set. Ya got that?"
"Sure, George. Sure I got it."
"O.K. Now when we go in to see the boss, what you gonna do?"
"I . . . I," Lennie thought. His face grew tight with thought. "I . . . ain't gonna say nothin'. Jus' gonna stan' there."
"Good boy. That's swell. You say that over two, three times so you sure won't forget it."
Lennie droned to himself softly, " 'I ain't gonna say nothin' . . . I ain't gonna say nothin' . . . I ain't gonna say nothin'."
"O.K.," said George. "An' you ain't gonna do no bad things like you done in Weed, neither."
Lennie looked puzzled. "Like I done in Weed?"
"Oh, so ya forgot that too, did ya? Well, I ain't gonna remind ya, fear ya do it again."
A light of understanding broke on Lennie's face. "They run us outta Weed," he exploded triumphantly.
"Run us out, hell," said George disgustedly. "We run. They was lookin' for us, but they didn't catch us."
Lennie giggled happily. "I didn't forget that, you bet."
George lay back on the sand and crossed his hands under his head, and Lennie imitated him, raising his head to see whether he were doing it right. "God, you're a lot of trouble," said George. "I could get along so easy and so nice if I didn't have you on my tail. I could live so easy and maybe have a girl."
For a moment Lennie lay quiet, and then he said hopefully, "We gonna work on a ranch, George."
"Awright. You got that. But we're gonna sleep here because I got a reason."
The day was going fast now. Only the tops of the Gabilan mountains flamed with the light of the sun that had gone from the valley. A water snake slipped along on the pool, its head held up like a little periscope. The reeds jerked slightly in the current. Far off toward the highway a man shouted something, and another man shouted back. The sycamore limbs rustl
"George--why ain't we goin' on to the ranch and get some supper? They got supper at the ranch."
George rolled on his side. "No reason at all for you. I like it here. Tomorra we're gonna go to work. I seen thrashin' machines on the way down. That means we'll be bucking grain bags, bustin' a gut. Tonight I'm gonna lay right here and look up. I like it."
Lennie got up on his knees and looked down at George. "Ain't we gonna have no supper?"
"Sure we are, if you gather up some dead willow sticks. I got three cans of beans in my bindle. You get a fire ready. I'll give you a match when you get the sticks together. Then we'll heat the beans and have supper."
Lennie said, "I like beans with ketchup."
"Well, we ain't got no ketchup. You go get wood. An' don't you fool around. It'll be dark before long."
Lennie lumbered to his feet and disappeared in the brush. George lay where he was and whistled softly to himself. There were sounds of splashings down the river in the direction Lennie had taken. George stopped whistling and listened. "Poor bastard," he said softly, and then went on whistling again.
In a moment Lennie came crashing back through the brush. He carried one small willow stick in his hand. George sat up. "Awright," he said brusquely. "Gi'me that mouse!"
But Lennie made an elaborate pantomime of innocence. "What mouse, George? I ain't got no mouse."
George held out his hand. "Come on. Give it to me. You ain't puttin' nothing over."
Lennie hesitated, backed away, looked wildly at the brush line as though he contemplated running for his freedom. George said coldly, "You gonna give me that mouse or do I have to sock you?"
"Give you what, George?"
"You know God damn well what. I want that mouse."
Lennie reluctantly reached into his pocket. His voice broke a little. "I don't know why I can't keep it. It ain't nobody's mouse. I didn't steal it. I found it lyin' right beside the road."
George's hand remained outstretched imperiously. Slowly, like a terrier who doesn't want to bring a ball to its master, Lennie approached, drew back, approached again. George snapped his fingers sharply, and at the sound Lennie laid the mouse in his hand.
"I wasn't doin' nothing bad with it, George. Jus' strokin' it."
George stood up and threw the mouse as far as he could into the darkening brush, and then he stepped to the pool and washed his hands. "You crazy fool. Don't you think I could see your feet was wet where you went acrost the river to get it?" He heard Lennie's whimpering cry and wheeled about. "Blubberin' like a baby! Jesus Christ! A big guy like you." Lennie's lip quivered and tears started in his eyes. "Aw, Lennie!" George put his hand on Lennie's shoulder. "I ain't takin' it away jus' for meanness. That mouse ain't fresh, Lennie; and besides, you've broke it pettin' it. You get another mouse that's fresh and I'll let you keep it a little while."
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