SYNOPSIS: John Steinbeck’s classic tells the story of George and Lennie, two itinerant farm hands who move from ranch to ranch in Northern California in the 1930s seeking work. Lennie is a slow-witted gentle giant who loves to hold and pet small animals, but his great strength combined with his mental impairment has gotten the two of them in trouble in the past. George watches over Lennie with a mixture of exasperation and affection, and as the play opens they have just started work at a new ranch. Both Lennie and George share a dream of owning their own small farm someday where they can ‘live off the fat of the land,’ and this dream, and their dim but powerful sense of brotherly responsibility for each other, suffuses the play even through its tragic ending.
LANGUAGE: Of Mice and Men is regarded as a major classic of American literature, and as such it is taught throughout the country in high schools and junior high schools. At the same time, the characters in the play are rough, uneducated men living in a bunkhouse together, and they do employ the frequent use of strong language, including profanity, vulgarities and racial slurs.
This language includes “Goddamn,” and “Jesus” or “Jesus Christ,” (many times), “son-of-a-bitch,” “bastard,” “bitch,” and “nigger,” (all used several times).
SMOKING AND DRINKING: None. The characters talk about drinking, but there is no onstage depiction of it.
SEX: None. Several of the men talk about visiting a brothel, but that’s as far as it goes.
VIOLENCE: Lennie accidently kills a small puppy that he is petting. An old dog is shot (offstage). In a fight, Lennie crushes Curley’s hand, and in the climactic scene Lennie accidently kills Curley’s wife, and George is forced to commit a tragic act in order to spare his friend from a lynch mob.
FOR WHICH AUDIENCES?: Of Mice and Men is a major work of literature and theatre, and espouses Steinbeck’s Christian vision of the universal brotherhood of man. For that reason, it is often part of the reading curriculum in American high schools and junior high schools. It is appropriate for teenagers and even children aged 10-12 years old, but because of the pervasive strong language in the play children should attend at their parents’ discretion. It might be upsetting and inappropriate for children under the age of ten.
RATING: The movie version of Of Mice and Men was rated “PG-13.”