Author of the Week, On This Day

Happy 115th Birthday John Steinbeck.

By Rebecca Reed

To the author who has given students many an hour studying chapter by chapter, paragraph by paragraph. ‘Of Mice a Men’ remains a glorious addition to the literary world. John Steinbeck was born 115 years ago today.

John Steinbeck wrote a total of 27 books which included 16 novels, 6 non-fiction books and 5 collections of short stories. His novels included the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Grapes of Wrath and the book that remains as memorable when I first read it in school as it does today, Of Mice and Men.

“No, Lennie. I ain’t mad. I never been mad, an’ I ain’t now. That’s a thing I want ya to know.” – George

Personally, I enjoyed studying Of Mice and Men, I had not experienced a book like this in my reading life, my literature included a lot of Jacqueline Wilson and a-lot of teenage genre horror books. (point horror I look to you!)  I felt very grown-up reading this novella, the characters of George and Lennie were complex but easy to follow. We also got to read a section as a class in our English lessons, and then watch a part of the 1992 film with John Malkovich and Gary Sinise.

I then remember needing to purchase the study guide for the exams I faced in GCSE English, the little study guide featured a comic book strip of each chapter, which I found easy to visualise as well as read along with the key moments in the story. Before the film was introduced in the classroom, the comic strip helped with any confusing details.

“We could live offa the fatta the lan’.” – Lennie

We had many books throughout secondary school to read for mock exams, or even to go towards part of your estimated grade for your final year; we read The Crucible, Romeo and Juliet, Stone Cold. With each of these I did not get as obsessed with as, Of Mice and Men. I always wanted to finish the book, reading just a few pages each lesson I found irritating so I would find myself reading ahead. (naughty I know!) I also begged my parents for the DVD so I could watch the ending, which we borrowed from the local library in the end. I was not prepared. I don’t think any student is fully prepared for the tragic ending, reading it was tough, but seeing it on the TV screen it was emotional.

“The crash of the shot rolled up the hills and rolled down again.”

Without John Steinbeck, we would not have one of the greatest pieces of literature in history that is deemed as controversial for this modern day and age, with the language used. So, thank you for bringing possibly millions of students to the brink of despair in their exams and the emotional ride of the adventure of Lennie and George working on a ranch. But a sincere thank you for creating such a powerful novella that introduced me to a more mature theme of reading and carved the way for more books that required a more mature look on them, such as George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four and Animal Farm.

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