Last year I read The Grapes of Wrath and didn't really enjoy it. Friends suggested that I should give Steinbeck another chance and read Of Mice and Men. I really liked the book and found it to be very fast and easy reading. No wonder it is a favorite of high school English teachers everywhere....except my school apparently. If you've read it before just skip the summary and head on down to the LOST connections.
Of Mice and Men is the story of two drifters wandering aimlessly through life just trying to find a job on a farm or ranch....and keep it. George and Lenny will do any kind of manual labor there is in exchange for a bunkhouse, some chow and a few dollars. Their earnings they plan to save up in order to someday purchase their own little farm somewhere. They spend hours dreaming about their own piece of land.
Someday we're gonna get the jack together and we're gonna have a little house and a couple of acres an' a cow and some pigs and live off the fatta the land. We'll have a big vegetable patch and a rabbit hutch and chickens. And when it rains in the winter, we'll just say the hell with going to work and we'll build up a fire in the stove and set around and listen to the rain comin' down on the roof....
The biggest problem they face along the way is Lenny himself. He is mentally retarded and often over-reacts to small situations making them worse. He is a big, strong guy with the mind of a child. More than once the pair has had to leave a good job because Lenny has innocently and inadvertently scared, harmed or killed someone or something. George spends all of his time putting out Lenny's fires and smoothing things over.
George often gets fed up with Lenny and resents his presence. He knows that his life would be so much easier without Lenny. On his own, George would have no problem holding down a job and saving up the money he needs for his own little place. But without Lenny, George would have another problem altogether....loneliness.
Guys like us that work on ranches, are the loneliest guys in the world. They got no family. They don't belong no place. They come to a rand an' work up a stake and then they go into town and blow their stake, and the first thing you know they're poundin' their tail on some other ranch. They ain't got nothing to look ahead to. With us it ani't like that. We got a future. We got somebody to talk to that gives a damn about us. We don't have to sit in no bar room blowin' our jack jus' because we got no place else to go. If them other guys gets in jail they can rot for all anybody gives a damn. But not us. An' why? Because ....because I got you to look after me, and you got me to look after you, and that's why.
George and Lenny only have each other, and the truth is neither one could make it without the other. That fact become strikingly obvious at the end of the book. It is also what makes the book relevant to LOST.
The LOST Connection:
Besides the fact that rabbits play a minor role in both storylines, I think the loneliness factor is the biggest common denominator. It is the whole idea that no man is an island (pardon the pun). We all need community. The Hostiles. The Others. The Losties. The Tailies. Everybody has to band together to live. They argue, fight, disagree, and arrange for the mass murder of their entire village...and yet not a single character could make it on his own. Regardless of the inconveniences and drawbacks they need each other.
Sawyer, the ultimate loner, even struggles with loneliness. Remember the episode where Hurley tries to teach him how to be nice to people so they will like and accept him? Even though they are separated from their families and friends they have been able to form a new community on the island, and they are totally dependant on that community for their sanity as well as for their protection.
Really, I think this is the central message of LOST (aside from "time travel's not just for Star Trek anymore"). Community. Loneliness. The search for belonging, love and acceptance. All of these themes make LOST the moving show that it is, and Of Mice and Men the great novel that it is.