This OpEd focuses on George’s internal thought process in John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men. Set in the years of the Great Depression, Of Mice and Men focuses on two workers, George and Lennie, and their search for work. The book shows in detail both the challenges of working during the Great Depression and being disabled (as Lennie is) during such desperate times.
I’m tired, so tired. My feet drag as we walk, I can’t seem to catch my breath, and my eyelids are getting heavier. The sun burns relentlessly on my back. The dust, kicked up from the bus, accumulates in my mouth and nose. I can feel it in the back of my throat. There’s barely any wind, or trees along the road to shelter us from the heat as we walk; we’ll have miles before we reach the ranch.
The work cards from Murray and Ready’s New Deal government agency are tucked safely in my pockets. Government-backed agencies like Murray and Ready’s have been “helping people” find work in these desperate times. Both mine and Lennie’s are ready to be used. I don’t trust him not to forget or lose it, so I’m safe keeping it until we get to the ranch. Lennie doesn’t complain about the heat, nor the distance. Hands in his pockets, he keeps his eyes focused on the dirt road ahead of us. I can’t begin to imagine what’s going through that head of his.
Sometimes I wonder how I got here. What had to go so terribly wrong that I would end up traveling along an endless road with a less than suitable travel companion. What could I have messed up so terribly that I deserve to live like this, like some stray dog, wandering the roads in hopes of finding a job and stable money? I never know where the next paycheck or meal is going to come from; many days I’ve wondered if it would even come at all. We have been traveling and looking for work for the past few weeks. We had a good thing going up north in Weed. This ranch should be similar, the same job basically. Hard times make soft people stronger. But we’ll make it; I know it. Between the both of us, we have exactly what any employer could want: Lennie the brawns, me the brains.
I have a plan, and if Lennie can just keep his mouth shut, then we’re set. He’s usually an extra load on my shoulders—the crazy fella makes it hard to find a decent job when he’s always spewing nonsense out of his mouth. I wonder sometimes why I keep him around. I could easily get rid of him. Why have I never slinked off into the night while he’s sleeping? Would I do better if I were on my own? I’ve thought about leaving, fantasized even, but for some reason, I feel tethered to Lennie. I don’t know why. Of course, he gets annoying and sometimes plain infuriating, but I could never build up the resolve to leave him. Besides, he’s a good worker; Lennie’ll work as good as three men, he just needs to know how to talk normal, or not talk at all.
The Depression is worse now than ever. The whole country is struggling. It’s funny to think that we depended so much on the banking system that we could fall into a crisis when it collapsed. It shows how fickle our lives are, how quickly things can turn. At one moment you could be on top of the world, and the next, you’re like me and Lennie, looking for scraps, roaming cities and country for decent pay. It’s scary. It puts you in your place, makes you feel small. But it also takes a depression to realize that no one is going to help you but you. The fate of your livelihood and what you do with it is in your hands. It’s equally terrifying and liberating knowing there’s no one to blame but yourself.
I just can’t wait for when this is over, and we can stop worrying. I just want to rest. Hopefully, this will be the last ranch. We’ll be able to live off our wages forever without worrying if there’s enough for dinner. I think this is the one. I have a good feeling about it.
This OpEd is written by Chloe Wallace (Buckingham Browne & Nichols ‘22) who is working as a Curriculum Development Intern for United 4 Social Change during the Summer of 2019. Chloe is particularly passionate about ensuring equitable and accessible educational opportunities for kids.