The 1937 publication by John Steinbeck, Of Mice and Men, is a timeless story of life and liberty.
The 107-page novella follows the four-day adventure of George and Lennie as they start work on a ranch in Soledad.
You probably know all that from your time dissecting this classic piece of literature in English class.
However, there are at least eight interesting facts about Of Mice and Men that you probably didn’t learn in school.
John Steinbeck’s dog ate his first draft.
“My dog ate my homework” doesn’t get more literal than that.
Steinbeck’s dog, Toby, chewed up and destroyed a reasonable portion of the first draft.
Fortunately, that didn’t discourage Steinbeck from completing his famous novella.
He took it in good spirits, and despite the setback, soon completed his draft.
Steinbeck worked at nearby ranches during his early life.
Being a Stanford graduate at the time he wrote Of Mice and Men, not many would have guessed that he had done the same job as the main characters in his book.
Steinbeck grew up in Salinas Valley of California, where his book was set.
He spent lots of summers working at neighboring ranches. Hence, he saw firsthand the experiences of many migrant workers in his community.
That became his motivation to tell stories about people who were seldom featured in media at the time.
Of Mice and Men was not the original title.
“Something that Happened” was meant to be the book title.
The idea behind this original title was to take away blame for the events that happened in the book from any of the characters.
Steinbeck got the inspiration for the final book title from Robert Burns’ poem, “To a Mouse.”
The poem tells of the poet’s remorse for inadvertently destroying a mouse’s home while plowing the fields. This poem aptly describes Lennie’s personality.
Just like in the poem, Lennie doesn’t quite realize his strength and ends up hurting animals despite loving them.
People often credit the line “The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry” for the book’s title.
However, it’s a paraphrasing of the original poem, “The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft agley.”
The book became popular almost immediately.
Right after publication, Of Mice and Men became a hit. It sold 117,000 copies before official publication.
Despite its rather vulgar language and tragic ending, it still made it onto the Book-of-the-Month Club selection.
It is one of the most challenged books.
The American Library Association put Of Mice and Men as the third most challenged book in 2003.
This comes as no surprise as it contains some explicit language. It also explores controversial themes, including killing, racism, sexism, euthanasia, and violence.
These reasons are why people have called for its removal from public libraries. However, many have also called for its protection.
Despite the controversies, many of the themes in Of Mice and Men are valuable in today’s society.
It speaks of hope tainted by disappointment. Hence, scholars call for its protection because of its literary value.
Therefore, Of Mice and Men remains one of the most assigned literature.
Lennie Small is based on a real person.
During a 1937 interview with the New York Times, Steinbeck shared that he based Lennie on a real person who was at the time in a California insane asylum.
However, the real Lennie killed a foreman at the ranch, not a girl.
The stage production of the novelette won Steinbeck a Drama Critic Award.
About eight months after publication, Of Mice and Men, opened on stage in New York.
The following year, Of Mice and Men won the Drama Critic Award for Best American Play.
The 1939 film adaptation of Of Mice and Men earned four academy award nominations.
Since then, there have been several adaptations, including a 1992 theatre film that earned a Palme d’Or nomination at Cannes.
John Steinbeck’s house is worth over $16 million.
Steinbeck’s house, where he wrote Of Mice and Men, was put on sale in 2021 for the first time in 60 years.
The humble property had a price tag of $16.75 million.
Have your thoughts on Of Mice and Men changed since you first read it in English class?
Hopefully, these interesting facts can help widen your perspective if you decide to pick it up again.