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Of Mice and Men and Cannery Row

Of Mice and Men Summary

Of Mice and Men, set during the Great Depression, tells the story of George Milton and Lennie Small, two displaced migrant ranch workers who move from place to place in California in search of new job opportunities. George is small and quick, while Lennie is large and has a mild mental disability. Despite their differences, they share a dream of owning their own piece of land, farming it, and, as Lennie frequently puts it, keeping rabbits.

Plot Overview

The story begins with George and Lennie arriving at a new farm after having to flee their previous job in Weed due to Lennie's innocent but troublesome behavior. They are hired for work, but their dream seems far away until they meet Candy, an old handyman with a significant sum of money and a similar dream. The trio plan to buy a farm together.

However, their plans begin to unravel when Lennie has a fatal encounter with Curley's wife, the lonely wife of the boss's aggressive son, Curley. Lennie, who loves to pet soft things but does not know his own strength, accidentally kills her. The incident leads to a manhunt for Lennie, ending with George making the difficult decision to mercifully kill Lennie himself, to spare him from the mob's wrath or institutionalization.


  • The American Dream: The novel explores the pursuit of happiness and the belief that anyone, regardless of their socio-economic status, can achieve their dreams through hard work.
  • Friendship: It highlights the importance of companionship and the lengths to which people will go to protect their friends.
  • Loneliness and Isolation: Many characters in the novel suffer from loneliness and isolation, underscoring the harsh reality of life for itinerant workers during the Depression.
  • Innocence: Lennie represents innocence in a world that is not kind to the weak or different.

Cannery Row Summary

Cannery Row is set in Monterey, California, during the Great Depression, focusing on the lives of those who live on the margins of society, including drunks, prostitutes, and the unemployed. The central character, Doc, is a marine biologist who is beloved by all in the community.

Plot Overview

The narrative revolves around the residents of Cannery Row and their efforts to throw a surprise party for Doc, as a thank you for his kindness and to show their appreciation. The characters include Mack and the boys, a group of good-natured bums who live in the Palace Flophouse, and various other colorful residents.

Their first attempt at a party ends in disaster, but they are determined to make amends. The community comes together, showing the interconnectedness and mutual support among the Row's inhabitants.


  • Community and Solidarity: The novel emphasizes the strength of community ties and the support system within a marginalized society.
  • Humanity and Compassion: Steinbeck portrays the characters with deep empathy, highlighting their dignity despite societal judgment.
  • Survival and Resilience: It shows how individuals can adapt and thrive in challenging circumstances, making the best of their situation.

Both novels offer a poignant look at human nature, the importance of dreams and friendships, and the struggles faced by those living on the fringes of society during the Great Depression. Steinbeck's deep compassion for his characters shines through, making both Of Mice and Men and Cannery Row enduring classics of American literature.