Is Of Mice and Men a Banned Book?

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  • 0:04 Award Winning but Banned
  • 0:39 Prejudice
  • 1:32 Euthanasia
  • 2:34 Vulgarity & Treatment of Women
  • 3:33 Where Was It Banned?
  • 4:26 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Susan Nagelsen

Susan has directed the writing program in undergraduate colleges, taught in the writing and English departments, and criminal justice departments.

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck has been banned throughout the country because of foul language, violence, and racism. We'll consider the history of the banning of the book and the regions and situations in which it was banned.

Award Winning but Banned

of mice and men

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck has been banned countless times. This Depression-era tragic tale that was praised for its realism is regularly found in the top one hundred of the banned book list published by the American Library Association because of racial slurs, profanity, vulgarity, and offensive language. Steinbeck won a Nobel Peace Prize for Literature in 1962 for the stark images he created and the memorable characters who stay with the reader long after the last page is turned.

Let's go over in more detail all the reasons this book has been banned.

Prejudice

Steinbeck did not pull any punches when it came to displaying prejudice and discrimination because of race, mental ability, and income. For example, Crooks is a black man who works on the ranch, and we see that racial prejudice keeps him separate from everyone.

  • ''Yeah. Nice fella too. Got a crooked back where a horse kicked him. The boss gives him hell when he's mad. But the stable buck don't give a damn about that. He reads a lot. Got books in his room.''

Steinbeck would have us see that Crooks is more than just the color of his skin, but most of the characters in the book only see his color. The most common racial epithet is used frequently in the novel, and it is for this reason that modern day readers want to ban the book. By introducing Crooks into the narrative, Steinbeck is trying to make the point that discrimination is not acceptable. We should not misuse, abuse, or shun someone because of the color of their skin.

Euthanasia

Steinbeck takes opportunities to bring the concept of euthanasia, or mercy killing, into the plot of the narrative. The first time we are asked to consider the subject is when Carlson shoots Candy's dog. The dog was old and crippled, and he was suffering. Carlson believed that he was doing a good thing for the dog and for Candy by putting the dog out of its misery.

The second look at euthanasia is when George kills Lennie, who is George's responsibility. He is challenged in ways that make it difficult for George; he likes soft things and he doesn't know his own strength, which causes him to kill a number of things, including Curley's wife. George knows that Curley is going to hurt Lennie, so he decides that killing Lennie is better than watching him suffer at the hands of Curley. Before George kills Lennie, he reminds him they have always had each other's backs.

  • ''But not us,' Lennie cried happily. ''Tell about us now.''
    George was quiet for a moment. ''But not us,'' he said.
    ''Because------''
    ''Because I got you an'-----''
    ''An' I got you.''

Vulgarity & Treatment of Women

It's important to keep in mind that Of Mice and Men was set in the 1930s, and the language used in the book reflects the way people spoke during that time. Steinbeck needed to include language that we might find unacceptable to capture the historical context and realism he was attempting to show in this period piece.

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