Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

John Steinbeck
Of Mice and Men
Gramedia Pustaka Utama
144 pages
8.4 (Best Book)

Blurb
Suara George menjadi lebih dalam. Ia mengulangi kata-katanya dengan berirama, seolah ia sudah begitu sering mengucapkan kata-kata ini. "Orang-orang seperti kita, yang bekerja di peternakan, adalah orang-orang paling kesepian di dunia. Mereka tidak punya keluarga. Mereka tidak cocok di tempat mana pun. Mereka datang ke peternakan dan bekerja keras lalu pergi ke kota dan menghamburkan hasil kerja keras mereka, lalu setelahnya mereka banting tulang lagi di peternakan lain. Mereka tidak punya cita-cita." 

Kisah kontroversial tentang persahabatan dan tragedi pada masa-masa Depresi Besar. Mereka pasangan yang tidak lazim. George bertubuh kecil, berwajah muram; Lennie bertubuh besar dan pikirannya seperti anak kecil. Mereka adalah keluarga bagi satu sama lain, saling bantu, saling menjaga di tengah kehidupan berat sebagai pekerja musiman. Mereka punya mimpi: ingin membeli sepetak tanah untuk ditanami, dan pondok kecil. Ingin menjadi tuan atas diri sendiri. Tetapi nasib berkata lain.

Review
When I'm not busy working or playing Play Station, I spend most of my time by daydreaming. My favorite daydream? Becoming an Indonesian language high school teacher who forces his students to read and read and read. This idea comes from my own experience when I was taught Indonesian in high school, I thought the lesson is always banal, trite, and uninspiring. You never use your imagination, you're never asked to write a composition or a piece of opinion, and that's such a waste of time. I don't want future Indonesian leaders never read the feminist Layar Terkembang or cry over the beautiful Burung-Burung Manyar. I have even made my own curricula, where I will ask my students to compulsorily read one book each month, write what they think about the book, and discuss it in front of the class. Each year they will read at least twelve books: three classic Indonesian literatures, three modern Indonesian literatures, two young adult books, two translated books, one non-fiction book, and one book that they choose. I know, from the start, that John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men will be one book that I must shove to my students' throat. 

Of Mice and Men somehow reminds me of La La Land, if La La Land takes place in The Great Depression era, but both clearly emphasize the importance of having dream, that everyone has a right to dream even cheap laborers like George Milton and Lennie Small. Of Mice and Men revolves around the life of these antithetical two main characters. George Milton is witty, smart, yet doesn't possess the physical strength that Lennie Small has. Lennie, on the other hand, is mentally disabled but physically strong. They both have a big dream of having their own land farm where they can tend their crops and livestocks, and Lennie, who has unhealthy obsession with fluffy things, can keep pet rabbits. They are on their way to the new farm after being banished by their previous boss because of Lennie's cluelessness. In the new farm, they meet Candy, a long-in-the-tooth handyman; Slim, the main driver of the mule team; Curley, the owner's pugnacious son; his wife, who is mistrusted by her husband; and Crooks, a cynical black stable-hand. 

Each characters have their own dream, yet Steinbeck crudely kill each of it by reality and bitter truth. George and Lennie's dream of having their independence and homestead is barricaded by Candy's dubiousness and heartbreaking fate in the ending. Curley's wife's dream of becoming actress is stopped by her marriage with Curley and her own promiscuity. Unlike La La Land, where the characters' aspiration is coming true, Of Mice and Mean bleakly proffers the truth that sometimes dreams never come true. George's idealism fades away, Lennie's innocence and naivety don't help him in this cruel world. In the end, dreams die. Steinbeck doesn't mask anything in Of Mice and Men, yet the book is rich in allegories. He writes without hiding anything, portraying the ugly truth of life.

It's important for my imaginary students to read Of Mice and Men, to make them fully understand that dreams do die, but they mustn't forfeit their dream, unlike George and everyone else in the book. Dying dreams are realistic, but achieving dreams are much more realistic, and that hope is what my students must hold on to tread this river of life.
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