Of Mice and Men: A Comprehensive Comparison of Novel and Movie


Who doesn\'t know of John Steinbeck\'s classic novel "Of Mice and Men"? It
is a novel that almost everyone educated in the United States has either read it
or pretended to read it. But how many have seen the 1992 film "Of Mice and
Men"? The relative obscurity of 1992 screen version of this timeless drama does
not mean that it was poorly done. Just the contrary is true, it is one of the
best film adaptations of a novel that I have seen. The novel and the film are
very similar. The Steinbeck\'s novel could be though of as the screenplay\'s
first draft. There were some small changes, but they were instituted for the
good of the film. I liked the film better than Steinbeck\'s novel.
"Of Mice and Men" is a story of people who express their troubles
clearly, holding on to thin dreams as they go about their thankless business.
The novel, set in the 1930s, is a story of friendship of migrant workers George
Milton and Lennie Smalls. The pair travels from ranch to ranch, dreaming of
someday making enough money so they can buy their own plot of land and a stake
in their future. George is a father figure and protector of the strong simple-
minded Lennie. Lennie\'s strength is his gift and his curse. Like the child he
is mentally, he loves animals, but he inadvertently crushes them to death.
Women, to him, are rather like animals, -- soft, small, and gentle. And there
lies the tension that powers this narrative to its tragic conclusion.
The film version and the novel are very similar. There is minimal
description in the novel, enough to set the scene, and the rest is dialogue.
The film\'s story is very pure and lean as Steinbeck\'s original.
Producer/director Gary Sinise and screenwriter Horton Foote don\'t try do
anything fancy, they don\'t try to make it anything other than exactly what it is,
a timeless simple story. Sinise and Foote make American Literature teachers
everywhere proud; they have left the film\'s story uncluttered. Everything is
very clear, and makes sense within its context. They remembered "Of Mice and
Men is a classic for a reason, and if it ain\'t broke, don\'t fix it.
The screenplay and the novel are not synonymous but they are very close
to being that way. Sinise and Foote held very true in their adaptation. All of
the changes made were minor and to nothing to detract from the narrative. There
were many more scenes in the film than the novel. It is believable to think the
novel was originally a play and then was adapted into book form because there
are only four different scenes in the entire novel. Chapter one is set at the
Salinas River, chapter two and three are in the bunkhouse, chapter four in
Crook\'s room, chapter five is in the barn, and chapter six is at the river again.
Scenes had to be added to the film to keep the audience from getting bored.
Dialogue was deleted to help move the story along. The only way we get
background information about George and Lennie in the novel is through their
dialogue. There was less dialogue in the film because the audience can learn
the background information from visual cues from the added scenes. For instance,
in the novel, George and Lennie speak of walking ten miles after being forced
off the bus by the driver. But in the film, we see the driver kick the pair off
of the bus. Similarly, George only speaks of the trouble that Lennie had gotten
them into in the town of Weed. But in the movie we are able to see what happens.
Curley\'s wife, played by Sherilyn Fenn, plays a larger role in this film
than in the novel. This character steadily develops as layers are peeled back
like an onion. The wife in this version is far more predatory and dangerous
than in Steinbeck\'s novel. Initially she acts quite sluttish, but she
eventually shows to be naive, lonely, and trapped in an abusive marriage. She
acts as a feminist voice that Steinbeck probably never intended.
The film version is different because downplays the novel\'s political
subtext, a call for humane socialism where people take care of one another.
Instead, the film version focuses on the human condition on the individual level
only. We are given characters, a setting, and events. The drama of this story
comes from two men who have formed a friendship that works