As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. This post may contain affiliate links. Please read our disclosure for more info.
Of Mice and Men is a novel written by John Steinbeck. His subject was the Great Depression in America and the social inequalities that transcend time. The book has been banned and it has been loved.
Steinbeck vividly enlivens the main characters, George and Lenny, as they migrate seeking work in a time when all of America was struggling. His descriptions are captivating and his dialogue is authentic. The reader longingly aches for the hopes and dreams that are never to be realized.
Of Mice and Men Quotes
Steinbeck’s words are as timeless as his style. Here are 40 of the most thought-provoking quotes from “Of Mice and Men”.
- “You’re nuts.” Crooks was scornful. “I seen hunderds of men come by on the road an’ on the ranches, with their bindles on their back an’ that same damn thing in their heads. Hunderds of them. They come, an’ they quit an’ go on; an’ every damn one of ‘em’s got a little piece of land in his head An’ never a God damn one of ‘em ever gets it. Just like heaven. Ever’body wants a little piece of lan’. I read plenty of books out here. Nobody never gets to heaven, and nobody gets no land. It’s just in their head. They’re all the time talkin’ about it, but it’s jus’ in their head.”
- “A guy needs somebody―to be near him. A guy goes nuts if he ain’t got nobody. Don’t make no difference who the guy is, long’s he’s with you. I tell ya, I tell ya a guy gets too lonely an’ he gets sick.”
- “Guy don’t need no sense to be a nice fella. Seems to me sometimes it jus’ works the other way around. Take a real smart guy and he ain’t hardly ever a nice fella.”
- “Ain’t many guys travel around together,” he mused. “I don’t know why. Maybe ever’body in the whole damn world is scared of each other.”
- “It ain’t so funny, him an’ me goin’ aroun’ together,” George said at last. “Him and me was both born in Auburn. I knowed his Aunt Clara. She took him when he was a baby and raised him up. When his Aunt Clara died, Lennie just come along with me out workin’. Got kinda used to each other after a little while.”
- “As happens sometimes, a moment settled and hovered and remained for much more than a moment. And sound stopped and movement stopped for much, much more than a moment.”
- “Lennie said, “I thought you was mad at me, George.” “No,” said George. “No, Lennie, I ain’t mad. I never been mad, and I ain’ now. That’s a thing I want ya to know.”
- “We’ll have a big vegetable patch and a rabbit hutch and chickens. And when it rains in the winter, we’ll just say the hell with goin’ to work, and we’ll build up a fire in the stove and set around it an’ listen to the rain comin’ down on the roof – nuts!”
- “There was a gravity in his manner and a quiet so profound that all talk stopped when he spoke, His authority was so great that his word was taken on any subject, be it politics or love. This was Slim, the jerkline skinner.”
- “At about 10 o’clock in the morning the sun threw a bright dust-laden bar through one of the side windows and in and out of the beam flies shot like rushing stars.”
- “Lennie said quietly, “It ain’t no lie. We’re gonna do it. Gonna get a little place an’ live on the fatta the lan’.”
- “I was born right here in Southern California. My old man had a chicken ranch, ‘bout ten acres. The white kids come to play at our place, an’ sometimes I went to play with them, and some of them was pretty nice. My ‘ol man didn’t like that. I never knew till long later why he didn’t like that. But I know now.” He hesitated, and when he spoke again his voice was softer. “There wasn’t another colored family for miles around. And now there ain’t a colored man on this ranch an’ there’s jus’ one family in Soledad.”
- “Evening of a hot day started the little wind to moving among the leaves. The shade climbed up the hills toward the top. On the sand banks the rabbits sat as quietly as little gray, sculptured stones.
- “An’ live off the fatta the lan’,” Lennie shouted. “An’ have rabbits. Go on, George! Tell about what we’re gonna have in the garden and about the rabbits in the cages and about the rain in the winter and the stove, and how thick the cream is on the milk like you can hardly cut it. Tell about that George.” “Why’n’t you do it yourself? You know all of it.” “No…you tell it. It ain’t the same if I tell it. Go on…George. How I get to tend the rabbits.”
- “They fell into a silence. They looked at one another, amazed. This thing they had never really believed in was coming true.”
- “His ear heard more than was said to him, and his slow speech had overtones not of thought, but of understanding beyond thought.”
- “Try to understand men, if you understand each other you will be kind to each other. Knowing a man well never leads to hate and nearly always leads to love.”
- “George said wonderingly, ‘S’pose they was a carnival or a circus come to town, or a ball game, . . . We’d just go to her . . . We wouldn’t ask nobody if we could. Jus’ say, ‘We’ll go to her,’ an’ we would. Jus’ milk the cow and sling some grain to the chickens an’ go to her.‘”
- “He ain’t no cuckoo,” said George. “He’s dumb as hell, but he ain’t crazy. An’ I ain’t so bright neither, or I wouldn’t be buckin’ barley for my fifty and found.”
- “’Well, you keep your place then, N*****. I could get you strung up on a tree so easy it ain’t even funny.’ Crooks had reduced himself to nothing. There was no personality, no ego—nothing to arouse either like or dislike. He said, ‘Yes, ma’am’ and his voice was toneless.”
- “Jesus, I seen it happen too many times. I seen too many guys with land in their head. They never get none under their hand.”
- “We got a future.”
- “Lennie, who had been watching, imitated George exactly. He pushed himself back, drew up his knees, embraced them, looked over to George to see whether he had it just right.”
- “I can still tend the rabbits, George? I didn’t mean no harm, George.”
- “If you don’ want me I can g off in the hills an’ find a cave. I can go away any time.” “No—look! I was jus’ foolin’, Lennie. ‘Cause I want you to stay with me.”
- “George’s voice became deeper. He repeated his words rhythmically as though he had said them many times before. ‘Guys like us, that work on ranches, are the loneliest guys in the world. They got no family. They don’t belong no place. They come to a ranch an’ work up a stake, and the first thing you know they’re poundin’ their tail on some other ranch. They ain’t got nothing to look ahead to.”
- ″‘I said what stake you got in this guy? You takin’ his pay away from him?′ ‘No, ‘course I ain’t. Why you think I’m sellin’ him out?′ ‘Well, I never seen one guy take so much trouble for another guy. I just like to know what your interest is.‘”
- …If I was bright, if I was even a little bit smart, I’d have my own little place, an’ I’d be bringin’ in my own crops, ‘stead of doin’ all the work and not getting what comes up outa the ground.”
- “I got you to look after me, and you got me to look after you, and that’s why.”
- “Lennie begged, “Le’s do it now. Le’s get that place now.” “Sure right now. I gotta. We gotta.”
- “Says he foun’ he jus’ got a little piece of a great big soul. Says a wilderness ain’t no good, ’cause his little piece of a soul wasn’t no good ‘less it was with the rest, an’ was whole.”
- “I seen it over an’ over—a guy talkin’ to another guy and it don’t make no difference if he don’t hear or understand. The thing is, they’re talkin’, or they’re settin’ still not talkin’. It don’t make no difference, no difference. […] George can tell you screwy things, and it don’t matter. It’s just the talking. It’s just bein’ with another guy. That’s all.”
- “We know what we got, and we don’t care whether you know it or not.”
- George’s hand remained outstretched imperiously. Slowly, like a terrier who doesn’t want to bring a ball to its master, Lennie approached, drew back, approached again. George snapped his fingers sharply and Lennie laid the mouse in his hand. “I wasn’t doin’ nothing bad with it, George. Jus’ strokin’ it.”
- “Curley’s like a lot of little guys. He hates big guys. He’s alla time picking scraps with big guys. Kind of like he’s mad at ’em because he ain’t a big guy.”
- “A water snake glided smoothly up the pool, twisting its periscope head from side to side; and it swam the length of the pool and came to the legs of a motionless heron that stood in the shadows. A silent head and beak lanced down and plucked it out by the head, and the beak swallowed the little snake while its tail waved frantically.”
- “Carl’s right, Candy. That dog ain’t no good to himself. I wisht somebody’d shoot me if I got old an’ a cripple.”
- “A stilted heron labored up into the air and pounded down the river.”
- “But George sat stiffly on the bank and looked at his right hand that had thrown the gun away. The group burst into the clearing, and Curley was ahead. He saw Lennie lying on the sand. “Got him, by God.” He went over and looked down at Lennie, and then he looked back at George. “Right in the back of the head,” he said softly.Slim came directly to George and sat down beside him, sat very close to him. “Never you mind,” said Slim. “A guy got to sometimes.” But Carlson was standing over George. “How’d you do it?” he asked.“I just done it,” George said tiredly.”
- “Yeah,” said George. “I’ll come. But listen, Curley. The poor bastard’s nuts. Don’t shoot ‘im. He di’n’t know what he was doin’.”
These Quotes remind us of the Great Depression
These “Of Mice and Men” quotes remind us of a time, not so very long ago, when Americans struggled just to stay alive. The Great Depression in America was a time of hunger, quiet desperation, and exhaustion. Like Steinbeck’s work “The Grapes of Wrath,” this book encourages sober reflection on those values that truly matter: friendship, loyalty, kindness, family, and decency.
Image Credit: Hal Roach Studios / Public domain