Six interesting Of Mice and Men facts

Six interesting Of Mice and Men facts

4 February 2016

Ahead of the opening of Birmingham Rep and TCTC's production of John Steinbeck’s classic Of Mice and Men, learn more about the history of the novel.

John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men

Of Mice and Men opens at Birmingham Repertory Theatre tonight and will tour the UK from 23 February - 28 May 2016. To mark the occasion, we've selected our top facts about Steinbeck's novel.

1.The original title was…  ‘Something That Happened’
Steinbeck initial working title for his novel was ‘Something That Happened’, before finding inspiration in the Robert Burns poem ‘To A Mouse’, written in 1785. Like Burns, Steinbeck shared a similar knowledge and love of the natural world.  


2. Steinbeck’s dog ate an early draft
“Two months’ work to do over,” Steinbeck wrote. “There was no other draft. I was pretty mad, but the poor little fellow may have been acting critically”.


3.Steinbeck’s agents’ were initially disappointed with the novel
When Steinbeck first sent Of Mice and Men to his agents’ in 1936, they were unhappy in its scope.  Steinbeck wrote to them clarifying the message he’d intended for Lennie.

"I'm sorry that you do not find the new book as large in subject as it should be. I probably did not make my subject and symbols clear. The microcosm is rather difficult to handle and apparently I did not get it over – the earth longings of a Lennie who was not to represent insanity at all but the inarticulate and powerful yearning of all men."


4.The novel was an immediate hit
First published in February 1937, Of Mice and Men quickly became a bestseller, selling over half a million of the first edition. Since then, it has gone on to sell over seven million. The novel received wide critical acclaim, with many critics praising Steinbeck for his realistic and compassionate statement about humanity and the migrant labour experience.


5.Lennie was based on a real person
Steinbeck told the New York Times “Lennie was a real person. He’s in an insane asylum in California right now. I worked alongside him for many weeks. He didn’t kill a girl. He killed a ranch foreman. Got sore because the boss had fired his pal and stuck a pitchfork right through his stomach. I hate to tell you how many times I saw him do it. We couldn’t stop him until it was too late.”


6.The novel was written with theatre in mind
Of Mice and Men was Steinbeck’s first of three attempts at a ‘play-novella’, which he described as being ‘a play that can be read or a novel that can be played’. Describing his novel at the time, Steinbeck said it’s a ‘tricky little thing designed to teach me to write for the theatre.’ The plot occurs over three days with each chapter arranged as a scene, and each scene confined to one of four locations: a wooded area, the bunkhouse, the stable hand’s room, and the main barn. When Steinbeck finished writing the book, he immediately began writing a stage adaptation.

Of Mice and Men premieres at Birmingham Repertory Theatre, where it runs from 4 to 13 February 2016. It then tours to Cheltenham, Nottingham, Wolverhampton, Darlington, Blackpool, Cambridge, Brighton, Edinburgh, Cardiff, Oxford and Leicester where it concludes on 28 May.