Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck: The Importance of Companionship

This post assumes you have already read Of Mice and Men as it contains spoilers.

John Steinbeck’s social realism novella Of Mice and Men portrays the necessity for companionship in one’s life, especially migrant workers during the Great Depression. For instance, when Carlson kills Candy’s dog, the men feel anxious about how Candy will react while Candy feels helpless that he has lost his only companion which illustrates the need for friendship between individuals.

Typical migrant workers do not spend the day socializing, but rather traveling from place to place to earn money. They then spend it in foolish ways as they have no future which shows the significant need for fellowship in these particular individuals. Candy for instance had the companionship of his dog but was then pressured into allowing Carlson to kill it as it had no purpose due to old age. While his dog is being shot, Candy is “staring” at the ceiling and then “rolled slowly over and faced the wall and lay silent” after the “shot sounded in the distance” (49). Candy feels depressed, hopeless, and wishes to mourn in private. With the death of his dog, he has no family or friends left and it can be difficult not having someone to confide in or provide for. Even the rest of the men in the room are anxious as George “rippled the edge of the deck nervously” (49). This reveals that they feel guilty as they know life can be harsh without a companion. For example, George and Lennie have each other to keep them sane and they have a future together. The “silence” (49) in the room shows the situation is uncomfortable between all of the men. Candy is now all alone and does not have anybody.

Having no one to turn to in life’s hardest moments can have a severe impact on one’s mental health. People’s purpose in life and their health are defined based on the companionships they form.

-Abby V.

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded from Overdrive.

What Life Is All About

Everyone seems to have their own outlook on what life has to offer and what makes life so precious. In my perspective, it’s the little things that make life worth living. When people think of what the rest of their life has to offer, most think about the major events like graduating or their wedding. Although those are major and amazing parts of people’s lives, it’s vital to notice that life goes a lot deeper than that. 

Life is a collection of small moments. Some of those are going to be good, while others may be bad. We don’t give those moments enough credit, the little moments where you look over and someone’s thinking the exact same thing, smelling a scent you remember, hugging someone you missed, etc. There have been so many days I’ve looked back on and all I seem to remember is the random person I saw dancing in their car or how perfect the weather was. Each day is like a treasure hunt, full of hidden beauties and it’s up to us whether we want to overlook or appreciate them. 

Live for the endless laughter, for the sunsets, for the little thing, and you’ll feel the joys of life. It’s not always about the bigger picture, details are important. So, if there’s something that you want to do whether it’s writing a book or smiling at a stranger, do it. Even if it doesn’t’ affect your life, it’ll affect theirs.  

-Kaitlyn Y.

The Box Man: A Rhetorical Analysis

The Box Man is a short story written by Barbara Ascher. From the perspective of the narrator, the “box man” is a mysterious being who no one knows a lot of. However, he still finds happiness and is satisfied with his way of living: being separated from the rest of society.

Through the use of allusion and diction, Ascher can amplify the purpose of this piece, which is that everybody has a different perspective and viewpoints on life and those perspectives and viewpoints must be taken into consideration.

With the use of allusions in her piece, Ascher can create a sort of personal aspect, and create a closer tie between her and the reader. When Ascher tells the audience that “When I was little, my favorite book was the Boxcar Children” (Ascher), the reader will likely take Ascher more seriously, as they know her a little better. This is important because she mentions that in The Boxcar Children, these orphaned children run away from their family members to go live out in the woods where they are much happier. There are many similarities between the Boxcar Children and the Box Man, as both have decided to live away from society, rather than live within society, with the narrator saying near the end of the piece that the “Box Man knows that loneliness chosen loses its sting and claims no victims” (Ascher 3). This reference to the past is very important in making the reader notice the main purpose, as in no way does the box man ever seem sad at all. He just prefers a different way of life and likes living with a sense of freedom, which people need to understand before making assumptions about him.

Through diction, how other people see the box man becomes much more clear. When the author says “His collar was pulled so high that he appeared headless as he shuffled across the street” (Ascher 1), the audience gets the impression that the box man is trying to hide something, or is ashamed of something; maybe something he did once in the past explains this behavior. Of course, the reader will learn later in this piece that the box man is not sad, but this is a pretty good representation of how he seems to the rest of society. After this sentence, the narrator says “he shuffled across the street like a man who must feel Earth with his toes to know that he walks there” (Ascher 1). His way of walking also signifies a lot. Shuffling is mostly associated with elder people or fragile people who have already lived through most of their life, and are having trouble getting around efficiently. This implies that the box man is old, and maybe his choice of living like this comes from nostalgia or longing for the past. Such is important since different generations have different perspectives and different thoughts on life, but not everyone seems to understand that. It is no secret that a sixteen-year-old would be better equipped with a smartphone than a seventy-year-old, which is a huge difference, as smartphones are such a large part of our society today. However, the seventy-year-old may tell the sixteen-year-old that he or she is on their phone way too much and has to go out for a walk and enjoy nature. This difference in perspective between generations has caused a conflict, which is unfortunate for both parties. 

If people can understand both sides of the story and consider everyone’s perspective, people would be nicer and more loving towards each other. Everybody has a different perspective and ideas on how their life should be lived, and no two people have the same preference for everything in life.

-Jeremy L.

Twelfth Night and Gender Identity

Audra McDonald, Anne Hathaway, and Raúl Esparza pose as Olivia, Viola, and Duke Orsino in Shakespeare in the Park’s Twelfth Night.

Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare is my personal favorite Shakespeare play. I read it for class in the 10th grade. At first, I approached this play cautiously. I have never read, listened to, or watched a Shakespeare play in my life—but I presumed that the language would be difficult, and the topics uninteresting to me.

And wow, was I wrong.

As we read along, I found myself completely invested in Viola’s story—the way she turns herself into ‘Cesario’ to navigate high society, how she manages to get a Countess to fall in love with her, and how she manages to fool Duke Orsino into thinking she was a man. I was interested in the way she navigated her relationship with not only Olivia and Orsino, but with her gender, as well.

The reason why I became absolutely obsessed with this play was because how it tackled gender and sexual identity, though maybe not completely outright, but it’s there! You just have to read closely, and watch closely.

Tamara Lawrance and Oliver Chris pose as Cesario and Orsino, in the National Theatre’s production of Twelfth Night.

Viola dressing as a man, and turning herself into ‘Cesario,’ addresses gender fluidity in such an amazing way—and brings up so many possibilities for newer adaptations of Twelfth Night and so many more possibilities for actors playing Viola. In Shakespeare’s time, for example, all roles in his plays were played by men. So, in turn, Viola was played by a man, playing a woman, who was trying to pass as a man. A bit confusing, isn’t it?

This shows that… does gender actually matter in Twelfth Night? What is gender actually? A person’s gender identity is what that person makes of it, and Twelfth Night showcased this perfectly. People fall for Viola, and people fall for Cesario—no matter the gender, Viola’s self is what wins people over. Even in the end, Orsino tells Cesario (technically still Cesario), that, once he gets his old clothes—he can be Viola once more. It’s almost as if gender is something you can put on, then take back off again, a perfect explanation of gender fluidity.

“I am all the daughters of my father’s house, And all the brothers too—and yet I know not.”

Act II, Scene 4

As I discussed before, Viola’s gender fluidity allows for so many newer adaptation of Twelfth Night. A particular favorite of mine is Shakespeare in Clark’s Park’s production Twelfth Night, which, in the end, had Viola renaming themself to Vi, and forgoing gendered terms, possibly being nonbinary.

Johnny Flynn and Mark Rylance as Viola and Olivia. This is a more traditional take on Twelfth Night, as this production at The Globe had an all-male cast, just as Shakespeare did.

Taking these age-old plays and turning them into something relatable, modern, completely realistic in this day and age is extremely important. It’s how you get younger generations to read and analyze these works of literature and interpret them for themselves. Relating to Viola’s journey of self-discovery is exactly how I felt myself so connected to this play. Though, obviously, it is not a completely perfect dissertation on gender and identity, but I believe it made leaps, especially during Shakespeare’s time. People conflicts with identity, sexuality, and gender, didn’t just start in modern times. It has been happening for a very long time, it’s only recently we’ve been able to give these labels names.

Twelfth Night explores these themes in a great way, and relating to the characters makes this play so much more meaningful.

Guide to Crystals

Quite recently crystals have sparked an interest in a lot of people. This got me invested in finding out what the whole point is, other than the beauty of the rock of course. With this curiosity, I decided to do a little research and discovered so many rad things about these crystals.

Each crystal contains a vibration and energy that re-aligns with your energy resulting in a higher vibration for you which is like a higher state of mind. There’s quite a lot of evidence and research from lab tests about these crystals proving this as well. The vibration is emitted at a constant frequency and uplifts you resulting in healing. Depending on what aspect you’d like to heal in, there are usually specific crystals sorted out for that job. One of the most common crystals is Rose Quartz and it’s used for a lot of emotional healing and love. Other healing powers of other crystals include balance, protection, empowerment, optimism, grounding, and even inner growth. There’s really a crystal for everything. There are even ways to energize your crystals. As I’m sure you’ve heard before, with a new year comes new beginnings and you should definitely consider checking a couple crystals out. I know I will be.

There are a lot of places where you can purchase crystals, but some of my favorites include crystals.com, crystalvaults.com, or other Etsy shops. There are so many stores and personal crystal quizzes! The options are endless.

-Kaitlyn Y.

Who Was To Blame in Romeo and Juliet?

William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is often considered to be the ultimate tale of romance – two children of warring families meet, fall hopelessly in love, and commit suicide in a woeful twist of fate. However, fate itself has quite little to do with the actions undertaken by the two lovers throughout the play. Though the tragic events of Act V, Scene III of Romeo and Juliet are often attributed to the two lovers’ distinct lack of luck, the blood shed at the end of the play is truly the fault of one character: Friar Lawrence, the trusted adult who both Romeo and Juliet turn to in their time of need, only to be led astray.

Despite knowing the potential tragedy that could follow, Friar Lawrence nevertheless encourages Romeo and Juliet in their wish to wed, not because he wants to see two young lovers be happy, but because of his own desires. Though the friar appears old and wise, he does not dissuade Romeo from his course, for the friar does not seem to particularly care about Romeo’s happiness – he has an underlying motive. He later tells Romeo that he will consent to wed the two lovers not because he believes in the true love between them, but because he wants to end the feud between their families. 

The marriage between Romeo and Juliet eventually leads to ruin, when Romeo is exiled from the city and Juliet is being forced to marry Count Paris. To avoid this, Juliet visits Friar Lawrence and desperately begs him for a solution to the problem. Friar Lawrence concocts a plan, in which Juliet will fake her death to both avoid marrying Paris and reunite with Romeo in Mantua. This plan is infamously imperfect. For one, the entire plan hinges on Romeo being aware that Juliet had faked her death before Friar Lawrence retrieves her from the Capulet tomb. Unfortunately, the exact opposite occurs, and, in his grief, Romeo commits suicide. Juliet, upon waking to Romeo’s corpse, stabs herself and dies.

The irony of the play is that, in the end, Romeo and Juliet’s deaths, not their marriage, is what ends the feud between the Montagues and the Capulets, which was Friar Lawrence’s intent all along. Friar Lawrence, supposedly the wise and reasonable adult of the play, ends up being the most blameworthy character, both because of his deliberately neglectful and ignorant words and actions in regards to the lovestruck pair, as well as his continual promotion of his own overarching agenda. 

All in all, while it may appear that the tragic events of Romeo and Juliet can be solely credited to the cruel hand of destiny, the true blame for the two lovers’ deaths lies in the hands of Friar Lawrence, the trusted adult who leads Romeo and Juliet into a situation from which the only escape is death.

-Mahak M.

Book vs. Movie: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

While re-reading the fourth Harry Potter book, I found myself enjoying the story just as much as I had the first, second, third, etc. times–maybe even more so because I was picking up on details and nuances in the plot that I hadn’t noticed before. After finishing the book, I sat down and watched the movie again, which I enjoyed also. However, as much as I admire the film, there are so many scenes, subplots, details, and even some characters from the book that don’t quite make it into the movie.

In this post, I thought I’d discuss some of these aspects, as well one part in the movie I enjoyed. In no way is this meant to criticize the movie or the book, both of which I admire very much. Hope you enjoy it!

*A little note: this post is more of a commentary on the aspects of the book that did not make it to the screen :). It also contains spoilers!


While the movie jumps to the journey to the Quidditch World Cup, book-Harry doesn’t have it quite so easy. Or at least, the book expands upon his time at the Dursley’s.

In the book, an over-stamped letter, a blasted-open fireplace, and a Ton-Tongue Toffee help chronicle Harry’s “rescue” from the Dursley’s house by the Weasley family (on the topic of Ton-Tongue Toffees, Fred and George’s desire to open a joke shop was not included much in the movie, so the trick wands and Canary Creams are treats solely from the book).

Once at the Burrow, Harry meets Ron’s two eldest brothers, Bill and Charlie, for the first time. While Charlie is mentioned in the movie by Hagrid, the faces of these characters did not make it into the movie.

Fast-forwarding to the Quidditch World Cup campsite, the movie doesn’t introduce us to a few of the fascinating characters and scenes we come across in the book. The book gives us an update on Oliver Wood, who had completed his last year at Hogwarts the previous year (congrats, Oliver!); an introduction to Seamus’ mother and her shamrock-covered tent; a scene with dear old Archie, who refuses to change out of his flowered nightgown; and an introduction to Ludo Bagman.

Though his blue-eyed innocent face doesn’t make it to the screen, Ludo Bagman does give the book an interesting subplot. His losing bet with Fred and George and his ensuing inability to pay the twins back lead to his suspicious attempts to assist Harry in the Triwizard Tournament. This and his history with the Ministry also make him a suspect for the danger that seems to be lurking at Hogwarts throughout the story. While the movie completely leaves Ludo and his subplot out, I think the subplot adds so much richness and intrigue to the book.

An interesting little scene we miss in the movie is when Mr. Ollivander inspects each of the Triwizard Champion’s wands. We get to learn the wand cores and the type of wood of each wand, and Harry also gets a clue that resurfaces in the seventh book: Krum’s wand was made by Gregorovitch, who Harry dreams about three years later.

One place found solely in the book is the Hogwarts kitchens, which I find so fascinating–they provide an explanation for the magically-appearing food on the tables at Hogwarts. Additionally, the introduction of the kitchens addresses the presence of house elves in the castle, who, along with cooking delicious meals, clean the common rooms and keep the fires going. While it is unfortunate that the kitchens did not make it into the movie, it’s understandable that creating them, along with all the house elves working there, would be an enormous undertaking, also taking into account that the scenes that take place in them aren’t particularly necessary to the larger plot that the movie tells.

On that note, no house elves are seen on the screen for the fourth movie–not Dobby (Harry is helped by Neville for the second task rather than his elf friend) and not Winky, who added to the subplot with Mr. Crouch and his son. Subsequently, Hermione’s organization to support the rights of house elves–S.P.E.W., not “spew”–does not appear in the film either. While I would have enjoyed seeing the mismatched socks Dobby makes for Harry and Hermione’s valiant effort at promoting S.P.E.W., I also understand that sitting for seven-plus hours in front of a TV screen isn’t the best for one’s health.

As a side note related to the absence of house elves in the film, the movie, unfortunately, doesn’t introduce us to the Quidditch team mascots, leprechauns, and Veela; Hagrid’s Blast-Ended Skrewts (perhaps we should be thankful) and nifflers; or the sphinx Harry meets in the maze.

Another subplot unique to the book is Rita Skeeter’s. Although her embellished journalism does appear in the movie, its scope is larger in the book–which we discover (with the help of Hermione) is due to her ability to turn into a beetle. Additionally, because Rita Skeeter’s juicy journalism does not single out Hagrid for being a half-giant in the movie, Harry’s Care of Magical Creatures class does not meet Professor Grubbly-Plank, nor does it meet the pure white unicorns Professor Grubbly-Plank opts to have them work with instead of the Skrewts.

One part of the book that I loved was after the third task in the hospital wing when Mrs. Weasley hugs Harry like a mother. It’s so endearing how Mrs. Weasley cares for Harry so much, even with seven other children to love as well. By sending Harry hand-knit sweaters for Christmas, chocolate eggs for Easter, and coming to watch Harry compete in the third task as his “family,” Mrs. Weasley truly steps up as the motherly figure Harry needs.

Lastly, I wanted to mention the scene in the movie where Harry, Ron, and Hermione discuss the Yule Ball. While a similar scene takes place in the book, it does not involve Professor Snape’s attempts to get Harry and Ron to focus throughout the scene, which culminate in him forcing them to look at their paper. I also like how Fred asks Angelina to the ball in this scene (in the book he did so by yelling across the Gryffindor common room).

Phew! That was a pretty lengthy review–thank you if you read all the way (and I understand if you didn’t!). I realize this post is more about pieces found solely in the book that I enjoyed, but I hope you enjoyed it all the same.

There are so many little details and subplots that make the Harry Potter books so deep, intricate and comforting to read, and though the movies may lack the same details out of necessity, I still thoroughly enjoy them. I also love how the movie script pulls many of the lines straight from the book.

Ultimately, the movie slides over many well-loved subplots, characters, and details as a result of its fast pacing and need to capture an audience for a short amount of time. But this doesn’t make it any less interesting. Both the book and the movie are entertaining and enjoyable, as I hope they are (or will be) to you!

– Mia T.

Authors We Love: Henry David Thoreau

Henry David Thoreau - Wikipedia

Henry David Thoreau (July 12, 1817 — May 6, 1862) was an American writer, philosopher, and representative of transcendentalism.

A graduate of Harvard University, he helped edit Emerson’s quarterly review of the Sundial. He was a lifelong supporter of the abolitionist movement. He preached abolitionism everywhere and attacked fugitive slave laws. Deeply influenced by Emerson, he advocated returning to the heart and getting close to nature. In 1845, he lived by Walden Pond, two miles away from Concord, as a recluse for two years, farming and eating by himself, experiencing a life of simplicity. Walden, a long essay on this subject, became a classic work of transcendentalism.

Thoreau was brilliant and wrote more than twenty first-class essays in his lifetime. Known as the founder of nature essays, Thoreau’s prose was concise and powerful, simple and natural, and full of thoughts, which was unique among the American prose in the 19th century. Walden is considered the most popular nonfiction in American literature. His other works include political treatise on Civil Disobedience, Life without Principle, Cape Cod, A Week on the Concord and Merrimack river, The Maine Woods, etc. Walden records his reclusive life in Walden, while Civil Disobedience discusses the injustices of government and power and justifies citizens’ voluntary refusal to obey certain laws.

Thoreau was not tall but very firm with pale skin and strong, serious blue eyes, and a solemn manner.Thoreau later in his life, had a beard that suited him. His features were sharp, his build strong, and his hands were strong and swift in the use of tools. He said that he used his feet better than his eyes to find his way through the woods at night, and that he could estimate the height of two trees with his eyes very accurately; he could estimate the weight of an ox or a pig as well as a cattle dealer. He was good at swimming, racing, skating and rowing, and could probably beat any countryman in the long walk from morning to night. The relationship between his body and his mind is even more subtle than we think. He said that every step of his leg was his. As usual, the longer he traveled, the longer he wrote. If you shut him in at home, he won’t write at all.

-Coreen C.

The works of Henry David Thoreau are available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. They can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

Don’t Let Age Kill To Kill A Mockingbird

Harper Lee’s classic, To Kill A Mockingbird, is a beloved work of fiction that has definitely left its mark in the world of literature. That being said, many modern readers roll their eyes at the thought of reading “classic” literature and opt for more current works to fit their current palette. Classics, Little Women, A Tale of Two Cities, Tom Sawyer, etc., tend to get a bad rap for not being applicable to today’s obstacles. However, if we take these books out of their settings, they have valuable lessons to teach us. To Kill A Mockingbird is a prime example.

For Starters, The Strong Female Heroines

From Scout to Miss Maudie to Helen Robinson, To Kill A Mockingbird is chock-full of heroines. Scout, with her “tomboy” appeal and rugged attitude, throw off the social norm. Refusing to give in to the petty gossip of Aunt Alexandra’s lunch group, Miss Maudie is a strong advocate for girls. Helen Robinson going to work to support her family in place of re-marrying. All of these ladies are heroines in a town where Atticus gets to be the ringleader of morality.

Secondly, The Timeless Appeal

Despite the fact that the story is set in the time of the Great Depression, the story has minimal markers of its period. For example, if the characters were traveling in a covered wagon, we would presume that the story took place in the past. Also, the characters are not time traveling. By not adding these elements, the author shows that the story is not set in another time period. Because there are not factors that make you feel that you are indefinitely stuck in one time period or another, you can imagine the story in your own context, therefore personalizing it. When a reader can personalize a story, the theme resonates more strongly with them.

The Theme

Today, the world is undergoing major construction in the frontier of equality. The most prominent theme of To Kill A Mockingbird is to treat others as one would like to be treated. Considering the tremendous strides in activism that have happened recently, To Kill A Mockingbird will stoke the flames in today’s advocates just as it was meant to do when it was published. Now more than ever, as a society we need this energy to keep up the good fight for justice.

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee was a phenomenon in its day. Due to being deemed a classic of literature, it has lost the appeal in today’s reader’s eyes. However, it still has so much to offer from the strong female heroines, it’s a timeless theme and the way that it can empower us to keep fighting for equality.

-Ainsley H. 

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive

How Fiction Can Give Us a View Into Reality

“The difference between fiction and reality? Fiction has to make sense.” Tom Clancy’s analysis on the divergence between the realm of fantasy and the confines of the real world shows us that reality and fantasy are really not as different as they may seem. One example of this is Clancy’s Jack Ryan series, which centers around the trials and triumphs of a former U.S Marine lieutenant turned history teacher as he becomes entangled in the world of international espionage and warfare.

The series’ first book, Patriot Games, depicts Ryan’s chance encounter with Ulster Liberation Army terrorists in England and sets the tone for how this will alter the course of his career and family life in the books to follow. Although this book was written for entertainment purposes, it does give us a window into the international political climate at the time of the book’s release(July 1987). The Provisional Irish Republican Army was fighting to end British influence in Northern Ireland and reunite Ireland at the time of publication. This book was not based on a true story, but it does allude to the real-life political climate in the UK at the time, which helps readers gain a greater understanding of a time period that they may not have experienced.

Another author who drew inspiration from the world around him is John Steinbeck. Steinbeck’s famous Of Mice and Men is a book many read during high school English courses. It tells the story of two close friends, George and Lennie, as they attempt to seek work in California during the Great Depression. This story is categorized as fiction, though some of the characters and events Steinbeck described were people and things he met and experienced during his time working on a ranch in central California. Of Mice and Men’s setting helps readers understand the desperation that unemployed Americans faced in trying to find jobs during the Great Depression. Lennie’s character also shows the rejection, stigmatization, and ignorance of mental illness during this time period, which was a very real and prevalent issue in the real world. Many believe that books categorized as fiction are simply nothing more than stories created to entertain literary enthusiasts on a rainy day.

History, politics, and social structure are all topics that are traditionally reserved for textbooks or newspapers. However, Clancy’s series and Steinbeck’s works are some of the many examples of how fiction can give us a glimpse into the past or present reality. It is interesting to see just how much we can learn about a past time through our favorite novels and fantasy stories and may encourage those who stick to the world of non-fiction to branch out into other genres.

-Katie A.