What is a simple gift? Look to 'Of Mice and Men' to find out.
A ‘Gift’ of Escape
Both Steven Herrick and John Steinbeck capture the purity of a selfless human act in their stories about male companionship. Both texts expose an underworld of poverty and under-privilege, and it is from this place, when nobody is looking, that a small act of kindness is played out. The verse novel ‘The Simple Gift’ has Billy and Caitlin cooking and sharing a meal with Old Bill, yet this act of kindness is endowed with so much more. As the three ‘sit on the floor of the plush carpeted home’, Old Bill is bestowed with something he had long given up on after the tragic death of his daughter: his dignity. The title of the text gives weight to the impact of Billy and Caitlin’s act of philanthropy. Caitlin rejects the wealth she is born into and gains a sense of satisfaction from a sincere human interaction. Billy cares for the down and out Old Bill expecting nothing in return. In the true spirit of selflessness, without any ulterior motive, a single act generates further generosity in Old Bill. The result, the life journey each character has been enduring segues into a new series of life opportunities.
In the dark of night, with nothing but his conscience, George Milton makes the ultimate sacrifice for his lifelong friend, Lenny Small. No longer able to protect his trusting companion from a world that does not understand him, George resorts to the only solution. His ‘gift’ is to pull the trigger. Steinbeck makes it clear what the alternative outcome would be for Lenny at the hands of the cruel Curly. Lenny’s last words and thoughts are of the heavenly dream he shares with George, and it is the hope of George and the audience that the innocent Lenny will be taken to a better place.
Module C Standard
Elective – Exploring Transitions
Prescribed Text: The Simple Gift – Steven Herrick – verse novel.
Related Text: Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck – novella, play adaptation (1937) Film Directed by Gary Senise (1992) Sport for Jove production (2015)