Thursday, December 11, 2014

OF MICE AND MEN AND TRANSFERWARE



"Common Mouse" 2.25 inches high by 2 inches in diameter child's mug, ca. 1830


It's a stretch connecting transferware patterns to the American classic Of Mice and Men.  I have only been able to find a few patterns that show mice.   I thought Steinbeck's title was from the Bible, but he took it from a line in Robert Burns' poem To A Mouse:

But Mousie, thou are no thy-lane,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best laid schemes o' Mice an' Men,
Gang aft agley,
An' lea'e us nought but grief an' pain,
For promis'd joy!

Burns was a ploughman, not a farmer (he didn't own the land).  He was similar to the itinerant workers that people the California farm in Steinbeck's book.  Below, see Burns apology to the mouse for accidentally destroying her nest while he was ploughing.

I'm truly sorry man's dominion
Has broken Nature's social union,
An' justifies that ill opinion
Which makes thee startle
At me, thy poor, earth born companion
An' fellow mortal!

Burns notes the bond between himself and the mouse who are both in thrall to chance and nature.
Steinbeck sees the same bond between George and Lennie.  However, both Burns and George suffer from the knowledge of the past and the fear of the future while Lennie and the mouse are blessed with a constant present.

Still thou are blest, compared wi' me!
The present only toucheth thee:
But och! I backward cast my e'e,
On prospects drear!
An' forward, tho' I canna see,
I guess an' fear!


Scottish Field Mouse
I read Of Mice And Men for my December book club.  The last time I read it I was fourteen.  I liked it then.  I read it for a class, and it was short.  Now, I felt nearly overwhelmed by the loneliness, longing and pathos of the men and the deaths of the animals and Lennie.  Now I cried for the wife who was only a girl.  Old age has changed me.

2 comments:

  1. I empathise with your feelings about Of Mice And Men. Novels have so much more meaning when you have lived a life. My appetite for reading increases all the time - so many books, so little time!

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  2. I'm part of a classics book club. I have found that I love some books more now. However, some books no longer match my youthful enthusiasms.

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