It takes courage to stand up and speak. It also takes courage to sit down and listen.
These are the words on one of my most favorite posters. What always keeps me hooked to these lines is the validity of the trait, courage, from both ends of the spectrum. It holds good, irrespective of the side one stands at. Whether there is merit in holding on or giving in, is a matter of perspective which often remains stranded on the crossroads of past experiences and future expectations. And crossroads always bear the mark of confusion, don’t they?
At one such crossroad, we meet George Milton and Lennie Small. Migrant labourers in the aftermath of The Great Depression, they hop on buses and hop off dusty roads, to undertake menial jobs at random ranches for a pittance. But the pittance bears the weight of their only dream, that of owning a land and living a life of free will, and hence, assumes enormous significance. The small-built George has a smart head on his shoulders with which he disciplines, sometimes authoritatively and sometimes fatherly, the giant Lennie who harbours the innocent, childish dream of tending rabbits under his burly exterior. But Lennie’s physical might often gets the better of his mental naivety and becomes the reason of their expulsion from various places. But when the duo take up employment at Curley’s ranch, their resolve is tested by more people than one: an obnoxious co-owner, his flirtatious wife, an enigmatic group leader and a dejected co-worker. Inspite of the best care, their beautiful vessel of sentient dream runs into rough weather. And the helmsman has no option but to ask his co-passenger to leave the ship before its too late, much against his wish. Goodbyes are a tad easier when a glint of hope is left shining in the retreating eyes.
Steinbeck’s narrative is immensely moving; it transits from poignant to humorous and back in seconds. The setting gives an insider’s peak into the lives of the common people who suffered the wrath of political and economic tumult during an important period in history.
We don’t know how many such dreams were trampled under the enormous boulders of instability and unemployment. But we do know that there were some dreams that survived, even after being robbed off the colours in which they were born.
After all, it takes courage to suffer and yet dream. It also takes courage to renounce and move on.
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