Of Mice and Men

April 16, 2009
By Elizabeth McDermott BRONZE, Norcross, Georgia
Elizabeth McDermott BRONZE, Norcross, Georgia
3 articles 0 photos 0 comments

In John Steinbeck's, Of Mice and Men, Lennie, one of the main characters, is mildly mentally retarded. As a result of this, he fully depends on his friend, George, to help take care of him. George is always the one to find them jobs, he talks to the bosses for Lennie so that they do not notice his disability, and he is almost constantly bailing Lennie out of trouble. When they first arrive at the ranch, George talks to the boss so that he won't notice Lennie's disability and not hire them. It is things like this that George is always having to do to take care of Lennie and smooth things over when he causes a problem.

Lennie has a mental disability that he has had since his childhood. It wasn't caused by something he did; therefore, people realize they cannot blame him for doing certain things or get mad at him because he has a disability. Throughout the book, the reader sees Lennie in many different situations and is exposed to his characteristics and reactions to certain things. First of all, he cannot really take care of himself, which is why he so heavily relies on George. Lennie is very childlike and has to have someone to help meet his needs and make sure he is ok. Lennie also loves to just pet and hold anything soft and fluffy. But, Lennie is much stronger than he realizes and he almost always ends up killing the little creature he was holding, whether it be a mice, a puppy, or one of the ranch-hand's wife whose hair he was stroking. This is oftentimes what gets Lennie and George in bad situations and George has to bail them out. For example, at the beginning of the novel, George and Lennie are traveling to a new job because at their old one, Lennie held onto a woman's clothes too tightly and startled her. She accused him of rape and Lennie and George were forced to leave town for fear of being lynched. It is not only obvious that Lennie needs taking care of, but also that he cannot help the way he acts. For these reasons, Lennie behavior could be judged as reasonable.

Lennie's “madness” is what drives the whole novel. Everything in the book comes back to his disability. George almost never leaves Lennie's side, they left their first job because of problems caused from his mental retardation, Lennie gets in more trouble at the ranch because he does not understand what he is doing, and George ends up shooting and killing Lennie to save him from being lynched for accidentally killing a ranch-hand's wife. It seems as if everything in the novel relates to or is a result of Lennie's mental handicap. This is what makes his “madness” so important and why it brings much significance to the whole work.

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