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Q: Explore the character of Lennie. 30 Marks Edexcel

John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men; the character Lennie is presented as a ‘child-like’, character who relies on George. Although the reader quickly learns he ‘aint that smart’, the reader also learns in the novella that ‘he’s a God damn good worker’. Lennie, just like many itinerant farm workers in the 1930s America wants to achieve the American Dream and ‘tend the rabbits’.

Steinbeck introduces Lennie to the reader as a ‘huge man’ and uses animal imagery to further describe his characteristics. Steinbeck illustrates Lennie’s hands as ‘paws’. This conveys to the reader Lennie’s immense strength and capabilities. His strength is an attribute Lennie is unaware of and is consistently mentioned throughout the novella, for instance, Lennie accidently killing one of Slims puppies which foreshadowed his murder of Curley’s wife; ending his dream of a ‘little house’. Furthermore, perhaps Steinbeck describes Lennie as a ‘bear’ to emphasis on the comparison between them; they both seem innocent and cuddly but it’s an illusion because they can be very lethal. The reader first realises this when Lennie has a dead mouse in his pocket petting it. Perhaps the dead mouse metaphorically symbolises and foreshadows the frailty of the men’s dream and the inevitable way they, too, will be crushed.

The relationship between George and Lennie not only symbolises the theme of friendship but juxtapose with the theme of loneliness. As migrant workers George and Lennie travelled a lot to find work. For most itinerant workers this means little chance of having a long lasting friendship and is consequently lonely. However as George and Lennie have each other and aren’t lonely as pointed out by George: ‘guys like us that work on ranches are the loneliest guys in the world...they don’t belong no place...with us it aint like that’. In this quote George clearly compares the lives of itinerant workers with their own lives. In the Great Depression compassion is the first thing to disappear, and so is the most important human characteristics of a civilized individual. So even though it makes life more difficult, George tries to hold onto certain definitions of loyalty in order to maintain his sense of purpose in order to continue for him and Lennie.

Another noticeable thing about Lennie is his disability. Steinbeck uses this as a sign of when the book is set at the time; disabled people had less equality then, than they do now. This is suggested when George doesn’t want Lennie to say anything when they get to the ranch, fearing they won’t get the job: ‘... you aint gonna say a word... if he finds out what a crazy ******* you are we won’t get the job’.

Lennie also represents the American Dream as, with George, he shares a hope of owning their own ranch. He behaves completely that the dream will come and is always keen to hear of it: ‘come on George. Tell me. Please, George like you done before’. The repetition in the quote gives the impression he is desperately pleading and therefore enthusiastic. George like a father is reciting it like a child’s bedtime story for satisfaction that the dream will take place never doubting the dream; ‘ longs it gonna be?...

Lennie in John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men; provides the reader with an insight to the life of an itinerant worker in Americas 1930s society and how the American Dream was mythical. He also represents discrimination and prejudice as he is disabled and people see him as a inferior ‘crazy *******

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