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Of Mice And Men – Characterization Of Lennie

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Do not judge a book by its cover. One must read the book in its entirety to appreciate the story, and fully comprehend its meaning. The character of Lennie Small in the novel, Of Mice and Men, can be compared to a book; it is easy to judge Lennie by looking at the outside cover; however, to truly understand him, his inner soul must be explored. One can appreciate the extent of Lennie’s troubles, and how, understandably, he is so often misjudged, by examining his psychological disabilities, physical characteristics, and emotional behavior.

Lennie’s character is severely mentally challenged: he is socially inept, has an underdeveloped memory, and demonstrates inappropriate behavior. Lennie is clearly psychologically incompetent; his mind has matured to a level similar to that of a child; therefore, he can understand and communicate only the most elementary thoughts and ideas, and has no ability to judge situations before he speaks or acts. ” “˜I turns to Lennie and says, “˜Jump in.’ An’ he jumps. Couldn’t swim a stroke. He damn near drowned before we could get him.’ ” (p. 44) Not only is Lennie unable to understand the meaning of importance, he has no memory of important assertions if they do not directly pertain to rabbits. He cannot even remember his Aunt Clara, who took him in as a baby, and he lived with until she passed away. In order for Lennie to conceptualize and remember ideas or instructions, he must repeatedly recite them to George; even this ritual will not insure a recollection of the information.

Although Lennie’s poor memory is a severe problem, his ultimate drawback, is his unacceptable behavior. Although unintentional, Lennie causes harm, and death to people and animals. These situations result from his intense affection for soft and furry animals, objects, or people, while failing to recognize his enormous strength. “Lennie looked at it for a long time, and then he put out his huge hand and stroked it, stroked it clear from one end to the other. And Lennie said, “˜Why do you got to go get killed?'”(p.93) Lennie’s mental disabilities, forgetfulness, and especially his inadvertent abuse of soft creatures, offers one the ability to identify the extent of his psychological handicap.

Lennie’s physical description and abilities completely contradict that of his psychological capacity: he is a mammoth-sized man, with almost super-natural strength. He is described to have the physical characteristics and mannerisms of a large animal such as a bear: he is massive, has a shapeless face, wide sloping shoulders, large pale eyes, and walks in a slow manner while dragging his feet. Not only does he look like a bear, he also has the force of a bear. Lenny is so powerful, he can lift a four hundred pound bale at work on the farm; unfortunately, this power can also be used for malicious purposes. Lenny has the capability of devouring a man’s hand with his own, mutilating it to the point where, “”¦ ever’ bone in his han’ is bust.” (p. 70) Lennie’s unbelievable size and physical strength combined with his already extensive list of troubles set the stage for disaster.

Lennie’s fundamental spirit and true inner-self are revealed by way of emotions: his emotional attachment to George, deep sensitivity, and most importantly, his only dream in life, help one to understand this character as they accurately incarnate Lennie’s soul. George is the only person who Lennie believes in. Lennie has a deep trust for George that has clearly formed an unbreakable bond, or, as Lenny puts it, ” “˜”¦Because”¦.because I got you to look after me, and you got me to look after you”¦’ ” (p. 15) Because Lenny holds George in such high regard, his feelings can be seriously hurt when George scolds him. He often holds his head down in shame and embarrassment when he forgets something George has said, or when George explains how easy his life would be without him.

However, there is one thing Lenny has no trouble remembering, his dream, the dream that consumes every inch of his being while simultaneously causing his demise. Lenny yearns to have his own farm with George; a farm where he can tend the, “Red and blue and green rabbits”¦” (p.17) It is essentially his dream of tending rabbits that causes Lenny to snap the neck of Curly’s wife. As Lennie’s rough petting of her soft hair frightens her, she begins to scream, sending Lennie into a panic; he thinks if George hears the screams, he will not allow him to tend the rabbits. He tries to silence her screams, unintentionally killing her. One can see Lennie is a trusting, sensitive, and sadly misunderstood character, by observing his emotions.

Lennie is psychologically underdeveloped, yet physically overdeveloped. He has only one friend in the world, George; he trusts him with his life, and with his dreams. Everything about Lennie Small is ironic, including his name; he is an enormous man with a miniature brain, has a heart of gold that appears evil, and loves so much, it kills. One can never, ever judge a book by its cover.

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