Of mice and men

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uppladdat: 2013-02-23
Manar Taha

Manar Taha 20 år

Sickla, Stockholms Län, Sweden
High School : Internationella Engelska Gymnasiet Södermalm, High School : Internationella Engelska Gymnasiet Södermalm, High School : internationella engelska skolan i enskede,
Att göra mamma stolt!,
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Character based essay - Lennie

This essay is based on the book “Of mice and men” and I’m here focusing on the character of Lennie (one of two main characters) because I found his character very important in the story and because he conveys Steinbeck’s message throughout the book. George is the second main character in the book and usually main characters have an important role in the story but I didn’t feel that George had the same importance as Lennie. I think George was more of a character who was there to make Lennie’s character “better”.
I also chose Lennie because I feel empathy towards him, because during the time the book was written, he lived in a country and was surrounded by a society that thought mentally disturbed were worth less than others and sometimes caused more harm than good.

This book was written in the late 1930s (1937) so there’s 75 years between that book’s publishing and our ‘generation’, which also means a lot of differences both in the language used and in thinking and living. Lennie is one of the two main characters in “of mice and men”, so his role in this novella is important. He has a relationship with everyone in the novel – some stronger than others. He is also important in order for Steinbeck to prove his point and his message with the book too.
On that time the book was written people didn’t respect women either, because they believed women where worthless and weak. People didn’t respect elderly and mentally disturbed either and they were very racist. Discrimination because of skin colour has since many hundred years been a thing that people talk about and value a lot, in some countries more than others. In the U.S people still call each other “nigger” and that isn’t a big deal to them – it’s in fact normal, but for us who grew up here in Sweden where we don’t really value skin colour, it is something strange. Sweden has overcome racism and the stage of black people finding difficulties with jobs or with “fitting in” in society – and that’s something that affects this country in a good way and that makes Sweden develop and improve quicker than other countries.
In the 1930s people couldn’t find jobs easily which obviously resulted in difficulties for families because they didn’t have enough money to buy food or make their kids go to school etc. Lennie and George went therefore from town to town to find themselves jobs. They wanted to achieve the “American dream”, like many others but to do that they’d need to work for it and they knew that.

Lennie is mainly associated to the themes “loneliness, friendship, violence, animal imagery and hope”.
George and Lennie are friends but their friendship isn’t like any other friendship. George is the leader and Lennie imitates him and is the follower because he needs someone to take care of him, just like a dog. Dogs need to be told what to do otherwise they won’t do it. That’s why you can sometimes imagine George and Lennie having a mother-child relationship because George takes that role in the novel.
Loneliness: Because he is lonely in his way of thinking and with a disability in the ranch. To be lonely doesn’t only mean that you’re physically lonely (like rejection, no friends etc.) it can also mean that you’re the only one thinking the way you do, the only one having different thoughts, being the only immigrant (like Crooks) etc. the list can be made long and I think Lennie is associated to many kinds of loneliness, not only the psychical one but I think that one is the most important.
Violence: Because Lennie uses his strength to deal with situations he isn’t comfortable in and to deal with a person if he threatens Lennie in some way and by that he uses. Violence was also shown in the book when Candy’s dog and Lennie got shot and when Curley’s and Lennie’s fight occurred. I think that Lennie is a character that is really quick to get emotional but in the same time unable or finding difficulties with being rational/acting reasonably which in combination with his feelings, lack of thought and the fact that he is so physically large – in the end gets him into trouble. The fact that Lennie is so obsessed with rabbits and wants to take care of them shows that he is a warm-hearted person and it shows again his innocence – just like a little kid. He doesn’t value problems that might occur to them on the way to their dream farm and he might not even think about that they might face problems – he takes life just how it comes, no planning and no unnecessary stress, which I think is a positive thing about Lennie but it can also become a problem. People need to plan and think about possible problems/issues they might face in order to achieve what they want in the easiest way, but I felt George did that ‘thinking part’ for Lennie because he knew about him having difficulties with such things.

Steinbeck used descriptive language to create an image to the reader while they are reading and that Lennie’s dream can come true, e.g. “We’ll have a big vegetable patch and a rabbit-hurch and chickens” and “And when it rains in the winter, we’ll just say the hell with going to work, and we’ll build up a fire in the stove and set around it and listen to the rain coming down on the roof”. When you as a reader read that bit, you get to see everything through Lennie’s eyes and through his point of view and his dream. I noticed that there is no ‘evil’ to Lennie and he doesn’t think negatively – he is just happy and has a positive attitude towards life. Steinbeck uses for example the word “rains” because it symbolises life and purity. He chose the word “home” because that word are often related to ‘love’, ‘family’ and ‘security’.

My impression of Lennie as a reader in the beginning of the book was neither good nor bad. I mean, I didn’t think about his behaviour, his mental issues and how important that was in the story until it got mentioned in class. I realized something was different with him, the way he talks (and the way Steinbeck writes Lennie’s dialogues) and his relation to George but I didn’t think about the importance of it.
As a reader I feel sympathy towards Lennie but I also think he can be really scary sometimes, like when he menaces Crooks when he was “supposin’ ” that George wouldn’t come back. I also felt that I wouldn’t want to be near him, or know him deeply as a person because you never really know when he ‘loses control’ and becomes “scary” again.
I don’t really think that he is aware of his differences and how differently people treat him, because he would say something if he knew. Candy, Crooks and Curley’s wife all spoke about their loneliness at some point and about how differently they are treated but Lennie didn’t and that is surely because he weren’t aware about it.

Lennie changes a lot throughout the book. At first he is the quite one that just walks behind George but then he develops into a more violent person, the problem is that he isn’t aware of his own strength and can’t even control himself. The combination of him not knowing about his own strength and the fact that he is mentally disturbed causes that he hurts animals/people without knowing about it. I don’t think he meant to kill Curley’s wife, he acted in self-defense, because he was frightened as the same time as he weren’t aware of the amount of strength he put in to hold her.
Many people think that mentally disturbed people, people with a handicap or a permanent illness aren’t worth living and that they won’t make any good. People might also see those people like dumb and stupid but in reality some aren’t. They are better and smarter than we think and they have their good sides but they need to get the chance to show and develop the best sides of them. The amount of people born with an illness or a syndrome won’t decrease if we pretend like they don’t exist and don’t need help. The only thing that would happen is that we wouldn’t learn how to deal with such people and those people wouldn’t learn how to behave, how to help make a better society and they wouldn’t learn what proper moral and ethics are.

Due to Lennie’s mental disability he doesn’t act and live his life like the other ranch workers and he isn’t concerned about his acts either. Many of his acts are stupid and show his disability and “LOWER function”, but there are also many other things that make him “stand out” from the crowd – like his ability to manipulate George, e.g.: “If you don’ want me I can go off in the hills an’ find a cave. I can go away any time.” and "George, you want I should go away and leave you alone?” He manipulated George here and knew that George would not let him go by himself and live alone and he also knew that George needed him just like Lennie needed George.
He can sometimes seem very positive and happy even when the situation around him might not be the best – e.g.: “’You drink some, George. You take a good big drink.’ He smiled happily.” This quote shows Lennie’s innocence and Steinbeck makes us feel like Lennie is a kind, warm-hearted and innocent person – not the side of him we would get to know further in the book. Lennie behaves like an animal sometimes and is also described like an animal by Steinbeck, e.g. “Lennie dabbled his big paw in the water and wiggled his fingers so the water arose in little splashes.” I think Steinbeck writes about Lennie in this way because he wants to show and describe people’s mental issues and how an issue like this can affect your social life.Children need extra guidance and Lennie behaves like a child, but children usually learn from their previous mistakes which I don’t feel Lennie often does.

There is a quote that reminds me a bit of the situation in this book, “People are going to talk, whether you’re doing good or bad”. One of the ways I understand it is that people is going to hate you even though you’re trying to reach up to their standards or to how they want you to be. I mean Lennie is not black, he’s an American just like everyone else but because of the disrespectful way they saw women, elderly and people with issues, Lennie didn’t get a chance in life like the others. I mean, you can be the best basketball player, have the most athletic body, have the prettiest face and give a high value of money to the poor every month and there’s still going to be people hating you, creating rumours etc. Why do people hate each other? Or why do we create things to hate each other for? The irritating thing is that we usually hate each other for things they can’t change and didn’t even choose. People hated Crooks for his skin colour but have they ever thought that he can’t change his skin? We’re not talking about a pair of shoes that you can change anytime – we are talking about things that are permanent. People hated Lennie because he was stupid, well, he could’ve been smarter and more like us but they didn’t give him a chance, did they? Where there hospitals or psychologists to help people like Lennie? No, but still they blame him and they killed him in the end.

The book and the movie were somehow different...

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Manar Taha [2013-02-23]   Of mice and men
Mimers Brunn [Online]. http://mimersbrunn.se/article?id=59185 [2018-01-21]

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