Of Mice and Men

How doe Steinbeck chracterize Lennie in Chapter 1?

In other word, provide evidence from Chapter 1 that gives a full picture of both how Lennie looks and what his personality is. (Good-Sized paragraph)


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Lennie is described as a big man with a very limited emotional and intellectual disposition. Lennie is like a child in a man's body.

Poverty has reduced them to animals – Lennie a ponderous, powerful, imbecilic bear; George a quiet, scheming, scrappy rodent of a man. Notice how frequently the two men, particularly Lennie, are described in animal similes: Lennie drags his feet “the way a bear drags his paws” (2) and drinks from the pool “like a horse” (3). Lennie even fantasizes about living in a cave like a bear.

Of course, Lennie’s vision of nature is hardly realistic; he thinks of nature as full of fluffy and cute playthings. He has no notion of the darkness in the natural world, the competition and the cruelty. He wouldn’t have the faintest notion how to feed himself without George. In this too the men balance each other: George sees the world through suspicious eyes. He sees only the darkness where Lennie sees only the light. George may complain about how burdensome it is to care for Lennie, but this complaint seems to ring hollow: in truth, George needs Lennie’s innocence as much as Lennie needs George’s experience. They complement each other, complete each other. Together, they are more than the solitary and miserable nobodies making their migrant wages during the Depression. Together, they have hope and solidarity.

George’s complaint – “Life would be so easy without Lennie” – and Lennie’s counter-complaint – “I could just live in a cave and leave George alone” – are not really sincere. They are staged, hollow threats, like the threats of parents and children (“I’ll pull this car over right now, mister!”). Similarly, George’s story about how “things are going to be,” with rabbits and a vegetable garden and the fat of the land, also has a formulaic quality, like a child’s bedtime story. Children (like Lennie) love to hear the same tale repeated countless times; even when they have the story memorized, they love to talk along, anticipating the major turns in the story and correcting their parents if they leave out any details. “The rabbits” is Lennie’s bedtime story, and while George isn’t exactly a parent to Lennie, he is nevertheless parental. George is Lennie’s guardian – and in guarding Lennie, George is in effect guarding innocence itself.

Steinbeck's plots are as simple and finely honed as his characters. Each topic discussed - the woman who mistakenly thought that Lennie was trying to rape her, the mice that Lennie crushes with affection, George's order that Lennie return to the campsite if anything goes wrong - will come into play in the chapters to come. Keep these details in mind as we continue.



To illustrate my point I found some text from Ch. 1,

“Lennie!” he said sharply. “Lennie, for God’ sakes don’t drink so much.”

Lennie continued to snort into the pool. The small man leaned over and shook him by the shoulder. “Lennie. You gonna be sick like you was last night.”

Lennie dipped his whole head under, hat and all, and then he sat up on the bank and his hat dripped down on his blue coat and ran down his back. “That’s good,” he said. “You drink some, George. You take a good big drink.” He smiled happily.

George unslung his bindle and dropped it gently on the bank. “I ain’t sure it’s good water,” he said. “Looks kinda scummy.”

Lennie dabbled his big paw in the water and wiggled his fingers so the water arose in little splashes; rings widened across the pool to the other side and came back again. Lennie watched them go. “Look, George. Look what I done.”