Of Mice and Men

The Missing Hand: Disconnection in Of Mice and Men

In Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck, the characters’ hands represent all that is wrong with the men and their society. Lennie’s paws, Candy’s missing hand, and Curley’s gloved limb, the characters’ pathology reveals itself in ways that are more telling that any written description could offer.

From the moment of his first appearance, the metaphors that Steinbeck uses to describe Lennie compare him to an animal. He drags “his feet a little, the way a bear drags his paws” (2). Lennie has hands, but he doesn’t use them, choosing instead to drink from the water in the clearing “like a horse” (3). When he does dip a hand into the water, it is to wiggle his fingers so that the water splashes (3). None of this is particularly noteworthy until George takes his own turn to drink at the pool. In contrast to Lennie, George uses his hands to cup some water and “drink with quick scoops” (3). Lennie ignores the use of his hands, giving up the role of human to act more like an animal. Steinbeck uses this disuse of the human hand to characterize Lennie as something less than human.

He continues this idea with the other denizens of the ranch. When Candy first guides Lennie and George to their new quarters in the bunkhouse, Steinbeck directs...

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