Of Mice and Men

When George tells Slim about the trouble Lennie got into in Weed, what is Slim's opinion of Lennie?

Chapter 3

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Slim knows that Lennie didn't really rape the girl or even sexually attack her. His response after questioning George was;

“He ain’t mean,” said Slim. “I can tell a mean guy a mile off.”


Of Mice and Men

‘Jump in.’ An’ he jumps. Couldn’t swim a stroke. He damn near drowned

before we could get him. An’ he was sodamn nice to me for pullin’ him out.

Clean forgot I told him to jump in. Well, I ain’t done nothing like that no more.”

“He’s a nice fella,” said Slim. “Guy don’t need no sense to be a nice fella.

Seems to me sometimes it jus’ works the other way around. Take a real smart

guy and he ain’t hardly ever a nice fella.”

George stacked the scattered cards and began to lay out his solitaire hand.

The shoes thudded on the ground outside. At the windows the light of the

evening still made the window squares bright.

“I ain’t got no people,” George said. “Iseen the guys thatgo around on the

ranches alone. That ain’t no good. Theydon’t have no fun. After a long time

they get mean. They get wantin’ to fight all the time.”

“Yeah, they get mean,” Slimagreed. “They get so they don’t want to talk to


“’Course Lennie’s a God damn nuisance most of the time,” said George.

“But you get used togoin’ around with a guy an’ you can’t get rid of him.”

“He ain’t mean,” said Slim. “I can see Lennie ain’t a bit mean.”

“’Course he ain’t mean. But he gets in trouble alla time because he’s so God

damn dumb. Like what happened in Weed-“ He stopped, stopped in the middle

of turning over a card. He looked alarmed and peered over at Slim. “You

wouldn’t tell nobody?”

“What’d he do in Weed?” Slim asked calmly.

“You wouldn’ tell? . . . . No, ‘course you wouldn’.”

“What’d he do in Weed?” Slim asked again.

“Well, he seen this girl in a red dress. Dumb bastard like he is, he wants to

touch ever’thing he likes. Just wants to feel it. So he reaches out to feel this red

dress an’ the girl lets out a squawk, and that gets Lennie all mixed up, and he

holds on ‘cause that’s the only thing he can think to do. Well, this girl squawks

and squawks. I was jus’ a little bit off, and I heard all the yellin’, so I comes

running, an’ by that time Lennie’s so scared all he can think to do is jus’ hold

on. I socked him over the head with a fence picket to make him let go. He was

so scairt he couldn’t let go of that dress. And he’s so God damn strong, you


Slim’s eyes were level and unwinking. He nodded very slowly. “So what


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Slim and the other ranch workers all direct themselves to Lennie as if he were a child. And even small children are aware of physical attraction, beauty and affection. Lennie, somewhat like an autistic child , enjoys intense pressure to relieve anxiety and to comfort himself. Many children learn these self soothing behaviors and maybe even bad habits which are later replaced by more socially acceptable behaviors. Lennie's childlike conversation and inability to understand the fatal outcome consequences of his actions in advance, remind us how maturity and integrity can influence outcomes.

Culturally, opinions about Lennie's actions would vary as well. In fact, judging minors and the mentally challenged are never easy tasks. Ultimately, does it really matter why or how he took a human's life? Could people who do not understand his handicaps truly understand his accidentally killing an attractive woman alone in a barn without molesting her as well?

Perhaps those who misjudge Harper Lee's portrayal of a Boo Radley being "held in captivity" might consider that Boo's family was actually just trying to protect their son the best way they knew how from main society. Blacks, Jews, Catholics, homosexuals and / or the mentally disabled people were not always well understood or respected before and after the Civil Rights movement. A person with TB, small pox, or polio would have been put in a hospital ward. A leper may have been deported to an island. A mentally disturbed criminal would be incarcerated or institutionalized, for committing no other crime than having been born "different."

Boo and Lennie represent the unwanted, down trodden and perhaps unloved human beings in the world. But odds are, we all know someone like them.

Some of these people are born disabled. Others fought nobly in wars or were injured due to some other healthy person's actions -( Prenatal drug abuse, car accidents, victims of violence and war.) Yet, very few of these people deserved their lots.

The Lennie's, the Boo's, The Steinbecks and the Harper Lees in this world all teach us wisdom, gratefulness, mercy, patience and love. Those who deride teachers for teaching the humanities and literature, are indirectly requesting that we never allow students to wear "other's skins", walk in other's footsteps , or to see the world from other's POV's.

Perhaps seen as sensational at one time, these two masterpieces are now literary museums of national conscience, endurance, perseverance and pride. Modern psychology would perhaps unjustly make the traditional good and evil dichotomies seem somewhat subjective, judgmental l and non - merciful.

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mark warrburton