In Of Mice and Men, Steinbeck presents Lennie as a childlike character who relies on George. Although the reader quickly learns that Lennie “ain’t smart,” the reader also learns later in the novel that “he’s a God damn good worker. ” Lennie, just like many itinerant farm workers from 1930s America, wants to achieve the American dream and “tend the rabbits. ” When we are first introduced to Lennie in Section One of the novel, we learn that Lennie is both strong but, at the same time, unintelligent. Steinbeck refers to Lennie as “a bear.
” A bear is an animal which has a lot of strength. This characteristic of a bear is one of the characteristics that Lennie has: strength. However, most bears are unsure of when to use that strength. This shows us that Lennie, in addition to having a lot of strength, is unintelligent. This makes the reader feel slightly uneasy as it hints that Lennie may use his strength unwisely later in the novel. Steinbeck also presents Lennie as being childlike. Lennie looks “timidly” at George when George is in a bad mood, and Lennie asks a lot of questions.
When a parent is in a bad mood, a child tends to be scared to approach that parent because of fear at being shouted at. This is why Lennie looks “timidly” at George-because he is scared that he will be shouted at, just like a child. In addition to this, Lennie asks a lot of questions; something which children tend to do a lot. Again, this makes the reader feel slightly uncomfortable. This is because the reader may feel as though Lennie’s childishness will result in him doing “a bad thing” later in the novel.
Steinbeck makes it clear to the reader that Lennie relies on George for almost everything. For example, George tells Lennie he “ain’t [to] say a word” in the conversation with the boss and to just let George do all the talking. The reason why George tells Lennie to keep quiet is so that they can get the job. This shows the reader that if Lennie attempted to do anything on his own, he would get into trouble and be unable to cope. Therefore, the reader can tell that Lennie relies on George.
Lastly, Steinbeck shows the reader that Lennie is a careless character. For example, in Section Five of the novel, Lennie accidentally, through his carelessness, kills Curley’s wife. Although this carelessness may make the reader feel angry towards Lennie, I would argue that the majority of readers would feel sympathetic towards Lennie. This is because Lennie “is in a panic” and, as explained previously in the novel, Lennie is childlike and has no idea how his actions will lead to consequences.
In this way, I think it’s fair to say that the reader feels sympathetic towards Lennie. The readers sympathy towards Lennie increases further in Section Six when Lennie, through his carelessness, saves a water snake from being eaten by a heron. In Of Mice and Men, Steinbeck presents Lennie as a childish character who is unintelligent. Although Lennie is unintelligent, he constantly works hard to achieve the American Dream, something which many men seeked to achieve in America in the 1930s.