Lennie Small


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Lennie Small is the secondary protagonist in Of Mice and Men. He is a huge, lumbering man whose bearlike appearance masks a sweet, gentle disposition. Lennie has an unnamed mental disability—according to George, this is the result of an accident as a child, though this is likely untrue. His childlike disposition, fallible short-term memory, and fascination with stroking and petting soft things are markers of the ways in which his strong exterior conceals a side of Lennie that many people, were they to witness it, would see as weak and seek to exploit. George is intensely protective of Lennie, and though the other ranch hands perceive their traveling together as strange or even suspect, it becomes clear over the course of the novella that the two men are only able to survive in the harsh landscape of the Depression-gripped American West with one another’s help. Lennie is a hard worker capable of lifting incredible weights, but the side of him most often shown throughout the book is the side obsessed with raising soft rabbits, petting puppies, and fantasizing about a comfortable and idyllic future alone on a farm with George. Lennie clearly doesn’t grasp his own strength, a fact that is evidenced by his repeated killings of animals including mice and puppies. Later, this leads to him accidentally murdering Curley’s wife, which occurs when he shakes her too hard after she begins screaming as a result of Lennie grabbing her hair—something she invited him to do in an attempt to allow him to touch something soft. Lennie flees the ranch and hides in a meeting-spot he and George chose before arriving at the ranch, believing George will come save him so they can flee together. Instead, George distracts Lennie with a story about how they’ll soon get their farm before shooting him in the back of the head in order to save Lennie from the wrath of the other laborers, who are out for revenge. Gentle but fearfully strong, insecure but gregarious, and trusting to a dangerous degree, Lennie is a mess of contradictions whose arc ties in with the novella’s major themes of the strong and the weak, male friendship, and marginalization and scapegoating.

Lennie Small

Lennie Small



Don't let the name fool you: Lennie Small is big. Unfortunately, that's about all he has going for him—that, and he's got a really good friend. So, what did Lennie do to deserve a friend like George?

Lennie and George
When we first meet Lennie and George, we almost can't tell them apart: "Both were dressed in denim trousers and in denim coats with brass buttons. Both wore black, shapeless hats and both carried tight blanket rolls slung over their shoulders" (1.4). They're two itinerant farmworkers, looking for work wherever they can. From a distance, there's nothing to tell either apart. But when we get closer, we see that this isn't a relationship of equals:

Lennie, who had been watching, imitated George exactly. He pushed himself back, drew up his knees, embraced them, looked over to George to see whether he had it just right. He pulled his hat down a little more over his eyes, the way George's hat was. (1.10)

If this reminds you of a kid imitating his dad, then you're on the right track: from these few sentences, we know that something is seriously wrong with Lennie. Like a kid, he mournfully wishes for ketchup to put on his beans; like a kid, he demands a bedtime story—even when he knows it all himself: "No…you tell it. It ain't the same if I tell it. Go on…George. How I get to tend the rabbits" (1.121).

We don't know exactly what the problem is, but we know that Lennie has a serious mental disability. He can't remember anything; he fixates on things like owning rabbits; and he's painfully eager to make George happy. He even gives away all of the (imaginary) ketchup: "But I wouldn't eat none, George. I'd leave it all for you. You could cover your beans with it and I wouldn't touch none of it" (1.93-95).

This still doesn't help us figure out why Lennie gets a friend like George. In fact, it seems like Lennie shouldn't have many friends at all—even George thinks he's a little annoying. Lennie almost gets it: "I got you to look after me, and you got me to look after you" (1.115). What Lennie doesn't quite understand is that Lennie provides a need. He needs to be looked after, and George needs someone to care for.

Sure, it might sound like co-dependency. But for guys like Lennie and George, co-dependency is all that's keeping them from the whorehouses—or the asylum.

Can't We All Just Get Along?
Lennie also adds a daily dose of sunshine to George's life, even if George doesn't seem too grateful. He's always talking "happily" (1.7) or "delightedly" (1.115), because he never understands when a situation is serious. Even when George is yelling at him not to drink too much, he says, "Tha's good … You drink some, George. You take a good big drink" (1.7).

Because he doesn't understand all the nasty currents of the adult world, Lennie is an innocent. All he wants is for George to be nice to him, and to pet soft things.

And about that obsession with soft things: Lennie just can't keep his hands to himself. He likes to pet rabbits and mice and puppies and women's dresses, which is problematic when they end up (1) dead or (2) accusing him of rape. The thing is, we're not sure exactly how innocent Lennie is. He stares at Curley's wife when she struts around the ranch, even though George tells him to stay away. All the animals he pets ends up dead, so he can't be all that gentle. And his obsession with rabbits is—we'll say it—a little creepy.

We don't think Lennie is malicious. Like Slim, we're pretty sure he "ain't mean" (3.28). But we're also not sure he's just supposed to be a gentle giant. The mice don't die accidentally—they die because Lennie "pinched their heads a little" after they bit him (1.79). He says, "they was dead—because they was so little," but their size doesn't really have anything to do with it. They're dead because Lennie retaliated. Could he represent the unthinking violence that all men are capable of? The brute human nature lurking beneath even guys like George and Slim?

Big Baby
Lennie dimly understands that something is wrong with him, and that's exactly why he wants rabbits, because "they ain't so little" (1.79). If he pinches their heads, they'll survive. But he's still pinching their heads, and he's still basically torturing the animals that he's supposed to be looking after.

George insists that he's "jes like a kid," and that "There ain't no more harm in him than a kid neither, except he's so strong" (3.44-45). But regardless of what Lennie means to do, he's not a kid: he's a dangerous man. George tries to put a good spin on it, saying "That mouse ain't fresh, Lennie; and besides, you've broke it pettin' it. You get another mouse that's fresh and I'll let you keep it a little while" (1.76).

The problem is, the mouse isn't a product that can be "fresh" or "broke." George may be trying to protect Lennie, but in the process he's exposing all sorts of living creatures to Lennie's casual violence. Lennie may only want to be loved and surrounded by soft things, but that's still too much. In the harsh, Depression-era world of the novel, Lennie simply doesn't get to have what he wants, because it's too dangerous. In the end, death is the only option—or at least the most merciful one.

Lennie Small

Lennie Small

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A Psychological Character Analysis Of Lennie Small Of John Steinbeck’s “Of Mice And Men”



The novel Of Mice and Men was originally called Something That Happened. It was converted into a play by George Kaufman, which had 207 performances. This play received the New York Drama Critics Award. There are also two film versions of the novel. One was created in 1940 and the other, just recently, in 1992. The plot of the novel was a tragic story of two itinerant farm laborers yearning for a small farm of their own. The two main characters were Lennie Small and George Milton. The minor characters were as follows. Slim and Carlson was two of the other ranch hands.

Candy and Crooks were the outcasts of the novel. Curley was the son of The Boss, which appeared to be the villain of the novel. Curley’s Wife was a sad character constantly avoided by everyone in the farm, except by her husband, because she was believed to spread trouble. Lastly, there was Whit who played a very minor role in the novel. The novel opened in the banks of the Salinas River. For the moment, the place is peaceful, and then two men emerged from the path. The first man was small and quick, dark of face, with restless eyes and sharp, strong features .
Behind him walked his opposite, a huge man, shapeless of face, with large pale eyes, with wide sloped shoulders; and he walked heavily, dragged his feet a little, the way a bear drags his paws . The dialogue of the two then started as George made sharp and critical remarks of Lennie as Lennie drank water from the pool of water. Lennie’s response was innocent and generous . The dialogue continued to follow this pattern of critical comments from George and innocent responses from Lennie through the next several pages .

As their conversation progressed, George discovered that Lennie kept a dead mouse with him and threw it away across the pool. However, Lennie retrieved the mouse and George threw it away for the second time. Lennie’s lip quivered and tears started in his eyes . George began to comfort him. Their conversation brought them to the issue of the reason they left Weed. The researcher discovered that they had to run out of the last town because Lennie touched a girl’s dress and frightened the girl. And, they moved to another town to work in another ranch except they stayed in the woods rather than going straight to their destination.
They continued to talk and under Lennie’s encouragement saying that he had forgotten, George articulated their dream to have a piece of land. Then, George reminded Lennie of what he was to do the next day and instructed him of what he was to do if in case he got in trouble. The chapter closed with the two men going to sleep. The second chapter started Friday morning at the bunkhouse. George and Lennie signed up to the buck barley. As The Boss was questioning them, George answered all the questions. He didn’t want Lennie’s dumbness to show and maybe cost them their jobs . Curley arrived and tries to pick a fight with Lennie.

Because of this, George reminded Lennie where to hide if there’s trouble. They met Curley’s wife, Slim and Carlson. The two new ranch hands discovered that Slim’s dog, Lulu had puppies and Lennie wanted one of them. Chapter three opened set on the same day in the bunkhouse. Lennie got the puppy he wanted. George told Slim of why they traveled and worked together. In between, George made comments about Lennie like “He can’t think of nothing to do himself ” or “He’s as dumb as hell. ” Lennie entered coming from the barn crouched over and George knew that he was hiding the puppy.
George instructed him to take the puppy back to its nest. George and Slim continued their conversation and George again made a remark about Lennie, ” Sure he’s jes’ like a kid. There ain’t no ore harm in him than a kid neither. ” Then, Carlson killed Candy’s old dog with his Luger and Slim went to the barn to treat a horse. While the rest went to see if Slim is with Curley or Curley’s wife, Candy committed 350 dollars to George and Lennie’s 600-dollar dream. When everyone returned, Curley beat on Lennie until George told Lennie to fight back. Lennie crushed Curley’s hand.

Slim ordered Curley to say it was a machine accident. Chapter four focused mainly on “the outcasts” which are Crooks and Candy. It presents many themes yet it didn’t present any relevant childlike qualities or aggressive behavior of Lennie Small. Sunday afternoon, while the rest played horses, Lenny killed his puppy in the barn. Curley’s wife showed up. Lennie explained his fondness for soft things, and she encouraged him to stroke her hair. When she wanted him to stop, he broke her neck out of fear. Candy found her and brought George. When the men found out, Curley went for his shotgun.
Carlson went for his Luger, but it’s missing and he assumed Lennie took it. Candy stayed with the body and all went after Lennie. The last chapter closed the novel as George found Lennie where he instructed him to go in case trouble arises. While they talked of their dream, George placed the Luger to the base of Lennie’s skull and fires. Everyone assumed George took the gun from Lennie and shot him. The usual method to determine if a person was mentally retarded was by measuring their IQ. However, psychologists tried to avoid classifying persons as retarded on the basis of IQ alone.

One method of determining if the person had the condition mental retardation was by observing their cognitive functioning. The language behaviors of a mental retardate included immature speech with misarticulation. The learning of a retarded person was slower among moderately or mildly retardates. Concerning the memory of a mental retardate, studies by Spitz (1963) and others had shown that the immediate memory span of the retardate was shorter than that of normal people. It was shown that mental retardates’ performance was lower than that of a mental-age-matched group in thinking and reasoning.
The performance of the mentally retarded couldn’t be judged without a consideration of the life history of the retarded individual; because of lifelong experience, he had come to mistrust his own judgement and is engaged in seeking helpful cues and motivation from the environment. Most mentally retarded individuals had behavioral disorders such as disturbed social relationships or aggressive behavior. It was inconclusive to say that Lennie’s language behavior was immature with misarticulation for the reason that all the characters spoke using slang.

In addition, learning was not conclusive either because this involves IQ, which the researcher couldn’t measure from Lennie Small. However, the researcher could say that Lennie’s memory span is shorter because of the constant reminders George gave him. For instance, in the first chapter, George reminded Lennie what to do when asked questions by the boss and Lennie even had to concentrate to remember, and the next chapter showed George again reminding Lennie what to do if in case he gets into trouble. Lennie was poor in thinking and reasoning.
George did all the thinking for the two of them. When The Boss questioned them, George answered all of the questions fearing that if Lennie answered, his dumbness will show. George also described Lennie to Slim that “He can’t think of nothing to do himself ” and “He’s as dumb as hell. ” Most of the time, Lennie needed helpful cues from George. Like in the incident wherein the boss questioned him, he went into panic and looked at George for helpful cues. He also needed motivation from George just to be able to fight back when Curley attacked him.

Most of Lennie’s motivation actually came from George. In one account, George said, “Why he’d do any damn thing I tol’ him. ” The behavioral disorder of Lennie was his aggressive behavior. One obvious incident that displayed this was when he crushed Curley’s hand. Another was when he killed Curley’s Wife. After analyzing the foregoing facts and information, the researcher of this paper came up with the conclusion that Lennie Small was mentally retarded based on his cognitive functioning.
The researcher was able to analyze Lennie’s psychological state. Also, the researcher gained very important background of the novel and its author that aided in the analyzing of the work. Moreover, the researcher had more understanding on mental retardation and related issues. In the efforts to attain the objectives, the researcher discovered the childlike qualities of Lennie Small and found them present in the first three chapters. The aggressive behavior of Lennie was examined in the 3rd and 5th chapter wherein he caused injuries to others.

Lennie Small

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Lennie Small Chapter 1 Summary Chapter 2 Summary Chapter 3 Summary Chapter 4 Summary Chapter 5 Summary Chapter 6 Summary Characters Quotes Summary Symbolism Themes

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