In “Of Mice and Men” John Steinback makes Lennie a sympathetic character by his description of his character as well as his physical appearance. Lennie is also revealed by the author through the other character’s perceptions of him and how Lennie interacts with them. Lennie’s attitude and actions are not the same towards all the characters in the story. He gets along well with some of the characters in the story and with some he doesn’t.
The first impression the reader gets of Lennie is ironically his size. He is described as “opposite” to George with “…a huge man, shapeless of face, with large, pale eyes, with wide sloping shoulders and he walked heavily”. But we are contradicted in this. John Steinbeck uses descriptions of animals to describe Lennie. When he drinks water from the pool his action is described as “snorting into the water like a horse”. When he moves and walks he is described as a “bear” when it drags its paws.
He is described by John Steinbeck as a very simple character who has the innocence of a small boy who doesn’t know how much harm he is doing to the rat or in Lennie’s case to Curley’s wife. When Lennie and George are on their way to the ranch, Lennie shows his innocence when he says “I won’t get in no trouble, George. I ain’t gonna say a word”. After he kills the mouse, he says “I wasn’t doing anything wrong with it, George. Jus’ strokin’ it.” From the first part of the story when the author gives us the physical description of Lennie, we see Lennie is a gentle giant whose strength is way far out ways his brain.
Although Lennie is described as being immensely strong and physically big, his actions reveal a gentle, friendly person underneath. He has a very soft character because whenever Lennie makes George angry, he gets upset like a small child. Steinbeck describes his actions as those of an “a terrier”, he says this when he refuses to bring the mouse to George, he is like an “a terrier who doesn’t want to bring a ball back to its master”. He is also described as “a bull” and like “a sheep”. “Lennie covered his face with his paws and bleated with terror”. Another example of when he acts like an animal is when he “growls back to his seat”.
When we read that he is cuddling the pup, it tells us how much I love animals and when he kills it he doesn’t kill the animal on purpose because he doesn’t know how strong he is, When he doesn’t know his own strength “I was only petting it. Another occasion is when Lennie crushes Curley’s hand and then, later on, he says, “I didn’t want to hurt him”. At one point he acts like a child who gets attracted to things he likes, for example- the pup and Curley’s wife’s hair when she asks him to move his hand over it. When he likes something, he sticks to it and doesn’t leave it because he doesn’t know how much harm he is doing to it. So, Lennie is a friendly person who doesn’t understand how strong he is or the consequences of his strength. Therefore, Lennie is described as a simple person who has low intelligence but also a very strong person.
Another consequence of his simplicity is that he depends on George to help and guide him over small things. He needs George to take care of his work permit. Lennie cannot differentiate between things that are right and wrong and needs George to help him with that. For example, Lennie doesn’t realize that Curley’s wife is a seductive woman and he often speaks to her. But he stops speaking to her after George tells him that “Don’t you even take a look at that bitch. I don’t care what she says and what she does….but I never have seen any piece of jailbait worse than her.”
He makes him understand that and tells him not to speak to her. He makes him realize that she isn’t the right type of woman to talk to. Another consequence is when Lennie is drinking water from the pool and is told off by George not to drink from it. He says because “it is scummy”. He treats him like a child and needs to be told every moment to what to do and what not to do like when he drinks the water from the pool, George tells him “You gonna be sick like you was last night”. This tells us how much care George has for him because if Lennie falls sick and if he dies, then there wouldn’t be anyone for George to be with as, during the Great Depression, the ranchers used to be alone without any friends. George didn’t want that to happen.
Due to Lennie’s lack of intelligence, the other farmhands treat him differently and sometimes, Curley’s case, crudely. He doesn’t get along very well with all the members of the farm, for example with Curley and his wife. Curley hated him for the first time because “He hates big guys”. When Lennie crushes Curley’s hand, we are pleased that, in Lennie’s grasp “Curley was flopping like a fish on a line,” but Steinbeck does not write fairy tales where good triumphs and evil is punished. In the cruel reality of life, it is Lennie who will be destroyed and Curley who will continue to torment anyone who threatens his ego. The same thing is also with Curley’s wife because he wants to obey what George told and he tells her “I ain’t supposed to talk to you”. Slim describes him as “Lennie’s jes’ like a kid. There ain’t no more harm in him than a kid neither, except he is so strong”.
This tells us that he is as harmless as a child and he can be harmful when it comes to situations where he cannot survive in a world of cruelty, selfishness, and contempt. Throughout the story, he is described as a sympathetic person in loving terms. When he says “he’s a nice fella. Guy don’t need no sense to be a nice fella”, it tells us that he enjoys the company of Lennie and he gets along well with him. He treats him and listens to him like a kid. Lennie always wants to be with someone. For example, when George leaves him and goes to the bar, he cannot be by himself. The only person whom he knows who doesn’t go out is Crook because he is regarded as a “nigger” by the farmhands. The people on the farm regard him as that all black men are “crooks”. He is different from the other farmhands because the farm members treat him as an outcast as he is “black”.
Therefore, from what I have read and analyzed I can say that George stands as a father for Lennie as he takes care of him, serves him food, tells him the difference between right and wrong. As a consequence of all these factors, the final scene is heartbreaking for the reader when George shoots Lennie. He chooses to shoot Lennie because a father would rather shoot his son himself rather than let anyone else shoot him. He tells Lennie to go over and tell him about the dream while he aims the gun behind him to shoot him. This is a very sad and controversial scene because Lennie is dreaming about having his farm where he can tend his favorite animals like rabbits, rats, etc whereas George goes through a very bad moment in which he has to shoot his best mate. Lennie himself doesn’t know that his best friend is going to shoot him.