Notes on Of Mice and Men Themes

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Of Mice and Men Topic Tracking: Animal (Lennie Described as an Animal)

Animal 1: The first time we see Lennie, he is immediately compared to an animal:

"...and he walked heavily, dragging his feet a little, the way a bear drags his paws." Chapter 1, pg. 2.

Throughout the novel there will be many such comparisons, and also occasional comparisons to children and the insane. But it is references to animals that occur most frequently. Such representations of Lennie as an animal color how we respond to him and how accountable we hold him for his actions. Therefore, it is significant that Steinbeck immediately mentions an animal when he first describes Lennie.

Animal 2: After walking into the clearing, Lennie's first action is very animal-like. He falls to his knees and slurps water from the river, just as a horse might, or a dog drinking water from a bowl. George comments:

"You'd drink out of a gutter if you was thirsty." Chapter 1, pg. 3.

Here we have the image of a man who is not intelligent enough to check if the water is fresh, but who also drinks in a very animal-like fashion. Lennie's mental retardation comes across clearly, as he is presented as almost less than human.

Lennie tries to hide his mouse from George, but it is no use. George demands the mouse. In the exchange is another animal comparison which also reveals something about George and Lennie's relationship:

"Slowly, like a terrier who doesn't want to bring a ball to its master, Lennie approached, drew back, approached again." Chapter 1, pg. 9.

The task of caring for Lennie has fallen to George, who like a dog's "master", must watch Lennie every moment.

Animal 3: In the description of how he used to play tricks on Lennie, the comparison between Lennie and George as dog and master is reinforced. George tells Slim that Lennie will do anything he tells him to, even jump into the river when he doesn't know how to swim. Much like a faithful dog, Lennie's love is unconditional. He follows orders, even when he doesn't know the harm they might cause.

Animal 4: During the fight between Curley and Lennie, both dog and sheep are used to describe Lennie:

"Lennie covered his face with huge paws and bleated with terror." Chapter 3, pg. 63.

Animal 5: While taunting Lennie with the idea that George might not come back, Crooks predicts Lennie's fate without George:

"Want me to tell ya what'll happen? They'll take ya to the booby hatch. They'll tie ya up with a collar, like a dog." Chapter 4, pg. 72.

Animal 6: After Lennie kills Curley's wife, he attempts to hide what he has done:

"He pawed up the hay until it partly covered her." Chapter 5, pg. 92.

Animal 7: As he enters the brush, Lennie's movement is compared to that of a bear. When he gets to the river he falls to his knees and laps up the water like an animal, just as he did at the beginning of the book.

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