Back in the late 1930’s, most mentally handicapped patients would be tossed and locked up in an insane asylum. John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men is a classic novel about the friendship between Lennie Small, a mentally handicapped person, and George Milton. Even though Lennie’s retardation is the only thing holding George back from his dreams, he does not abandon him and helps Lennie through his problems. Lennie’s uncontrollable and childish behavior remains unchanged and fuels the complications he and George encounter throughout the story.
At first, Lennie is described as a slow and dim-witted moron that cannot handle himself. He often says and does things that keep George from ...view middle of the document...
Like a child, he feels the strong urge to touch things that he thinks are nice. This gets him and George into many predicaments that could have otherwise been avoided if Lennie was able to control himself. George is telling one of his fellow workers about Lennie’s past mistakes in Weed, “…he reaches out to feel this red dress an’ the girl lets out a squawk […] and he holds on ‘cause that’s the only thing he can think to do” (41). Lennie’s childish behavior ran both him and George out of the city. If his actions weren’t enough, what amplifies them is his enormous size and power.
Near the end of the story, Lennie’s biggest weakness turns out to be his brute strength. He is so huge that he often kills small animals just by petting them. This is yet another problem that Lennie cannot control and causes many complications. After Curley’s wife lets Lennie pet her hair, she starts screaming for help. This frightens Lennie and he tries to cover her mouth. Steinbeck writes, “…and he shook her; and her body flopped like a fish. And she was still, for Lennie had broken her neck” (89). Lennie’s uncontrollable strength causes the death of Curley’s wife. Later he is shot in the back of the head.
Lennie cannot control whether his mental and physical attributes change, therefore they keep his complications constant. He remains unchanged throughout the story and his problems just become worse. All the troubles he encounters are a direct result of his unchanged, reckless behavior. If George had not taken it upon himself to end Lennie’s life, Curley would have surely made it happen. The world can be a cruel and unforgiving place, and for Lennie it very much was.