Character Analysis in Of Mice and Men
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Lennie is one of the most important characters in Of Mice and Men, but he is also one of the least dynamic. Unlike the other characters, Lennie never changes. He has a simple outlook on life and lacks the ability to make connections between his actions and the results. This simplicity and innocence, however, makes him a very sympathetic character. The reader knows that Lennie is doomed in this harsh world because of his innocence. This creates an emotional impact when Lennie dies at the end of the book.
George is perhaps the most important character in Of Mice and Men due to the following:
- He has a paternal relationship with Lennie and takes responsibility for protecting his friend.
- Although protective of Lennie, he also has a short temper that causes him to snap at his friend frequently.
- Underneath his stern exterior, however, is a deep devotion to protecting Lennie from the dangers of the world.
- As Lennie's protector, though, George has to do the unthinkable: kill Lennie painlessly before a mob lynches him. In this final act of their relationship, George saves Lennie by ending his life.
Curley's wife plays a pivotal role in Of Mice and Men. Even though Steinbeck casts her as a temptress and troublemaker, she has one of the most complex characters in the book. Much of this complexity, however, comes from her desire to take advantage of other people and find ways of making others feel bad about themselves.
Throughout Of Mice and Men, Steinbeck undermines the traditional Christian-based values of ‘good’ and ‘bad’, ‘right’ and ‘wrong’. Even the working title that he used for the text, Something That Happened, illustrates Steinbeck’s unwillingness to categorize people and events on the basis of their societal labels. For instance, Lennie, the character whom Steinbeck chooses to portray in-depth (and therefore the character he invites readers to sympathize with), is regarded by society as a sex offender. By resisting the accepted practice of explicitly detailing Lennie’s thoughts, reasoning, motivations, and justifications, Steinbeck forces readers to ponder the moral significance of Lennie’s actions on our own terms. In fact, by paralleling Lennie’s death with that of Candy’s dog, Steinbeck presents readers with the exact opposite of the doctrine of free will, a kind of biological predestination or natural selection argument. Both Lennie and the dog were removed when the inconvenience of their impairments came to outweigh the positive benefits of their continued survival. Moral judgments, Steinbeck contends, cannot rightfully be imposed on acts of nature. This line of thought can be extended to an analysis of George’s actions, as well. From the perspective of ‘acts of nature’, George’s decision to kill Lennie would make him no more guilty of murder than someone who is euthanizing an ailing animal. From a pragmatic point of view, George’s decision to kill Lennie is the lesser of all evils – with that action, Lennie spares George the pain and confusion of a death by lynching at the hands of Curley, or years of mental and physical neglect or abuse within the confines of a substandard mental institution. Once again, Steinbeck effectively skews traditional, Christian-based moral judgment and presents readers with several other viable alternatives.