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To begin with, Steinbeck describes Lennie’s physical features to be very animal-like. He states that he walked “the way a bear drags his paws”. The use of animal imagery in this quote illustrates an image of a huge man heavily dragging himself, not only suggesting his size but also suggesting his immense strength. Due to his physicality, he is unable to carry out tasks normal people would be able to do. He is unable to control himself, specifically his strength—thus easily breaking things.
Steinbeck emphasizes this as he brings up incidents of Lennie having killed mice and other small, fragile animals, while petting them. Lennie is also described to have an animal’s mental state, leaning towards animal instincts rather than human instincts. Steinbeck states he’d “drink out of a gutter if [he] was thirsty”, displaying Lennie’s rash behaviour. His urge to satisfy his immediate desire would overpower the need to be cautious and aware of his surroundings.
Many people think before they act. In Lennie’s case however, he doesn’t think at all as George does it for him.
Lennie was “snorting into the water like a horse” which also proves his uncivilized manner. Furthermore, Lennie’s animal instincts prevent him from being able to learn. Like wild animals, he is uncontrollable and unpredictable; though he may be trained and taught not to do some things, they are bound to commit the same mistakes over and over again. Steinbeck states that George had “hopelessly” warned Lennie about the water he was drinking, proving that George’s warnings will not affect Lennie in any way as he is bound to forget—he will never learn.
Not only is Lennie’s mental behaviour similar to an animal, but it is also similar to a child. Lennie is described to be “puzzled” and thathe “giggled happily” at some parts of their conversation, showing that he is unaware and immature. He constantly forgets everything very easily and doesn’t sense the seriousness in some of their conversations—showing that his maturity is like of a 6 year-old, who needs constant reminding and explaining of almost every matter discussed. Steinbeck states that after Lennie created ripples in the water with his fingers, he said “Look George, look what I done.
He is easily impressed at the ripples he made and notifies George of his work to make him proud. Lennie’s child-like character also depicts a father/son relationship between Lennie and George. Earlier in the book, it is stated that "Lennie's closed hand slowly obeyed" after George had commanded Lennie to hand over a dead mouse. The adverb "slowly" shows that though Lennie was reluctant to follow George’s orders, he had no choice but to obey him. Like an obedient son who must follow his father, Lennie fears George—the paternal figure—conveying George’s authority over Lennie.
Supporting this, Lennie’s timid behaviour towards George is constantly portrayed as he is described to be speaking “slowly” and “cautiously” to George—indicating Lennie’s high level of respect for George. As a son would look up to his father, Lennie also sees George as his role model and a leader. Steinbeck portrays Lennie as submissive—giving him the role of the follower between the two main characters. Lennie is said to have “imitated George exactly” proving that he sees George as a role model. He “imitates” George, depicting his respect for him. Lennie also prioritizes him and whatever he says.
This is seen when he tries to recall a memory from the past saying, “and you says…you says”. It is conveyed through this quote that he is dependent on George as he values George’s opinions more than his opinions. Supporting the fact that Lennie is dependent on George, George says, “think I’d let you carry your own work card? ” This proves that George is much more responsible than Lennie, who constantly forgets things. Steinbeck also states in the beginning of the book that they walked in a “single file”, conveying that one is the leader and the other is the follower. Their relationship evidently highlights George’s authority over Lennie.
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