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At the beginning of the extract, Lennie is mourning the death of his puppy – by his own hand – when Curley’s wife enters the barn and attempts to comfort him and she allows Lennie to stroke her hair. When ‘Lennie’s big fingers fell to stroking her hair’ we see that something is going to happen as the mood changes and the tension is heightened. We have an inclination to what is about to happen as we have seen the inevitability of the scenario with Lennie’s strength and Curley’s wife’s desire for affection and attention.
When Curley’s wife tells Lennie not to ‘muss it up’, Lennie strokes ‘harder’, as he is overcome with the pleasure of the experience, this shows that Lennie doesn’t listen to anyone except from George, thus reinforcing what we already know. Curley’s wife says ‘ you stop it now’ and ‘jerks her head sideways’ and Lennie then panics and automatically his ‘fingers close on her hair and hung on’, this is because it is the only thing he can think to do, this emphasises his child-like mentality as his reaction is physical as opposed to psychological.
‘Lennie was in a panic’ and ‘his face was contorted’, these two short simple sentences portray the innocence and naivety of Lennie’s actions as well as reflecting the way Lennie’s mind works, short and simple. He ‘begs’ Curley’s wife to stop screaming because ‘George’ll be mad’ and ‘ain’t gonna let him tend no rabbits’ showing that he has a one-track mind, much like a child. Lennie then gets angry and tells Curley’s wife ‘I don’t want you to yell’, this again shows his child-like mindset and his anger leads him to shake her.
So he’s shaking her, not in an aggressive manner, but to protect his part in the dream, ‘her body flopped like a fish’ and ‘she was still, for Lennie had broken her neck’. At this point we see Lennie, not just kill Curley’s wife, but kill the dream too. Lennie does not realise he has killed her as he continues to speak to her, he ‘lifts her arm and lets it drop’ and is, for a moment, ‘bewildered’. His mind can’t capacitate why she is not responding, all he thinks he did was shake her, showing just how unaware he is of his own strength.
Animal imagery is used to describe how Lennie ‘pawed up the hay until it party covered her’, this connotes Lennie’s clumsiness and density. In the concluding paragraph of the extract we see Lennie become ‘conscious of the outside’ ‘for the first time’, he recalls what George told him to do if he gets into trouble and goes to ‘hide in the brush’, taking the dead puppy with him to ‘throw it away’ because ‘it’s bad enough like it is’. Here we see Lennie make a decision himself, be it the right one or not, he seems to have matured slightly because of the situation at hand and this event could be something that changes Lennie’s childish behaviour.
Throughout the death of Curley’s wife, we still feel more sympathy for Lennie, because he is so unaware of the danger his actions can cause and he is still a naive and innocent character, despite the unintentional harm he has brought to many things. Show preview only The above preview is unformatted text This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our GCSE John Steinbeck section.