The work out west in the 1930s was tough. John Steinbeck’s novel, Of Mice and Men, focuses on two men: one—a mentally handicapped man, the other—his friend and caregiver, facing the hardships of life in that region. When disaster strikes, one of them must make the hardest decision they will ever face. This novel deals with many tender subjects that most would have a great deal of trouble talking about, but Steinbeck is able to break through that barrier and create a touching story. Steinbeck’s tone of pained recognition offers the sad reality that if one is different within the context of society’s standard, they are not accepted.
Lennie Small, in contrast to his name, is a large, mentally handicapped man. His only friend and companion, George Milton, who is “small and quick…with restless eyes and sharp, strong features,” cares for and watches over him (Steinbeck 2). These two men travel together and find work where they can, and often must change locations because of the problems Lennie causes. Because of his disability, Lennie has a child’s characteristics of innocence and naïveté. It is those characteristics which invariably lead him deep into trouble. Like a child who behaves according to his role in society, Lennie innocently parallels this same manner. But, unlike society’s acceptance of how a child fits into its contexts, Lennie, an adult, is rejected. The way he is treated by people who do not know him reflects this. When the boss of the farm first meets the two men, he wants to make sure that George is not playing him for a fool. The boss is suspicious that George could be trying to help Lennie obtain a job on the farm, only to take his pay from him at the end of the month. He does not stop to think that they are only two men searching for work: because of Lennie’s handicap, the boss never considers the possibility that George and Lennie are two men looking for honest work. It is the circumstances of Lennie’s handicap which cause the...
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