top-rated free essay

Of Mice and Men

By devshow16 May 03, 2013 1216 Words
* In the United States Criminal Justice System, there is a category of defenses that may excuse an individual who has committed a criminal offense of responsibility for their actions. Insanity is one of these defense excuses, and it claims that the state of mind of the individual in question at the time of the transgression was insufficient so much so that they are not accountable for their actions. One of the various tests used to determine the defendant’s state of mind is called the M’Naghten rule. This rule states that at the time of the offense, the defendant either did not know that what he was doing was wrong, or was unable to distinguish between right and wrong, due to mental incapacitation. In John Steinbeck’s novel, Of Mice and Men, one of the main characters, Lennie Small, clearly commits the physical act of murder. The question that remains is whether or not Lenny had the mental stability at the time of the crime to be held legally responsible for his action. * Throughout the novel, it is apparent that Lennie is a big and strong, yet mentally deficient individual. In the opening scene, he is depicted gulping down water like an animal, and his friend and fellow main character, George Milton, claims that he would drink out of a gutter if he were thirsty. Based on a conversation between the two men, it can be seen that Lennie is extremely forgetful, both long and short term. He forgets of his aunt who he had known all his life, and he forgets details of what George had told him just earlier that day. More notably, Lennie forgets the bad thing he did at the ranch in Weed, as George states, “Oh, so ya forgot that too, did ya? Well, I ain’t gonna remind ya, fear ya do it again.” (Steinbeck 73). Not only is Lennie forgetful, but it is also made clear that he does not think like a grown adult. He is absolutely fascinated with soft things like mice, rabbits, puppies, and even women’s dresses and hair. It is almost as if he is a full-grown child, as George explains, “Sure he’s jes’ like a kid. There ain’t no more harm in him than a kid neither, except he’s so strong.” (Steinbeck 558). * George’s claim is proven over and over throughout the course of the story. Lennie is a seemingly harmless individual with the best of intentions and a strong work ethic. However, every time he is given any kind of responsibility, his sheer size and strength overcome his good intentions and cause an unfavorable outcome. He is constantly collecting field mice to hold and pet, and ends up killing them because he pets them too hard. While performing work on the ranch, he nearly kills a co-worker with the way he throws bales of hay around. Another time, he takes a beating from Curley without fighting back until George tells him to. However, once he fights back he crushes Curley’s hand miserably. He even kills a puppy when he accidentally retaliates too violently against it after it bites him in the barn. In one instance, George describes what actually happened at the ranch in Weed saying, “Well he seen this girl in a red dress. Dumb bastard like he is, he wants to touch ever’thing he likes. Just wants to feel it. So he reaches out to feel this red dress an’ the girl lets out a squawk, and that gets Lennie all mixed up, and he holds on ‘cause that’s the only thing he can think to do.” (Steinbeck 534). It is later revealed that the woman reported Lennie for rape, and the two men had to flee in order to save him. * These occurrences provide good insight of Lennie’s general character and behavior. However, the M’Naghten Rule bases its judgment on the state of mind of the individual at the time of the criminal act. When Lennie committed the murder, he had been alone in the barn when Curley’s wife came in and allowed him to pet her hair. In the immediate time leading up to this, the two had carried on a normal conversation, and Lennie had “chuckled with pleasure” (Steinbeck 1178). It was only when he began to pet her hair too hard that Curley’s wife became uncomfortable and started to squirm and yell. In a panic, Lennie covered her mouth and tried to prevent her struggle, in an exerpt, “Then Lennie grew angry. ‘Now don’t,’ he said. ‘I don’t want you to yell. You gonna get me in trouble’” (Steinbeck 1195). When he shook her too violently, he broke her neck. And it was only after it was too late that he stated that he didn’t want to hurt her. * Indeed, there is significant evidence to suggest that Lennie is a pleasant individual, and that he is not quite mentally stable. He acts as a child, with his love of soft things and his fear of getting in trouble with George. Both of these factors may provide arguments for the application M’Naghten rule in his defense when it comes to the death of Curley’s wife. Yes it is true that Lennie was invited to touch her hair and panicked when she began to squirm and squawk. It is also true that he did not mean to kill her. However, these reasons do not provide significant evidence that he lacked the mental capacity to know that what he was doing was wrong. Lennie didn’t like that he might get in trouble, and angrily shook Curley’s wife in an attempt to prevent that. Granted, he did not mean to shake her hard enough to kill her. However, a driver does not necessarily mean to drive recklessly enough to kill a pedestrian. A lack of malicious intent is not justifiable to excuse someone from committing a crime. And mental illnesses such as depression and bipolar disorder do not automatically qualify an individual for the insanity defense. There is not significant evidence to suggest that Lennie did not know that what he was doing was wrong, and immediately afterwards he even says, “I done a bad thing. I done another bad thing.” (Steinbeck 1203) acknowledging that he knew that what he had done was wrong. * It is difficult to pin the murder of Curley’s wife on Lennie because he is depicted as such a kind spirited individual throughout the story. It is so easy to sympathize with him and his good intentions that one may look beyond the severity of his actions. However, just because he is a generally nice person who means no harm does not excuse him from instilling it. There is insignificant evidence to suggest that Lennie lacked the ability to distinguish between right and wrong at the time of the criminal act. He was trying to protect himself from trouble and over-pursued that end. George perhaps said it best to Candy,, “Lennie never done it in meanness. All the time he done bad things, but he never done one of ‘em mean.” (Steinbeck 1243). In the end, the M’Naghten rule does not fully protect Lennie, and he is indeed guilty of murder. *

*
*
* Works Cited
* Steinbeck, John. Of Mice and Men. New York: Penguin Group, 1993 [Kindle]

Cite This Document

Related Documents

  • of mice and men

    ... Loneliness Loneliness affects more than the immediate person, it can destroy friendships and trusts, or encourage and strengthen a person to go beyond their comfort zone. In the story Of Mice and Men written by John Steinbeck, loneliness plays a significant role in the novel throughout certain characters. Some readers may have concluded th...

    Read More
  • Of mice and men

    ...Of mice and men Section B Question 21 Part(a) How does Steinbeck use details in this passage to present the bunkhouse and its inhabitants? In the novel “Of Mice And Men”, Steinbeck presents the bunkhouse as being very hostile and unfriendly through the use of adjectives,”the walls were whitewashed and the floor unpainted...

    Read More
  • Of Mice and Men

    ...Andrew Westall English 1, P1 Ms. Spradley 17 December 2012 Friendship What is the definition of friendship? It is a person that knows someone and is loyal to someone. In the novel Of Mice and Men, Lennie and George have to take care and live together ever since Aunt Clara died. Lennie is always getting both George and Lennie into tro...

    Read More
  • Of Mice and Men

    ...Of Mice and Men John Steinbeck Title of Book: Of Mice and Men Author: John Steinbeck Setting: Shortly after the start of the Industrial Revolution (1930s), South of Soledad California Characters George Milton: One of the book’s main protagonists, guardian and best friend of Leinnie Small. Through his fr...

    Read More
  • mice and men

    ...In Of Mice and Men, characters have dreams of living a better life in future. For one thing, George and Lennie often talk about owning a little house, a few acres of land, and live in serenity without having to work for somebody. George and Lennie recite, “Someday-we’re gonna get the jack together and we’re gonna have a little house and ...

    Read More
  • Of Mice and Men

    ...“Distinctive ideas are at the heart of every novel.” In your view, what are the distinctive ideas explored in Of Mice and Men? Explain how these ideas are developed throughout the novel. Themes are integral and fundamental aspects which render the literature valuable. They usually provide insight into the author’s perception and interna...

    Read More
  • Mice of Men

    ...In English class we recently read Of Mice and Men. I had read it before, but that that was a few years ago, and I didn’t really understand it then. I was surprised to learn that I actually like the book, and looked forward to reading it. This essay is about friendships and the ways in which Steinbeck illustrates them in his novel. This is a ve...

    Read More
  • Of Mice and Men

    ...he offer some hope and optimism in his novel "Of Mice and Men" In Steinbeck's novel " Of Mice and Men" there are many different characters each expressing there own opinion on whether they are living in a desperate society or that there is indeed some hope and optimism in the world around them. At the time the book was set, whi...

    Read More

Discover the Best Free Essays on StudyMode

Conquer writer's block once and for all.

High Quality Essays

Our library contains thousands of carefully selected free research papers and essays.

Popular Topics

No matter the topic you're researching, chances are we have it covered.