‘Of Mice and Men’ was written as a novel in 1937 by John Steinbeck. It is set in the time period of the economic depression after the collapse of the New York Wall Street stock market in 1929 and follows the story of two migrant farm workers; Lennie and George. Through there relationship we come across the reoccurring themes of Friendship, loneliness, responsibility. However it is through the unusual characterisation of Lennie that Steinbeck manages to gain the readers sympathy and this is what I’ll be exploring.
First of all Steinbeck gives Lennie the surname ‘Small’ of which is directly opposite of what he actually is and becomes a subject of a weak joke; ‘He ain’t small’ but in fact a big man who has great strength. Steinbeck also presents Lennie as mildly retarded with his speech being slow, slurred and simple of which you wouldn’t expect from such a character with physical attributes. Although he has learning difficulties he is physically well co-ordinated and is capable of doing hard grafting manual jobs repeatedly and effectively which adds to the contrast of his characterisation as he seems like a small child trapped in a mans body. An example of this is that he loves ’pettin’ soft things such as mice, puppies and rabbits which is similar to the behaviour of a child. This is where we first really feel any sympathy towards Lennie as we can see that due to his mental immaturity he is totally reliant upon George for his survival. However the extent that George relies on Lennie for some type of companionship in the generally unfriendly and lonely environment of a migrant worker is seen that George might not be with Lennie purely out of the sense of pity or duty to Lennie’s aunt Clara. This is seen as George admits to slim when discussing him and Lennie that; ‘It’s a lot nicer to go around with a guy you know’.
George and Lennie’s desire for their own ranch represents their own fantasy however this dream is also a microcosm of the ‘American Dream’ of.