Lennie - “Of Mice and Men” by John Steinbeck

The Psychology of Great Characters: A Comprehensive Analysis of Literary Icons - Sykalo Evgen 2023

Lennie - “Of Mice and Men” by John Steinbeck

In John Steinbeck's poignant novella, "Of Mice and Men," Lennie Small stands as a complex and deeply sympathetic figure, a man-child whose immense strength is tempered by childlike innocence and an inability to grasp the consequences of his actions. His journey alongside his companion George Milton serves as a poignant exploration of friendship, loyalty, and the fragility of dreams in the face of harsh realities.

Background and Motivations

The protagonist of John Steinbeck's novella "Of Mice and Men," Lennie Small, is a man-child whose tremendous strength is restrained by his naivety and incapacity to understand the repercussions of his actions. His goals and history are unclear, thus the reader must piece together bits and pieces of his past.


Although Lennie's past is never made clear in the novella, hints imply that he has struggled and been alone most of his life. His mental illness, which is alluded to but never stated clearly, distinguishes him from the other ranch hands and draws teasing and mistrust. His companion and caregiver, George Milton, provides him with an infantile dependence that bolsters the idea of a difficult past.

Reasons for

Lennie has a strong need for acceptance, friendship, and a place to call home despite his restrictions. His main driving force is his shared desire with George of becoming a farm owner. This dream symbolizes a haven, a place where they can find comfort in one other's companionship and escape the harsh reality of their fleeting lives. In sharp contrast to his physical power and commanding appearance, Lennie's fascination with soft things—rabbits in particular—reflects his want for love and care.

Due to his naiveté and lack of understanding of the repercussions of his actions, Lennie frequently causes tragic outcomes. Due to his lack of social awareness and propensity to misread social situations, he is easily manipulated and taken advantage of. His desires for acceptance, affection, and a sense of belonging, however, continue to be the core of his drives.

Personality Traits and Development

In John Steinbeck's "Of Mice and Men," the tall, mentally immature Lennie Small is a multifaceted, incredibly empathetic character. His combination of tremendous strength, childish innocence, and ignorance of social mores makes him a tragic yet lovable character.

Infantile innocence

Lennie's love of soft things, his obsession with storytelling, and his dependence on George for direction all reflect his innocent childlike nature. He is filled with a sense of innocent curiosity and fascination with the universe; he frequently asks George to tell him stories and finds comfort in the small pleasures of plush toys like rabbits.

Superb Strength

Lennie is a child at heart, but he has incredible physical strength that others sometimes compare to animal strength. His strength is a sign of his propensity for destruction as well as a cause of fear for others. His character is made more complex by the contrast between his physical strength and childish innocence.

Inadequate Social Awareness

Because he lacks social awareness, Lennie misinterprets situations and makes snap judgments that have disastrous results. His incapacity to restrain his vigor and his propensity to caress objects excessively frequently lead to injury and further distance him from other people. His interaction with Curley's wife demonstrates how susceptible he is to manipulation and exploitation due to his lack of social awareness.


In the novella, Lennie's character doesn't really change. His unwavering qualities include his tremendous strength, his infantile innocence, and his lack of social awareness. But as their ambition of owning a farm gets farther away, his need on George grows.

George's role

George Milton had a significant influence on Lennie's growth and personality. George plays the roles of protector, confidant, and caregiver for Lennie; he does it with a mixture of affection and contempt. Though he is aware of Lennie's frailty and the possibility of harm, George is steadfast in his belief in their common goal and the prospect of a better life.

Relationships and Interactions

Lennie Small, a man-child of tremendous strength and innocent innocence, must make his way through a harsh and frequently unfriendly world. His connections and interactions with people show his frailty, his need for approval, and the terrible results of his deeds.

Connection to George Milton

The relationship between Lennie and George Milton is the most important and intricate one in the tale. George plays the roles of protector, confidant, and caregiver for Lennie; he does it with a mixture of affection and contempt. Even though he occasionally loses his temper, George is nonetheless dedicated to Lennie's welfare and their common goal of becoming farm owners.

They have a complicated relationship that combines bitterness and dependency. Lennie is dependent on George for direction, safety, and emotional support, and George takes responsibility for Lennie's welfare. George, too, is also resentful of Lennie's restrictions and the work involved in taking care of him.

Getting Along with Other Ranch Workers

Lennie exhibits dread, sympathy, and grudging acceptance in his dealings with the other ranch hands. His intimidating physical appearance combined with his erratic behavior causes anxiety among his coworkers. They see him as a kid, someone who should be embraced in part but not entirely.

Lennie's inclination to misread conversations and his lack of social awareness make him feel even more alone. His attempts to interact with people frequently result in miscommunications and disputes, which further isolates and misunderstands him.

Connection to Crooks

Lennie's stable buck, Crooks, understands his loneliness and gives him a unique opportunity for companionship. Their same experiences of isolation and exclusion forge a relationship of comprehension between them. Lennie has a glimpse of acceptance and companionship from Crooks, who acknowledges his innocence and weakness.

This brief encounter with Crooks brings Lennie's innate yearning for acceptance and belonging to light. He longs for understanding and connection despite having little social skills, and in his solitude, Crooks gives him a rare opportunity to interact with people in a real way.

Meeting with Curley's spouse

In the story, Lennie's meeting with Curley's wife marks a terrible turning point. In an attempt to gain approval and attention, Curley's wife takes advantage of Lennie's innocence, which sparks a heated argument. Lennie's innocent innocence is destroyed by this experience, which also results in his untimely death.

Role in the Narrative

A key character in John Steinbeck's tale "Of Mice and Men" is Lennie Small, a man-child with extraordinary strength and a youthful innocence. His presence acts as a counterbalance to George Milton's practicality, a sobering reminder of how fleeting life is, and a driving force behind the terrible events of the narrative.

George Milton's Pragmatism's Foil

George Milton is pragmatic and wise beyond his years, but Lennie lacks maturity and understanding of the implications of his actions. Lennie's naive idealism and impetuous behavior are balanced by George's persistent reminders of the harsh facts of life and the necessity for caution.

The tale progresses because of the dynamic tension created by their opposing personalities. The plot gains emotional richness and vulnerability from Lennie's need for connection and his youthful innocence, while George's practicality provides a feeling of solidity and grounding.

A Reminder of How Precarious Human Life Is

Lennie's presence throughout the novella acts as a continual reminder of how fleeting life is. His naiveté and gullibility serve as a stark reminder of the perils of living in a cruel and merciless world. His sad demise, brought on by both his own misdeeds and the brutality of others, emphasizes how fleeting dreams are and how harsh reality is inevitable.

A Spark for Disaster

The main individual who propels the story towards its terrible conclusion is Lennie. A succession of growing confrontations and miscommunications result from his incapacity to restrain his might and his propensity to misread social cues. Because of his innocence and need for connection, he meets Curley's wife, which sets off a series of events that lead to his terrible demise.

Symbolism and Representation

Yes, this is a thorough examination of the portrayal and symbolism of Lennie Small in John Steinbeck's novella "Of Mice and Men":

The defenseless, the misunderstood, and the disenfranchised are all powerfully symbolized by Lennie Small, a man-child with tremendous courage and a childish innocence in John Steinbeck's "Of Mice and Men." His persona has a complex symbolic meaning, embodying a number of the novella's recurring themes and concepts.

Imagery of the Disenfranchised

Lennie is clearly an outsider, a character that many around him dread and misunderstand due to his small stature and innocent manner. His incapacity to comprehend and navigate the ranch hands' social customs effectively further isolates him, turning him become a symbol of the excluded and disadvantaged.

The problems of individuals who are different, whether because of physical or intellectual limitations, social status, or race, are reflected in his experiences of rejection and loneliness. Lennie's quest for approval and a sense of belonging brings to light the desire that all people have, regardless of differences, to be recognized and appreciated.

Symbol of Human Innocence's Fragility

Lennie's naiveté, evident in his fondness for cuddly objects and his need on George for direction, represents the vulnerability of human innocence in an unyielding and cruel world. The fragility of people with a youthful purity of heart is highlighted by his incapacity to understand the repercussions of his acts and his susceptibility to manipulation.

His terrible death, brought on by both his own deeds and the brutality of others, stands for the passing of youth and the hard truths of life. Lennie's persona serves as a moving reminder of the need of preserving and fostering the innocence that everyone of us possesses.

A representation of the destructive force of unbridled might

Lennie's enormous physical strength, which is sometimes characterized as "animalistic," stands for the devastation that can result from unbridled might. His tendency to pet things too much and his inability to manage his strength result in a succession of catastrophic events that show the necessity for moderation and control as well as the hazards of unbridled power.

His persona acts as a warning, showing us that even the kindest-hearted people have the potential to do harm if they are unable to manage their power appropriately. Humanity's battle to govern and control its own power is mirrored in Lennie's fight to control his might.

Signifying the Insatiable Desire for Acceptance and Integration

A major aspect of Lennie's persona is his innate desire for acceptance, friendship, and a feeling of community. His relationships with other people—which are frequently characterized by miscommunication and rejection—elucidate his intense yearning for acceptance and a sense of belonging.

His preoccupation with cuddly objects—rabbits in particular—represents his yearning for love, care, and a feeling of acceptance in a harsh and unwelcoming environment. Lennie's terrible passing, which came about as a result of his loneliness and failure to make a meaningful connection, emphasizes the value of interpersonal relationships and the negative effects of loneliness.

Finally, Lennie Small's portrayal and symbolism in "Of Mice and Men" are complex and profound. He serves as a symbol for the weak, the misunderstood, and the disenfranchised, serving as a warning against the destructive force of unbridled might and the frailty of human innocence. His persona is a moving reminder of how desperately people crave to belong and connect—a fundamental human urge that is frequently unmet.

Additional Considerations

Beyond his narrative function and symbolic importance, Lennie's character brings up a number of other issues that enhance the novella's examination of human nature and life's intricacies.

The Nature of Loneliness and Isolation: Lennie's character is centered around his extreme loneliness and isolation, which makes him an engaging character that elicits empathy and compassion. His vulnerability to manipulation and his incapacity to form meaningful connections with people underscore the devastation caused by loneliness and the difficulties in navigating social relationships in a world that can be harsh and judgmental.

The Precarious Nature of Dreams and the Hard Reality of existence: Lennie and George's shared dream of owning a farm serves as a ray of optimism and a representation of a better existence. But this ambition is nonetheless unattainable because of the harsh reality of their fleeting existence and the challenges they encounter in a world that frequently appears uninterested in their goals. The terrible ending of Lennie's life serves as a sobering reminder of how fleeting dreams are and how harsh reality can be.

The Limits of Compassion and Understanding: Lennie's tragic fate serves as a stark reminder of the limitations of human empathy as well as the difficulties in completely understanding and accepting those who are different, despite the compassion and understanding shown by George and Crooks. The way Curley's wife took advantage of Lennie's innocence and the ranch men' general mistrust and anxiety toward him highlight how hard it is to draw a line between "normal" and "different."

The Human Capacity for Both Cruelty and Kindness: Lennie's interactions with other people highlight the duality of human nature. They include instances of cruelty and manipulation, best exemplified by Curley's wife's actions, as well as acts of kindness and compassion, as demonstrated by George's care and Crooks' understanding. The intricacy of human nature and the coexistence of light and darkness inside people are highlighted by this contrast.

The Persistent Strength of Hope and the Pursuit of Meaning: Lennie's character reflects a continual yearning for hope and a desire to find meaning in life despite the harsh reality and sad events that transpire. The resiliency of the human spirit and the enduring power of hope in the face of hardship are demonstrated by his innocent childish demeanor and unwavering trust in their dream with George, even when the dream appears to be crumbling.

With its complex levels of representation, symbolism, and thematic ramifications, Lennie's character serves as a monument to Steinbeck's skillful storytelling and his capacity to develop characters that arouse strong feelings of empathy, encourage contemplation, and leave a lasting effect on the reader.