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In Of Mice and Men, what do Steinbeck's first descriptions of George and Lennie tell us...

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Lucindaa48 | eNotes Newbie

Posted October 21, 2013 at 8:23 PM via web

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In Of Mice and Men, what do Steinbeck's first descriptions of George and Lennie tell us about their characters? Is there anything that he writes about Lennie which leads us to believe that he has the mind of a child?

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amarang9 | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted October 21, 2013 at 8:48 PM (Answer #1)

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In the initial descriptions of Lennie and George, the narrator notes that they are dressed the same, but this is where their similarities end. In many ways, they are opposites. George is small, wiry, smart, and a leader. Lennie is large, simple-minded, passive (unless he begins to panic), and a follower. Note also that in the fourth paragraph, they walk single file: George in the lead, Lennie following. Regarding their appearances, the narrator/Steinbeck says: 

The first man was small and quick, dark of face, with restless eyes and sharp, strong features. Every part of him was defined: small, strong hands, slender arms, a thin and bony nose. Behind him walked his opposite, a huge man, shapeless of face, with large, pale eyes, and wide, sloping shoulders; and he walked heavily, dragging his feet a little, the way a bear drags his paws. 

Lennie is also described as "snorting into the water like a horse" when he goes to drink from the pool. The physical descriptions of both Lennie and George fit their personalities well. George is small and strong. He is quick, mentally and physically, and his restless eyes indicate that he is always looking out for himself and Lennie. Lennie's personality matches his physicality as well. He is large and timid; his timidity is shown by his sloping shoulders, his lack of confidence. In these opening descriptions, Lennie is described as an animal (like a bear and a horse). There is nothing overt here in terms of implying Lennie has the mind of a child. However, describing him as one who is large, slouched, and resembling/acting like an animal, the reader does get an initial impression that Lennie is unaware of how his behavior appears to others. The reader certainly gets an impression that Lennie is the opposite of the smaller, quicker man whose eyes were "sharp." Simply by opposing the two, the reader can suppose that Lennie is not as "sharp" as George. 

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