Why do you suppose Steinbeck chose to describe how George looked at Lennie's head with the starkly anatomical phrase"where the spine and the skull met"

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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It is always a challenge to parse as to why a specific author chooses a specific way to describe a specific event.  There should be some level of inclusiveness in such an answer.  One reason as to why Steinbeck chose to embrace strictly anatomical terms might lie in the fact that Lennie is dead.  It is at this point where the life that Lennie held in his being and in his character is no longer evident.  To describe him in such a cold manner describes the cold reality that compelled George to do what he did.  In doing so, George removed the only emotional element in his own life, compelling him to view him in the coldest of terms possible, as George now lives in a cold setting.  Another reason why Steinbeck describes how George looks at Lennie might be a reflection of how George feels about himself.  George sees Lennie through his own eyes throughout the narrative.  He understands that he must view Lennie in the same light as the rest of the world, at this point.  George's decision to kill Lennie is onw in which he has appropriated the view of the world about Lennie.  George recognizes that there is little chance of Lennie escaping from the lynch mob and that there is only one option left for him.  In seeing him in this light, George sees Lennie in an objectified manner, similar to how Curley and Carlson viewed him.  In killing him, doing what they sought to do, there is a level of objectification in viewing Lennie.  From a symbolic point of view, Lennie's description in cold and anatomical terms might also arise from how Steinbeck views the world in which Lennie is no longer a part of it, sterile and lacking emotion.  This also brings back Steinbeck's roots as a journalist, describing what is and while there is a hope of what can be or what should be, there is an absolute understanding of what is.


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