How is Lennie marginalized in Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men?

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When George and Lennie arrive at the ranch, it soon becomes apparent to the other ranch hands that Lennie has an intellectual disability. George explains to Slim how the two of them function as a team and that he learned to become Lennie’s protector after formerly participating in mocking him as others did. Lennie’s extreme physical strength and his lack of awareness of its effect are among the things that set him apart. When Slim inquires in to the reasons the two men travel together, he gives voices to what the others have probably thought. Lennie’s intellectual disability is often interpreted as mental illness. George quickly corrects him.

“It jus’ seems kinda funny a cuckoo like him and a smart little guy like you travelin’ together.”

“He ain’t no cuckoo,” said George. “He’s dumb as hell, but he ain’t crazy.”

After Lenny injures Curley’s hand, the others develop a wary attitude. Candy recalls George’s warning from earlier in the day, saying,

Right this morning when Curley first lit into your fren’ you says, ‘He better not fool with Lennie if he knows what’s good for ’um.’ That’s jus’ what you says to me.

The others go into town for the night, but Lennie is left behind because George fears that he will get into more trouble. He seeks the company of Crooks, who is marginalized because he is black. Crooks tells Lennie to get out of his room; he does not want his company and says that he should go back to the bunkhouse.

“I ain’t wanted in the bunk house, and you ain’t wanted in my room.”

“Why ain’t you wanted?” Lennie asked.

“’Cause I’m black. They play cards in there, but I can’t play because I’m black….”

Lennie flapped his big hands helplessly.

“Ever’body went into town,” he said. “Slim an’ George an’ ever’body. George says I gotta stay here an’ not get in no trouble.”

When he tries to explain to Crooks that he had been in the barn to see his puppy, the older man once again tries to send him away.

“Well, go see your pup, then. Don’t come in a place where you’re not wanted.”

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Lennie is marginalized in society on account of his learning disabilities. A grown man with the mental age of a child, Lennie is one of society's outcasts. Society in 1930s America didn't really understand disabilities all that well, and Lennie suffers from a general lack of comprehension among the people he encounters.

He and George are forced to leave the town of Weed after Lennie starts stroking a girl's dress. Lennie doesn't mean anything by it; he just likes stroking soft objects. But the girl is understandably shaken by the incident, and so it's time for Lennie and George to leave town before they get into any more trouble.

But the marginalization of Lennie continues after he and George wind up at the ranch. One day, Curley takes his frustration out on Lennie, picking on him because of his learning disabilities. Unfortunately for him, Lennie proceeds to crush his hand, leaving him in considerable pain. That Curley instinctively felt no compunction in picking on Lennie in the first place, however, indicates the lowly status that the disabled have in this society.

Tragically, Lennie's marginalization ultimately leads to his death. Once again, he doesn't know his strength, and after Curley's wife pulls away from Lennie after he starts stroking her hair, he inadvertently kills her. Lennie takes off and is hunted down by the local posse like he's some kind of wild animal. This is a further sign of his outsider status in this harsh, unforgiving society.

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In Steinbeck's classic novella Of Mice and Men, Lennie Small is a mentally handicapped migrant worker who travels throughout the United States with his best friend and guardian, George Milton. In the story, Lennie and George arrive to work at a ranch in Soledad, California, which is an extremely hostile, unforgiving environment. On the ranch, Lennie is marginalized because of his mental disability and is treated as an outcast. Lennie completely relies on George to defend him against the aggressive individuals on the ranch and cannot function on his own. Unlike the other workers, Lennie is marginalized when he is prohibited from going into town with the guys and is not even allowed to participate in their game of horseshoes.

Lennie is forced to remain back at the farm while George and the other workers hang out together, and he lacks the power to behave independently. Characters like Curley and his wife also take advantage of Lennie because of his mental handicap. Curley picks a fight with Lennie, which turns out to be a bad idea, and Curley's wife insists on interacting with him, despite Lennie's reluctance. Lennie is even marginalized by George at various points in the story when he is severely chastised and forbidden from speaking. Overall, Lennie is marginalized because of his mental disability and is treated as an insignificant outcast, who is voiceless on the hostile ranch. Lennie's lack of power, agency, and voice contribute to his mistreatment.

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