In Of Mice and Men, what does Lennie represent? How does he represent "the inarticulate and powerful yearning of all men"?
It was Steinbeck himself that originally remarked that Lennie was meant to represent the "inarticulate and powerful yearning of all men." In the context of the setting, it is clear that Lennie Small is a symbol for the frustration and hopelessness felt by dispossessed men during the Great Depression. Lennie's regressed mental state is a way to show that feeling at its most bare.
Lennie has a yearning for affection and a sense of belonging that manifests itself even in the smallest aspects of his life. When he childishly wishes for ketchup to put on his beans, he says "But I wouldn't eat none, George. I'd leave it all for you." His longing to make George happy is reflective of his desire to belong somewhere and to have a function.
George and Lennie are trapped in extreme poverty as migrant workers. Lennie takes pleasure in hearing George's story about how he'll get to tend the rabbits over and over again, even if deep down both of them know it to be a fantasy.
Lennie Small, because of his mental limitations, cannot articulate his deepest needs and desires in language that expresses and explains them specifically, but his deepest and most powerful yearnings are evident throughout the novel. Lennie longs for the safety and security of a home that cannot be taken away from him, a place where life can be fulfilling and free of anxiety. For him, this desire is expressed as "living off the fat of the land" in a place where, finally, he belongs.
As migrant workers, George and Lennie are members of the dispossessed, men without homes who have no place in society and who do not belong wherever they may be. They are poor and trapped in their poverty. Lennie's dream of the farm, although he cannot discuss it except in the most elemental terms, represents the universal human yearning for freedom, security, spiritual fulfillment, and human dignity.