What are some examples of animal imagery in connection with Lennie in Of Mice and Men by Steinbeck?

Lennie is compared to a bear and carries a dead mouse, foreshadowing the death of the puppy and Curley's wife.

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Lennie's affiliation with animals goes far beyond his fascination with the rabbits he imagines he will raise when he and George eventually buy their farm. At the start of the novella, Lennie is described at several points at having characteristics of a bear, even volunteering himself to go live...

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Lennie's affiliation with animals goes far beyond his fascination with the rabbits he imagines he will raise when he and George eventually buy their farm. At the start of the novella, Lennie is described at several points at having characteristics of a bear, even volunteering himself to go live in a cave in order to get out of George's way. The imagery of these descriptions is powerful; Lennie is large and strong, but completely incapable of taking care of himself, unlike an animal in the wild that might actually live in a cave. As well, Lennie carries in his pocket a dead mouse so that he is something to stroke while he walks. His attachment to the soft decaying creature introduces the notion of death into the novella, and it foreshadows the death of the puppy, also at Lennie's hands, and eventually, the accidental strangling of Curley's wife. The mouse imagery is poignant because Lennie's need to pet something soft is innocent, but the dead mouse in his pocket is toxic.

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Right from the start of the novella, Steinbeck likens Lennie to a large animal.

He walked heavily, dragging his feet a little, the way a bear drags his paws. His arms did not swing at his sides, but hung loosely.

The comparison is not meant to be derogatory, but actually descriptive of Lennie's primitive and unpolished nature, which exists within all of us as humans. Lennie, however, lives with the mismatched combination of a large body, disproportionate strength, and very low intellect. Hence, he lacks the typical behaviors and defense mechanisms that are used by other people to control themselves in certain situations.

Consequences are also foreign to Lennie. Like an animal, he just reacts on the spot without thinking much. For example, when he felt thirsty on his way to the ranch, rather than looking for a safe source of water, he went to the first puddle he found.

He flung himself down and drank from the surface of the green pool; drank with long gulps, snorting into the water like a horse.

In all, Lennie is no different than a wild creature that can only manage to survive by learning the basics of life. He is still a potential victim of his own instincts which, like those of a animal, command his actions more than common sense.

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