What animal imagery is there in Of Mice and Men? 

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readerofbooks | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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Steinbeck - Of Mice and Men

This is an intelligent question. The careful reader will undoubtedly see that Lennie is often described as an animal. Right in the beginning of the book, Steinbeck describes him as shapeless, but when he describes his hands, he call them paws.

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. His arms did not swing at his sides, but hung loosely.

Similarly, when Lennie drinks water from a pond, he does so as a dog. He dabbles his paw in the water. Here is what the text says:

Lennie dabbled his big paw in the water and wiggled his fingers so the water arose in little splashes;

Even when Lennie gets into a fight with Curley, the text says that Lennie covered his face with his paws.

Lennie covered his face with his huge paws and bleated with terror. He cried, “Make ‘um stop, George.” Then Curley attacked his stomach and cut off his wind.

From these descriptions, it seems that Lennie does not have hands. If we follow this imagery, things begin to make greater sense from a thematic  point of view. Just as Candy's dog was shot and Slim's pups, at least four of them, were downed, Lennie will be shot as well. This is not to say that dogs come off badly in the novel. In the world of migrant workers, life is cheap. Lennie's life is included as well. 

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