Examine the commentary of the animal imagery in  Curley crying, while his fist was lost in "Lennie's big hand."

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Some of the commentary on this scene focuses on the "gentle giant" aspect of Lennie's characterization.  When Curley attacks Lennie in full battle mode, Lennie takes the abuse, blood spilling from his nose. The image of the limping gigantic figure wailing out to George, "Make 'im stop" becomes a poignant one. Yet, when Lennie is ordered to "Get him," he does not attack Curley.  

Lennie stops Curley by merely holding his fist.  The idea of Curley's hand dwarfing in Lennie's is significant.  Steinbeck's description brings out a critical component in his characterization of human beings:

Curley’s fist was swinging when Lennie reached for it. The next minute Curley was flopping like a fish on a line, and his closed fist was lost in Lennie’s big hand.

The animal imagery of Curley "flopping like a fish" and Lennie's "bear paw" already introduced in the first chapter helps to convey how human beings are reduced to animals in this setting.  In a setting where survival is so challenging and all that matters, Steinbeck's emphasis on natural conditions is seen in the description of the fight between both Curley and Lennie.  Both men are shown to be a form of animal life.  Yet, Lennie is shown to have a life form that displays benevolence, while Curley is over matched, "flopping like a fish."  In such a description, Steinbeck's view of nature is that animals do not have to display tendencies of cruelty, as human beings are quite capable of showcasing these traits themselves.