What is the correlation between smartness and niceness in John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men?

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The other educator does a nice job of explaining the contradictory relationships between kindness and intelligence within various major characters. As a contrast, I would argue that Steinbeck does not actually believe there is a correlation between the two qualities.

Instead, he presents people as complex individuals who are neither...

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The other educator does a nice job of explaining the contradictory relationships between kindness and intelligence within various major characters. As a contrast, I would argue that Steinbeck does not actually believe there is a correlation between the two qualities.

Instead, he presents people as complex individuals who are neither wholly bad nor wholly good, presenting both negative and positive qualities in their characterization. For instance, while Lennie might not have meant to kill Curley’s wife, he does, which is not a moral action, and even he knows it is wrong, as evidenced by his attempting to conceal her body and fleeing the scene. Therefore, one could say that kindness and intelligence have no real correlation.

Instead, Steinbeck shows that kindness is ultimately a choice, while intelligence is not. Each of the so-called "kind" characters in the text behaves as such because he chooses to, not out of an innate personality trait. Steinbeck could be suggesting overall that the nature of mankind is unkind, which is depicted in the hopeless lives of the migrants, so kindness becomes a rarity.

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There is no absolute, "one size fits all" correlation that one could ascribe to all of the characters. Lennie is fun-loving and nice, and he is the least intelligent character in the story. One can not really say that he is not nice when he smothers a mouse or Curley's wife because he has no real control over his emotions and his body in those panicky states. So, with Lennie, his mentality correlates niceness with lack of smartness. George is nice deep down but has a tendency to behave in mean ways. And he is smart. We could correlate intelligence and behaving in an acute, mean way even though this ignores the fact that George is generally nice with a mean exterior. But for the sake of simplicity, George is smart and can have mean behaviors. This suggests a correlation between intelligence and being mean. This works well with Lennie's behavior which is unintelligent and nice. Again, this has to do with behavior and it ignores George's generous spirit and occasional nice demeanor. But the simplistic correlation, using the behaviors of these two characters fit: nice/unintelligent, mean/intelligent. 

However, it doesn't take long to show that these correlations do not apply to everyone. Curley is mean and stupid. He may have some intelligence but there really is no hard evidence of it. He has a job because his father is the boss. He doesn't take other people's feelings into consideration. If he has intelligence, he doesn't use it. Slim is nice and intelligent. This defeats the idea that intelligence must correlate with meanness or that the unintelligent must correlate with being nice. 

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