In "Of Mice and Men," what is the  significance of the dead mouse in terms of what it might tell us about Lennie?

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M.P. Ossa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Of Mice and Men  the dead mouse holds a lot of significance. First, it openly demonstrates the extent to which Lennie, while gentle, can also be dangerous against his will. He is unaware of his brute nature, precisely because he is a kind and loving man as a whole. Therefore, the accidental killing of the mouse offers us a foreshadowing of what is to come, which is the accidental killing of Curley's wife. 

The mouse also shows that the men, like mice, are unimportant and disposable. Like the mice, they just coexist in the ranch with no real future nor goal in sight. 

Lennie reluctantly reached into his pocket. [..] “I don’t know why I can’t keep it. It ain’t nobody’s mouse. I didn’t steal it. I found it lyin’ right beside the road.”

George’s hand remained outstretched imperiously. Slowly, like a terrier who doesn't want to bring a ball to its master, Lennie approached, drew back, approached again. George snapped his fingers sharply, and at the sound Lennie laid the mouse in his hand.

Lastly the mouse shows that all individuals experience the need to make a meaningful connection to another living creature when they are all alone. Lennie wanted something he could touch, feel, and love. The mouse provided that minor but so important comfort. Unfortunately, like it will happen again later on in the novel, Lennie is just not capable to express his affection like a typical person and ends up accidentally killing that thing he loves. 

tpisano eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The dead mouse is significant because it reminds the reader of Lennie's mental handicap and how gentle-of-heart he truly is.  Although Lennie killed the mouse, he never meant it any harm.  He wanted to keep it as a pet and play with it.  Lennie did not know his own strength.This would come back to haunt him during the incident with Curley's wife. He never meant to hurt her, never mind kill her, but he never realizes what he is doing.  His power and strength often result in destruction and is the cause of his ultimate demise.

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Of Mice and Men

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