What is the significance of including Lennie's imaginings of the rabbit and his Aunt Clara at the end of Of Mice and Men?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Chapter 6 when Lennie takes refuge at the clearing in order to hide in the brush where George has instructed him, he thinks, "George gonna wish he was alone an' not have me botherin' him." Suddenly, Lennie begins to hallucinate, imagining that his Aunt Clara scolds him in his own voice.  Then, he replies to her,

"I might jus' as well go away.  George ain't gonna let me tend no rabbits now."

In another example of Steinbeck's anthropomorphism, the rabbit, symbolic of the American dream of ownership of a ranch that George and Lennie hold, is another hallucination that Lennie has. As Lennie begins to hear the rabbit in his own voice, his fears that he and George will never realize their dream. Also, the rabbit repeats another fear of Lennie's, that George will leave him; however, Lennie, in his frustration, tries to argue with the rabbit.

Lennie's scolding of himself as he hides provides him some comfort as it is a repetition of what George has always said to him.  But, as his fears grow, and the rabbit becomes increasingly cruel in its scolding, Lennie becomes terrorized, crying out George's name.

This scene of Lennie's hallucinations exempilfies what Steinbeck himself wrote about Lennie,

"Lennie was not to represent insanity at all but the inarticulate and powerful yearning of all men."

And, Steinbeck's novella concludes with this very yearning that is, indeed, inarticulate and unrealized.  Lennie's illusions are what he dies with because he cannot live without them.  Tragically, as George recites the words of the hopeless dream, "Lennie giggled with happiness" right before George shoots him.



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Of Mice and Men

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