What are some good quotes from Of Mice and Men that show Lennie's motivations?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Some of the best quotations about Lennie's motivations have to be found in Chapter 5.  Death and Lennie open the chapter and death and Lennie close it.  For Lennie, the confrontation with the grim adversary of death reveals some of his darkest fears and deepest of motivations.  The opening scene of the chapter regarding the death of the pup is quite illuminating.  Lennie is peering over the corpse of the pup that Lennie has finished off with his zealous petting and treatment of it.  His state of mind is one of uncertainty, sadness, and fear of recrimination from George: 

Why do you got to get killed? You ain’t so little as mice. I didn’t bounce you hard.” He bent the pup’s head up and looked in its face, and he said to it, “Now maybe George ain’t gonna let me tend no rabbits, if he fin’s out you got killed.

Lennie's motivations are further seen when he says, “This ain’t no bad thing like I got to go hide in the brush. Oh! no. This ain’t. I’ll tell George I foun’ it dead.”  For Lennie, the motivation of tending rabbits is of vital concern.  It constitutes his being.  It is something that is evoked with death.  The traditional fear of death is superseded in Lennie's mind by the fear of not being able to tend the rabbits.  In his exchange with Curley's wife, this desire becomes evident, to the point where she considers him slightly off because of such a zeal.  This is brought out when Lennie tells Curley's wife,  “Well, he said if I done any more bad things he ain’t gonna let me tend the  rabbits.”  When Lennie begins to touch Curley's wife's hair in too intense of a manner and the struggle between them emerges, Lennie's motivations become clear: 

“Oh! Please don’t do none of that,” he begged. “George gonna say I done a bad thing. He ain’t gonna let me tend no rabbits. Now don’t,” he said. “I don’t want you to yell. You gonna get me in trouble jus’ like George says you will. Now don’t you do that.” And she continued to struggle, and her eyes were wild with terror. He shook her then, and he was angry with her. “Don’t you go yellin’,” he said, and he shook her; and her body flopped like a fish.

Lennie's words at this moment reveal a motivation to avoid trouble, to be able to tend to the rabbits, and adhere to rules whose full extent he fails to understand.  While he does not fully grasp the comprehension of such rules, he understands their implications of not following them.  In this, Lennie's motivation is revealed.