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Diminuitive in his cognitive abilities, Lennie Small of John Steinbeck's novella, Of Mice and Men, is childlike in his behavior and thinking. While his reactions to the words and the physical gestures and movements of others are never mean-spirited because he is of this childlike mentality, he is not necessarily kind. For, kindness implies a deep-seated characteristic shown habitually or on occasion by considerate behavior, a behavior that does not seem within the ken of such a simple person as Lennie.
Lennie's behavior is that of a child. He is loyal to George because George is like an older brother to him. But, Lennie is not always considerate of George, nor does not always seek to give George pleasure, two aspects intrinsic to kindness. Instead, Lennie's good behavior exhibits itself whenever Lennie wants George to approve of him or to not be angry with him. For instance, in Chapter One after George grows angry from the memory of the episode of Lennie with the girl in Weed, Lennie, who has been wishing for ketchup to put on their beans, says softly to George,
I was only foolin', George. I don't want no ketchup. I wouldn't eat no ketchup if it was right here beside me."
Here Lennie is simply trying to ingratiate himself after George Milton has become angry. On the other hand, George says kindly, "If it was here, you could have some." In response, Lennie insists,
"But I wouldn't eat none, George....You could cover your beans with it and I wouldn't touch none of it."
Lennie's words are a show of subservience to George, rather than an offer of kindness. For, later in their conversation when George realizes that he has been mean, Lennie says,
"If you don' want me I can go off in the hills an' find a cave. I can go away any time."
Then, in Chapter Three, when Curley attacks Lennie, it is not kindness that Lennie displays. As he holds Curley's hand, crushing it, Lennie "watched in terror the flopping little man whom he held. When George yells at Lennie to let go of the hand, Lennie defensively says, "You tol' me to, George." Lennie does not worry about Curley's injury.
And, in Chapter Five when the puppy that Lennie has petted so much dies in the barn, Lennie feels no sympathey for it. Instead, childishly, he is angry with the dog: "Now I won't get to tend the rabbits. Now he won't let me."
Lennie is a man-child. He knows that George looks out for him and protects him, so he tries not to raise George's ire. When he inadvertently kills Curley's wife, Lennie worries about what will happen to him, not about the woman.
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