Lennie’s powerful hands symbolize a strength over which he has no control. The constant reference to Lennie’s hands, including the dead mouse he strokes and accidentally kills, foreshadow his accidentally killing Curley’s wife. To make this clearer, let’s trace some important references to Lennie’s hands.
Lennie’s hands are described several times in the novel. First of all, Lennie is obviously very strong. He often puts his hands in his pockets, a gesture of timidity and uncertainty. Despite his strength, Lennie is very child-like.
When Lennie gets into the fight with Curly, he initially keeps his hands at his sides. George tells him to defend himself, and he does.
Curley’s fist was swinging when Lennie reached for it. The next minute Curley was flopping like a fish on a line, and his closed fist was lost in Lennie’s big hand. George ran down the room. Leggo of him, Lennie. Let go.” (ch 3)
When Slim hears about the problem, he asks to see Lennie’s hands.
In a moment Slim came back into the bunk house.
He looked at Lennie, still crouched fearfully against the wall. “Le’s see your hands,” he asked.
Lennie stuck out his hands.
“Christ awmighty, I hate to have you mad at me,” Slim said. (ch 3)
In chapter 5, there is another reference to Lennie’s hands when he kills the puppy.
Lennie looked at it for a long time, and then he put out his huge hand and stroked it, stroked it clear from one end to the other. (ch 5)
The references to flopping like a fish are used twice: when Curley’s hand is broken, and when his wife’s neck is broken. It’s hard for foreshadowing to get more obvious!