How does Steinbeck portray the main characters' good and bad sides in Of Mice and Men?

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I think that Steinbeck depicts the good and the bad in the main characters in Of Mice and Men by showing them to be human.  There are no simplistic or reductive elements in his characterizations.  Steinbeck has constructed characterizations of human beings.  This means that they possess desirable traits alongside not-so-desirable ones. They are human. George and Lennie feature good traits within them such as their loyalty to one another, their willingness to earnestly work, and their ability to treat people as ends in and of themselves as opposed to treating them as means to specific ends.  However, George is shown to be irritable with Lennie, sometimes abusing him and disrespecting him.  Lennie is a child and, like all children, he gets into trouble.  Sometimes, the trouble is fairly destructive.  The reality is that both of them are shown to be human.  They are filled with good and bad qualities, but Steinbeck creates an empathy within the reader to look at them in the most open light.  We simply feel bad for them, understanding who they are - blemishes and all.

Steinbeck carries this dynamic to the other characters as well.  Crooks is shown as a human being in his fullest form. He is one who yearns for company, but also has difficulty trusting people.  The combination of both yearning and rejection is a part of Crooks' human condition, a way for Steinbeck to show the good and bad in him.  Curley's wife is much the same.  There is a sadness to her, believing in the hopes of her dreams only to be let down by them.  At the same time, this pathetic portrait is balanced out by her cruelty to Crooks, Candy, and Lennie when she confronts them. At that moment, there is little that is likable in her character. The combination of both realities is what makes her so human.  Even Slim, a character that earns Steinbeck's respect, is shown to be human.  He is the consummate leader on the ranch, but when the group intending to find and harm Lenny is formed, Slim does not speak out and appeal for calm.  He does not join the group as an active member like Carlson or Curley.  However, Slim is human.  He demonstrates both good and not- so- good within him.  Steinbeck seeks to make a statement that in showing people as they are - capable of both destruction and restoration - human beings are complex and intricate.

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How is the central character Lennie presented in Of Mice and Men?

Lennie, one of the central characters in John Steinbeck’s novel, “Of Mice and Men,” is presented as a powerful yet peaceful man. He suffers from a mental deficiency and he does not possess clear thinking ability. Despite his lack of ordinary intelligence, Lennie has an enormous capacity for love and for loyalty. He is drawn to small animals, such as mice and rabbits and he is unquestionably loyal to George, his best friend and companion. Lennie also has the capacity to dream for a better life. Like George, he wants to someday own a small farm, to work independently and to care for the land and the animals that inhabit it. In this manner, Lennie is like most men. However, his limited mental abilities sometimes make him a menace to society. When he is provoked, he displays an uncontrollable rage and an intensely violent behavior, which leads him to kill many of the mice, a puppy and Curley’s wife.

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How does Steinbeck present central characters in Of Mice and Men?

It is through the third person narrative where the characters are presented and revealed.  Steinbeck is our guide through their lives and we understand the central characters through this style of narration.  The third person narrative provides us "stage directions" to an extent.  An example of this would be the first chapter where Lennie imitates George lying down, reflecting to us that there is a great deal of admiration that he has for George.  Another would be the excitement and anticipation that Lennie talks about the rabbits.  While the words tell this to us, the third person narration allows us to understand the full implications of the meaning behind the words.  The third person narrative style allows the reader to float in and out of conversations between characters.  This also allows the main charaters to be presented and fully understood in a way that a narration from one charater might not.  An example of this would be in chapter 3 when George and Silm are talking about Lennie and their past experiences in Weed.  George's use of Slim in a "confessional" manner helps to bring out information about both of them, but also how George sees Slim in the same way that a penitent would view a priest.  It is through the third person narration and the ability to move freely to conversations between the characters that more is understood about the main charaters in the work.

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