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Lennie and the Dead Mouse in Of Mice and Men

Summary:

In Of Mice and Men, Lennie is fascinated by soft things, and the dead mouse he carries symbolizes his childlike innocence and lack of understanding of his own strength. Despite George's warnings, Lennie accidentally kills small animals due to his inability to control his physical power, foreshadowing the tragic events to come.

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Why does Lennie carry a dead mouse in the first chapter of Of Mice and Men?

In the opening scene of the novella, George yells at Lennie for carrying a dead mouse in his pocket. Lennie insists that the mouse was dead when he found it and tells George that he was simply petting it because it felt good. After George asks Lennie to hand over the mouse, Lennie complies and gives the dead mouse to George, who throws it into the brush on the other side of the pool. Later on, Lennie retrieves the dead mouse from the brush while he is collecting sticks for their campfire. 

The reason Lennie is obsessed with the dead mouse and carries it in his pocket is because he enjoys petting soft things. Lennie is mentally challenged and cannot control his desire to continually stroke anything that is soft. Later on in the novella, Curley's wife allows Lennie to feel her hair, and he ends up roughly grabbing it. Unfortunately, Lennie tugs at Curly's wife's hair when she begins to panic, and he accidentally kills her.

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Why does Lennie carry a dead mouse in the first chapter of Of Mice and Men?

Lennie is carrying the dead mouse because he likes to touch soft things. He loves soft, furry animals and dreams one day of living in his own farmhouse with George and raising rabbits. 

Unfortunately, he is mentally challenged, and sometimes doesn't realize his own strength. Often, when he is petting small animals, he is too rough. He accidentally killed the mouse by squeezing it too hard. Now he is afraid to tell George because he is afraid he will be angry and not let him help with the rabbits someday. He is still keeping the mouse, though, because it is soft, and he likes to feel it in his hands.

The mouse is also symbolic. Enotes analysis page states that the crushed mouse is a foreshasowing of the frailty of the men's dreams and the inevitable way they, too, will be crushed.

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Why does Lennie carry a dead mouse in the first chapter of Of Mice and Men?

The dead mouse in Lennie's pocket acts as foreshadowing for the death of Curley's wife and Lennie's fateful ending. It also alludes to the novella's title taken from the poem "To a Mouse" by Robert Burns in which a mouse meets a tragic end. 

After Candy discovers Curley's wife who lies lifeless in the hay of a stall, he hurries to bring George to the barn. When George realizes that the young woman is dead, he and Candy discuss what to do. Also, Candy vocalizes his "greatest fear":

"You an' me can get that little place, can't we, George? You an' me can go there an' live nice, can't we, George? Can't we?" (Section 5)

George, whom Steinbeck has described as much like a mouse--"small and quick, dark of face, with restless eyes"--sadly remarks that he thinks he knew from the beginning that nothing would come of their plans.

The best laid schemes of mice and men
Go often askew,
And leave us nothing but grief and pain,
For promised joy!
["To a Mouse" by Robert Burns, Standard English translation]

Robert Burns's words certainly apply to Lennie and George's dream of owning a farm.

Left with little but pain for what he must do to save Lennie from a terrible fate in an institution of some kind, George seeks Lennie at the clearing where he has instructed the childlike man to go if anything goes wrong.

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Why does Lennie carry a dead mouse in the first chapter of Of Mice and Men?

The dead mouse in Lennie's pocket has a number of symbolic meanings. Firstly, the fact that Lennie finds it already dead is important because it suggests that his and George's move to a new ranch will not offer the fresh start that they are looking for. This foreshadows the death of Curley's wife and the trouble which follows. 

Moreover, carrying the dead mouse around is symbolic of Lennie's inability to escape the past. The incident in Weed for example, will haunt Lennie and George, no matter how hard they try to put the past behind them, and not everybody will see that it was an accident.

In addition, the dead mouse is also symbolic of the dangers of Lennie's strength. Although he has a gentle and caring manner, Lennie lacks the ability to control his strength. Whether it's a mouse, a rabbit, or Curley's wife, his desire to stroke and pet soft things always leads to death. It does not matter that these deaths are accidental—what matters is that Lennie's strength will always injure those that he cares about. 

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Why does Lennie carry a dead mouse in the first chapter of Of Mice and Men?

The dead mouse that Lennie carries in his pocket at the beginning of the novel symbolizes Lennie's vulnerability. Similar to how the mouse is physically small and defenseless, Lennie's mental handicap leaves him helpless in a harsh and cruel world. The mouse cannot withstand Lennie's strength and dies because Lennie pets it too hard. As mentioned in the previous post, the defenseless mouse also represents Curley's wife. When Lennie grips onto her hair, she tries to escape but cannot. Similar to the dead mouse, Curley's wife is also accidently killed by Lennie. In spite of Lennie's innocence, he cannot help himself from inadvertently harming things. Alluding to Robert Burns' poem, neither mice nor men can escape their destiny. The dead mouse symbolizes how innocent creatures such as Lennie and Curley's wife cannot escape their fate.

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Why does Lennie carry a dead mouse in the first chapter of Of Mice and Men?

Lennie carries a mouse in his pocket for comfort. He likes to "pet soft things" and is soothed by the feel of fur. It is perhaps linked to his memories of his Aunt Clara who used to give him pieces of velvet to stroke.

Lennie always accidentally kills the mice he has, which foreshadows his final action of killing Curley’s wife. The mouse represents frailty, weakness and comfort, all of which we see in Curley’s wife, and part of the charm which captivates Lennie.

The use of the mouse also ties in with the title taken from the Robert Burns Poem alluding to the fact that the best laid plans of mice and men often go wrong.

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Why does Lennie carry a dead mouse in the first chapter of Of Mice and Men?

The dead mouse reveals some distinct realities about Lennie.  The first is the affinity Lennie has for "soft" things.  He likes to pet the mouse because of how it feels.  The mouse is dead. However, Lennie simply likes to pet it.  Additionally, I think that the dead mouse shows his affinity for animals.  From the dead mice to puppies to the elusive and idealistic way he glorifies rabbits, Lennie loves animals.  His love for animals makes him child-like.  His affection for the dead mouse reflects this part of his character.  Finally, I think that the dead mouse in Lennie's jacket pocket shows the idea of how much he wishes for something to be his own.  Like George, Lennie has dreams, as well.  Lennie wishes for something he can call his own.  Tending the rabbits, working on the farm, and having his own small place in the world are dreams he articulates throughout the narrative.  To a large extent, these dreams begin with the dead mouse in his pocket that he pets and tends to—reflecting his desire for something he can call his own.

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Why does Lennie carry a dead mouse in the first chapter of Of Mice and Men?

At the beginning of the novella, George yells at Lennie for carrying a dead mouse in his pocket. When George asks Lennie why he wants to carry around a dead mouse, Lennie tells him that he simply enjoys petting it with his thumb. After George throws the mouse into the brush, Lennie retrieves it and attempts to hide it from George. When George realizes that Lennie has the dead mouse, George throws the mouse away again despite Lennie begging him to keep it. Lennie's insistence on petting the dead mouse illustrates his affinity for touching soft things. The fact that he fears and listens to George demonstrates his reliance and obedience to him. The reader also learns that Lennie cannot overcome his instincts to pet the mouse, which foreshadows his inability to control his emotions when Curley's wife allows Lennie to stroke her hair.

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Why does Lennie carry a dead mouse in the first chapter of Of Mice and Men?

On the most literal level, the dead mouse in Lennie's pocket shows that Lennie is mentally challenged. What sane person would carry a dead mouse in his pocket? In addition to this point, Lennie probably killed the mouse, because he does not know his own strength. 

Second, the dead mouse shows that Lennie loves soft things. As the book unfolds, it becomes clearer that Lennie loves all soft things. Later he will love the dog that Slim gave to him. Unfortunately, he will kill it as well as Curley's wife, as he touches her soft hair. 

Third, the dead mouse in Lennie's pocket also shows his love for animals. One of the recurrent stories that he wants to hear from George is about the farm they will have in the future. On this farm, Lennie will be charge of the rabbits. 

Here is a quotation on this:

“An’ live off the fatta the lan’,” Lennie shouted. “An’ have rabbits. Go on, George! Tell about what we’re gonna have in the garden and about the rabbits in the cages and about the rain in the winter and the stove, and how thick the cream is on the milk like you can hardly cut it. Tell about that, George.” “Why’n’t you do it yourself? You know all of it."

“No . . . . you tell it. It ain’t the same if I tell it. Go on . . . . George. How I get to tend the rabbits."

Finally, on a more figurative level, the dead mouse represents that Lennie's dream will probably be destroyed. 

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Why does George take the dead mouse away from Lennie in Of Mice and Men?

George takes the mouse away from Lennie because it is dead and will rot. George says that the mouse isn't fresh and that he has to take it away because Lennie always kills them. This scene is the reader's first introduction to George and Lennie's relationship and there is quite a lot to take in. We find out that Lennie likes to touch soft things, like fur. We also find out that Lennie doesn't really seem to know his own strength, which is why the mice end up dead in the first place. 

Apparently, Lennie's Aunt Clara also used to let him play with mice, but he always killed them, so she stopped doing that. When the men begin to recount their own American Dream of owning their own place and being their own bosses, Lennie focuses on the idea of owning rabbits - a furry animal that he might not accidentally kill. George also brings up the idea of getting Lennie a puppy, in the hopes that a larger animal might be something that Lennie can handle. 

The key idea in discussing the dead mice lies in the fact that Lennie really doesn't know his own strength and doesn't mean to kill them. The dead mouse, accidentally killed by Lennie, foreshadows Lennie's actions later on in the book with both Curley's wife and the pup. 

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Why does George take the dead mouse away from Lennie in Of Mice and Men?

The first chapter of Of Mice and Men introduces readers to Lennie and George as well as to the setting of the Salinas River and valley. The men stop at the river for the evening after hiking for several miles to get to their new job. The contrast between the two men is striking, with Lennie's height and bear-like movements stressed. George's angular features and compact build, along with his quick and decisive movements allow the reader to notice Lennie's mental handicap quickly. 

After a few moments of interaction, the conversation turns to what's in Lennie's pocket. Although he tries to hide it, much like a child would try to hide something from a parent, George makes Lennie show him what he has in his pocket. The object is a dead mouse. Lennie has been petting the dead mouse for most of their hike. Apparently this is a pretty common occurrence for Lennie, who loves to touch soft things, like fur. George takes the mouse away from Lennie, throwing it away into the brush by their campsite. 

When George asks Lennie to go get firewood, Lennie attempts to surreptitiously pocket the mouse's corpse. George knows what he's up to, however, and forces him to give up the mouse's body again, throwing it across the river this time. When Lennie begins to cry, George explains why he had to take the corpse away from him: 

"Aw, Lennie!" George put his hand on Lennie's shoulder. "I ain't takin' it away jus' for meanness. That mouse ain't fresh, Lennie; and besides, you've broke it pettin' it. You get another mouse that's fresh and I'll let you keep it a little while." (9)

The fact that Lennie kills mice doesn't really seem to bother George as much as the fact that Lennie is toting around a dead mouse. Any corpse will eventually decay. George grows increasingly frustrated with Lennie's behavior following this exchange. Exasperated, George starts to complain about how his life would be easier without Lennie in it. 

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Why does George take away Lennie's dead mouse?

It is generally not a good idea to carry a dead mouse around in your pocket—or any other kind of dead animal for that matter. Not only is it likely to give off an almighty smell, it will also make other people more than a tad wary of you and that is the last thing George wants. Wherever they go, Lennie keeps inadvertently getting them into trouble over his fascination with stroking soft objects. This is what led to their being run out of Weed and what gets them into trouble later on in the story. George wants to settle down at the ranch without causing any kind of bother. Among other things, that means not drawing attention to Lennie and his peculiar behavior and if there is one thing guaranteed to draw such unwelcome attention it's the presence of a smelly, decaying mouse corpse inside Lennie's pocket.

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Why does George take away Lennie's dead mouse?

There are two reasons for this in the book. First, there is the question of hygiene. Mice are dirty and they carry germs. This is the implication, because George never allowed Lennie to keep a dead mouse, no matter how much Lennie wanted to pet it. George makes Lennie throw away these dead mice. 

Lennie’s closed hand slowly obeyed. George took the mouse and threw it across the pool to the other side, among the brush. “What you want of a dead mouse, anyways?”

The second reason comes from the fact that Lennie does not know his own strength. According to the book, Lennie is extremely strong, but he is slow intellectually. So, he always winds up killing them.

“The hell with the rabbits. An’ you ain’t to be trusted with no live mice. Your Aunt Clara give you a rubber mouse and you wouldn’t have nothing to do with it.”

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