Lennie Small in Of Mice and Men: Description & Quotes

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  • 0:01 Lennie Small: Static…
  • 0:36 An Introduction to Lennie
  • 2:19 Lennie Compared to Animals
  • 3:26 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Tommi Waters

TK Waters has a bachelor's degree in literature and religious studies and a master's degree in religious studies and teaches Hebrew Bible at Western Kentucky University.

This lesson describes the character of Lennie Small from ''Of Mice and Men'', including his animal-like, yet innocent nature, through the use of quotes and examples from the book.

Lennie Small: Static Main Character

Who can forget the simple and endearing abominable snowman from Looney Tunes, who picks up Daffy Duck, and says, 'I will name him George, and I will hug him and pet him and squeeze him'? This character is based on Lennie Small, a similarly simple and endearing character from Of Mice and Men.

Because of his innocence and unawareness of his strength, he commits violent acts without knowing he is doing wrong. Unlike most main characters in novels, who develop and grow over the course of the story, Lennie is a static character. His personality, actions, and motivations remain the same at the beginning, middle, and end of the story.

An Introduction to Lennie

John Steinbeck, the author of Of Mice and Men, describes Lennie as a large, strong, lumbering, simple-minded man who is usually unaware of his actions and surroundings. His favorite thing to do is pet soft things. When we first meet him, he has a dead mouse in his pocket that he is petting with his thumb. Whenever he finds a mouse, he usually ends up accidentally killing it by petting it too hard. George Milton, his friend who he travels and finds work with, tells him, 'Trouble with mice is you always kill 'em…. First chance I get I'll give you a pup. Maybe you wouldn't kill it. That'd be better than mice. And you could pet it harder.'

Lennie never means to kill anything, he just doesn't realize how strong he is. He gets anxious in stressful situations, causing him to lose control. At the beginning of the novel, he and George are forced to flee from their previous job because, as we later find out, Lennie was accused of raping a girl.

According to George, Lennie had no such intention and just wanted to feel her soft dress. He says, 'She jerks back and you hold on like it was a mouse. She yells and we got to hide in an irrigation ditch all day with guys lookin' for us, and we got to sneak out in the dark and get outta the country. All the time somethin' like that--all the time.' Although Lennie's character does not change throughout the novel, his foolish and unintentionally tragic actions are what drive the plot.

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