The novel Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck, tells the story of twomen struggling to keep normal lives. George, a medium-sized and smart-witted man, takes care his travel companion Lenny since Lenny’s Aunt Clarahad died. Lenny, in contrast to George, is a sweet, caring, yet retarded,large man, who cannot survive on his own and has an uncontrollablestrength. This main characteristic of uncontrollable strength leads Lennyand George into much trouble in the story.
The author depicts an important detail in the beginning of the storythat foreshadows the downfall of Lenny. Lenny has a liking for furryobjects, such as puppies and mice, and he likes to pet them. The storybegins with George and Lenny traveling and looking for a new job becauseLenny had been accused of sexual harassment in the previous job he had. Thetwo men end up in California where they reach a farm. Curly, the owner ofthe farm, hires both Lenny and George. During their time working on thefarm they both make new friends and enemies. Curly develops a hatred forLenny because he sees Lenny as a stupid man who cannot stand up forhimself. Curly also dislikes George because Curly’s wife, who remainsunnamed throughout out the story, flirts with the two men.
In the end, once again, Lenny manages to work himself into some moretrouble. He accidentally snaps Curly’s wife’s neck as he was “petting” herhair. This infuriates Curly, so Curly sends a hunting party to kill Lenny.
Out of love and with regret, George ends Lenny’s misery before Curly doesby shooting Lenny in the head.
As a childishly simple retarded man, Lenny’s characteristics canrelate to Erik Erickson’s “eight ages of man”. According to Erickson, Lennyfalls under two categories: “Autonomy versus shame and doubt” and “Iniativeversus guilt”.
In “Autonomy versus shame and doubt,” the characteristics of a childwithin the first three years are discussed. This includes the child’sphysical growth and his or her escalating contact with his or herenvironment. They learn to control their everyday functions, such aswalking and holding onto things. Lenny pertains to this grouping because heis an adult yet he still needs to be taught certain things or is needed tobe reminded of things in order to develop adult skills. He is stilllearning the basics at his age.
Lenny can also be seen in the category in the group of Initiativeversus guilt. This category explains how the child, from ages three to six,is learning to take on small responsibilities and challenges. Also, at thisstage, the child may feel a sense of unworthiness, guilt, or resentment ifhe/she is does not learn the skills needed to be acquired at his age.
Lenny’s challenge was to keep a job without doing something wrong for once.
He also needed to learn how deal with the men working on the farm who didnot like him. He didn’t understand the adults and know how to relate tothem. Everyone else’s social skills were far beyond of those skills hepossessed. His mind was too rudimentary for the adults. Because of theinjustice some of men on the farm had hurt Lenny’s ego. As a result ofthis, Lenny becomes more frustrated and confused.
Today, if a retarded man committed a murder should he be charged as asane, full-functioning human being? If Erik Erickson were asked thisquestion most likely he would have said no depending on the mental age ofthe person being committed. According to Erickson Lenny’s mental age wouldhave been around five years old. The reason for this is that Ericksonbelieves that between ages three and six a person is learning to take onsmall responsibilities and challenges which Lenny surely experiences.
Since the story is focused on Lenny, he basically makes up the story.
Lenny gives the book a mood of sadness and a sense of realism becausepeople like Lenny exist today. They struggle in their everyday lives tryingto understand the world around them. They are blinded do to theirundeveloped mind and they die with the lack of knowledge about life or theexperience of life.