Innocent till Proven Guilty

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Editorial and Opinion  |  House: Booksie Classic

Class essay concerning John Steinbeck's classic Of Mice and Men

 

The sun filtered through the roof of the barn, accentuating the dust that dances through the air over the horrific scene, Lennie hovers over the puppy who lays dead on the hay tossed floor. In John Steinbeck’s novella, Of Mice and Men,  Lennie,  In this particular instance, Lennie has just killed yet another small animal and grieves over its lifeless body Yet Steinbeck Directs readers not to the puppy but too Lennie’s inner workings as a character. Through passive language and precise word choice Steinbeck cues readers into examining not only Lennie’s true feelings but Lennie’s overall statement as a character in this tragic novella.

As the scene opens Steinbeck presents an atmosphere of serenity to counter the scenes true tone. Steinbeck begins to by describing Lennie, who calmly pets the puppy in a sympathetic manner. As Lennie weeps he asks “Why do you [puppy] got to [go and] get killed,” changing the feeling. In this display Steinbeck demonstrates a “humane” response which readers will be able to connect with, however he then plays up the character by devising passive voice. Lennie should be asking why did he kill the puppy, since it was threw Lennie’s rough-handling that caused the death of the puppy, yeat Lennie phrases that it becomes the puppy’s issue since it died. With this Steinbeck displays that Lennie is an immoral character for he is not accepting the blame but rather pushing it off as the fault of another. Steinbeck characterizes Lennie as not only ignorant of his wrongdoing but is innocent of all blame. In Lennie’s innocence he does not comprehend that this murder is wrong and would have shrugged it off, but he is disheartened by it due to the taught behaviour that is reinforced by George, and not because Lennie knows that it is wrong.

George is the sole caretaker of Lennie, he provides for both men, he finds work so that they both can achieve their dream of owning their own ranch. Just as any parent would, George teaches Lennie morality and punishes bum for his misdemeanors. Moreover, as any child would do, Lennie does not understand the gravity of his crime but understands that he will get punished, giving him a pseudo-conscience. Before anything else, Lennie thinks of George and wonders if “maybe George [is not]...[going to] let [Lennie] tend [any] rabbits,” since this is often George’s first threat.  Through this single line, Steinbeck sums up Lennie as an immoral character who only understands this world through George, and thus will commit crimes free of malice simply by virtue of Lennie’s childlike manner. Lennie even goes as far as too think George will not punish him so long as Lennie lies. This is another example of how Steinbeck pins Lennie as an innocent character.

“He rocked back and forth in his sorrow,” as Lennie begins to realize that he will not be able to tend the rabbits. Without provocation he begins to become angry at the puppy. It, in the mind of Lennie the source of the problem rather than the fact that he murdered the puppy. This anger at the puppy of course is not logical, but Steinbeck is demonstrating that Lennie is feeling this sorrow-fueled anger because his perspective is that the “god-damn little son of of a bitch” dog died because of its decision and Lennie feels he will be unjustly punished since he excuses himself of all blame. This is not only foreshadowing but characterizes Lennie as being akin to a child thus providing readers explanation for how to feel about the murders he commits.

Lennie feels sorrow initially upon examination that his puppy is dead, this quickly feeds into Lennie fearing the punishment George will provide finally ebbing into anger as he feels he will not get what he wants due to the mistakes of others in the end Steinbeck provides that while Lennie is sad it is not because he took a life but rather because Lennie feels he should be punished due to the teaching George exacted. Yet as with all taught behaviors it does not solve the problem before hand.


Submitted: July 21, 2015

© Copyright 2022 Nayako Kuramoto. All rights reserved.

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