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Matthew Blakley’s Formal Post on John Steinback’s Of Mice and Men

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“Lennie turned his head and looked off across the pool and up the darkening slopes of the Gabilans. “We gonna get a little place,” George began. He reached in his side pocket and brought out Carlson’s Luger; he snapped off the safety, and the hand and gun lay on the ground behind Lennie’s back. He looked at the back of Lennie’s head, at the place where the spine and skull were joined” (100).

Preceding Lennie’s murder, George—while holding Carlson’s Luger—is successful in distracting Lennie with their “fatta the lan’” fantasy. Personally, ambiguity arose throughout the text regarding this plan, because the reader is lead to believe that it is both Lennie and George’s fantasy to have their own land (or life, really). But when such fantasy is used to mesmerize and ultimately become a distraction from Lennie’s death, it is clear that while the success story would create a better life for these nomads, George has really been using it as a mechanism to manipulate and/or alter Lennie’s actions. We see this control from the very beginning of the text when Lennie asks George, “how I get to tend the rabbits,” or, always stricken with anxiety, he repeatedly says things like, “[George] said if I done any more bad things he ain’t gunna let me tend no rabbits now” (16, 83).

It is obvious that though George may care for Lennie, an unhealthy codependent relationship has emerged because Lennie sees George as a God-like figure that controls his fate, and George sees Lennie as a child-like or disabled figure in need of a positive reinforcement system. Lennie’s mental disability is often denounced as him being “jus’ like a big baby,” or like a child (86). However, although their co-dependence is inherently disadvantaging both characters, the relationship is very altruistic. Lennie needs George to create a fantasy that euphemistically sustains his life and George needs Lennie to use as a bargaining tool for employment eligibility. And thus, if you apply this altruistic lens to the text’s ending, both characters get exactly what they want—because of Lennie, George has somewhat steady employment, and because of George, Lennie dies living in his unrealistic fantasy.

With this said, in the end, I offer that Lennie actually kills himself. Though it be unfair seeing as George pulled the trigger, it is Lennie’s lack of self-agency and “dutiful” obedience to George that ultimately murders him. I am tempted to say that Lennie’s mental disability is what kills him, but it would be generalizing, or stereotyping, people with mental disabilities as acting childlike or codependent. Here, I’m aligning these characteristics purely to Lennie’s personality, not his disability. This theme of absent self-agency is actually seen in this text before, with Curley’s wife’s death. Although Curley’s wife’s agency is essentially taken against her will, finally, her death lies in a crossfire between isolation and the fantasy that she “coulda been in the movies . . .” (84).

Written by Matthew

October 6th, 2010 at 4:59 pm

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