With reference to how Steinbeck presents Lennie show how far you agree that Lennie is to blame for what happens to him.

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With reference to how Steinbeck presents Lennie show how far you agree that Lennie is to blame for what happens to him.

Lennie is undoubtedly one of the most tragic characters in Steinbeck’s novella, Of Mice and Men. When considering if he is to blame for his ultimate demise, we must consider that he is little more than a child mentally. Just like the other ranch workers, he is arguably destroyed not through his own actions but because of the harsh conditions of the society he lived in. Therefore, it is unfitting to declare that he is directly to blame for what happens. In examining this claim, a good place to start would be Steinbeck’s use of setting.

The fact that Lennie even enters Crooks’ room gives us a glimpse of his character. Crooks’ room is described as, “a little shed that leaned off the side of the barn.” There is an invisible barrier that prevents Crooks from joining with the others – instead he is left by himself, separated from the camaraderie of the ranch simply because he is black. Lennie cannot perceive these racial tensions that were so prevalent at the time. He is totally ignorant of reality, so therefore we cannot say what happened was his fault. Even though he does many things that would be considered wrong in that society, he never deliberately sets out to harm anyone.

Elsewhere in the novel Steinbeck uses more settings to present Lennie. At the opening of the novel we are told that there were, “Willows fresh and green…carrying in their lower leaf junctures the debris of the winter’s flooding.” This could symbolise George and Lennie: they keep trying to make a fresh start, but they will always be burdened by the debris of the past. Lennie earnestly tries his best not to cause trouble for George, he simply cannot help it. We can’t say that he is to blame, as he is simply an innocent victim of his past when he was falsely accused in Weed. Another key description of setting that links to Lennie can be found near the culmination of the novel, where it states, “When a little bird ran across the dry leaves behind him, he lifted his head.” Through this Steinbeck presents Lennie as someone who is so sensitive that even a small bird can frighten him. This proves that he couldn’t possibly have killed Curley’s Wife in cold blood, it was an accident. Therefore he is not to blame.

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Furthermore, another way we can examine Lennie is through Steinbeck’s use of action. We are told that when Crooks begins to taunt Lennie about George not coming back, his reaction was, “Lennie reassured himself in a frightened voice.” Here he is likened to a vulnerable child who has lost a parent, emphasising his juvenile mentality. The fact that he talks to himself suggests an element of mental instability, which is backed up elsewhere in the novel where, “from out of Lennie’s head there came a little fat old woman.” He hallucinates, a classic symptom of mental illness. We could not ...

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