Mistreatment…underpayment…harsh living conditions…all of these were prevalent during the Great Depression and Dust Bowl of the 1930s. With many economically challenged people, migrant workers, and people who are experiencing homelessness around the country. Citizens in America had little to no income, so numerous families started to work as migrant workers. Countless men and families who worked as migrant workers were categorized as weak or the lesser man. In the novel Of Mice and Men, John Steinbeck used characterization and symbolism to portray Lennie as a sympathetic character that was shown throughout the novel by informing his audience about the trials and tribulations of the migrant workers during the Great Depression.
Steinbeck uses characterization all throughout the book the illustrate how Lennie is a sympathetic character. Steinbeck used the unawareness and innocent of a young man living in a bias and prejudiced world for the readers to feel empathetic for Lennie. With the readers knowing that Lennie is disabled during the first few pages of the book makes the audience feel affectionate towards the character. Lennie portrayed that he has a mental disability through the acts of having child-like qualities; throughout the book repetition is made by the characters constantly stating that Lennie is mentally a slow thinker.Jus’ tell Lennie what to do an’ he’ll do it if it don’t take no figuring. He can’t think of nothing to do himself, but he sure can take orders. said Crooks on page 70. In the time period and setting of the novel Lennie clearly doesn’t fit in with his surroundings. Not every character understood Lennie as much as George and Slim Lennie or some characters didn’t care about Lennie enough to get to know him. After Lennie killed Curley’s wife and ran into the bushes near the riverbank; George and Slim were disappointed and sad about Lennie’s actions, yet George and Slim level-headed and understanding about the situation. Couldn’ we maybe bring him in an’ they’ll lock him up? He’s nuts, Slim. He never done it to be mean. said George page 97
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The author of the novel used symbolism to depict how Lennie was chosen to be the sympathetic character. Steinbeck used Lennie’s large physique as symbolism to portray Lennie’s innocents. Even though a large man like Lennie is expected to take care of himself; a young man with a smaller physique has been taking care of Lennie ever since Lennie’s Aunt Clara passed away. Lennie’s puppy is completely dependent on Lennie for survival which symbolizes: Lennie who experienced poverty, instant change, and mental illness is at the fate of the stronger man. Lennie is depending on his survival through George and the decisions George makes for Lennie ( his caretaker throughout the novel). Lennie stated this quote on page 85 You ain’t so little as mice. I didn’t bounce you hard. Steinbeck uses Lennie’s financial and physical disabilities to represent the weak during this time period. Many people pick on Lennie when they get the chance and take advantage of his disability. For fun and as a joke while being fully aware that what they were doing was wrong and disgraceful. Used to play jokes on im cause he was too dumb to take care of imself. said George. After he told Slim about why George takes care of Lennie and how George almost made Lennie drown as a joke.
The reason Steinbeck used Lennie as a sympathetic character because Lennie illustrates the lesser man and minorities during the time of the great depression. Through loneliness, mental illness, migrant worker, mispaid worker, etc. This resembles the even hardest workers and the kindest people are taken advantage by the system. Guys like us, that work on ranches, are the loneliest guys in the world. They ain’t got no family They don’t belong no place. George said. This is why Crooks and Lennie became friends in a short span of the book. They both are indifferent and are apart of the minorities in their time. Crooks not only being the only black man on the ranch and having a separate bunker than the rest of the migrant workers, but the is physically disabled. While Lennie is also disabled mentally and both Crooks and Lennie are treated worse than the additional employees. Crooks settled himself more comfortably on his bunk. Set down, [Crooks] he invited. on page 70.As Crooks and Lennie were talking in Crooks barn, in a short time span; Crooks grew more comfortable with Lennie.