Of Mice and Men

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Lennie Small Character Analysis

George's companion. Lennie is huge and immensely strong, but a mental disability makes him entirely dependent on George, especially after his Aunt Clara dies (before the novella begins). Lennie is the most innocent, gentle, and kind character in the novel, and his sole dream is to tend rabbits and live off the "fatta the lan'" on a farm that he and George will own. In the end, Lennie and his innocent dream fall prey to Curley's revenge and George's mercy, two powerful adult emotions beyond Lennie's control or comprehension.

Lennie Small Quotes in Of Mice and Men

The Of Mice and Men quotes below are all either spoken by Lennie Small or refer to Lennie Small. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Broken Plans Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Penguin Books edition of Of Mice and Men published in 1993.
Part 1 Quotes
Slowly, like a terrier who doesn't want to bring a ball to its master, Lennie approached, drew back, approached again.
Related Characters: Lennie Small
Page Number: 9
Explanation and Analysis:

After escaping from Weed, where Lennie was falsely accused of raping a girl, Lennie and George trudge to another ranch seeking work. George realizes that Lennie has been keeping a dead field mouse that he found in his pocket. When Lennie picked it up, it was alive, but his powerful grip killed it.

In this quote, Lennie reluctantly approaches George to give him the mouse, which George then throws away. Lennie's love for all things soft and his powerful strength are a dangerous combination that plague him throughout the story: In Weed, he is accused of raping a girl after holding onto her dress for too long; at the ranch, he kills a puppy, and ultimately, kills Curley's wife after holding on to her soft hair. This quote also reveals the dynamic of the relationship between George and Lennie, one that is not dissimilar to a dog and his owner. George takes care of Lennie and brings him from ranch to ranch for work, until Lennie misbehaves and they must run away. Though Lennie's antics frustrate George, they are loyal to one another, and stick together regardless of hardships. 

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Well, we ain't got any,' George exploded. 'Whatever we ain't got, that's what you want. God a'mighty, if I was alone I could live so easy. I could go get a job an' work, an' no trouble....An' whatta I got,' George went on furiously. 'I got you! You can't keep a job and you lose me ever' job I get. Jus' keep me shovin' all over the country all the time. An' that ain't the worst. You get in trouble. You do bad things and I got to get you out.
Related Characters: George Milton (speaker), Lennie Small
Page Number: 11
Explanation and Analysis:

While eating a dinner of canned beans, Lennie complains about the lack of ketchup to spice up the meal. In this quote, George complains about Lennie's attitude in retaliation. Though Lennie is large, strong, and a good worker, he is mentally disabled and often misbehaves, getting the two of them into trouble and often causing them to lose their jobs. However, though George here complains that he would be better off if he were not stuck with Lennie, the fact that he is still with Lennie after so many mishaps is a testament to his loyalty to his friend—and it also suggests that George is dependent on Lennie just as much as Lennie depends on George.

George is all talk, and for him, venting his frustration is Lennie's punishment for being ungrateful about the meal. George would never actually act on any of these claims. Though he acknowledges that Lennie does "bad things" that he must then bail him out of, the fact remains that he does, consistently, bail Lennie out, again and again. His irritation with Lennie is sincere, but his statements that he will abandon him never are. While the two men differ in many significant ways, they are bound by their unyielding loyalty towards one another. 

Guys like us, that work on ranches, are the loneliest guys in the world. They got no family. They don't belong no place....With us it ain't like that. We got a future.... An' why? Because...because I got you to look after me, and you got me to look after you, and that's why.
Related Characters: George Milton (speaker), Lennie Small
Page Number: 13
Explanation and Analysis:

After George finishes complaining about Lennie as a burden, Lennie offers to leave George and run away into the woods. George tells him to stop, and that he wants him to stay. In this quote, George repeats a refrain about his and Lennie's friendship that he often uses to calm Lennie down when they get into an altercation like this one.

Here, George explains that though ranching is a lonely line of work, he and Lennie are special because they have each other. Though they live a nomadic life, working from farm to farm like other ranchers, they look out for each other, and have a future planned together: they want to buy a ranch of their own some day. George sticks with Lennie because he knows Lennie would never make it alone in the world, and he reciprocates Lennie's undying loyalty towards him. Lennie trusts George without question, since George has been his only support system since his Aunt Clara passed away. Though other ranchers might be technically richer since they aren't constantly running away from their jobs, like George and Lennie have to do when Lennie gets in trouble, they are rich in something other ranchers don't have: a friendship that functions like a family. 

Part 2 Quotes
"Ain't many guys travel around together," he mused. "I don't know why. Maybe ever'body in the whole damn world is scared of each other."
Related Characters: Slim (speaker), George Milton, Lennie Small
Page Number: 35
Explanation and Analysis:

On the ranch, George and Lennie are introduced to Slim, a skinner whom everybody respects. In this quote, Slim, like many of the other ranchers, expresses his surprise that two men like Lennie and George travel around together. Ranchers in that region tended to be nomadic workers, moving from ranch to ranch whenever and wherever they could find work. It was seen as lonely, individual work, and men rarely traveled together. Therefore, a pair like Lennie and George was seldom seen at these ranches. Slim, as an experienced rancher, has seen many men come and go, and in this quote, he observes that these men are usually alone--perhaps, he reasons, "the whole damn world is scared of each other." The lonely life of a rancher perpetuates feelings of animosity against other ranchers who could be potential competition for jobs and can often inspire meanness, creating a circle of loneliness. What George and Lennie have, particularly in their line of work, is a rarity. 

Part 3 Quotes
"We could live offa the fatta the lan'."
Related Characters: Lennie Small (speaker)
Related Symbols: George and Lennie's Farm
Page Number: 57
Explanation and Analysis:

Lennie asks George to repeat the story of their dream to own a farm together, and in this quote, Lennie chimes in with one of his favorite lines: "We could live offa the fatta the lan'." Rather than working from ranch to ranch to harvest other people's crops, the two men dream of having their own plot of land from which to sustain themselves and to sell harvest from. They both relish the idea of staying in one place, and working hard for something that they own and is theirs to eat or sell, rather than to turn over for a meager day's pay for backbreaking labor. Lennie and George only have each other, and they cannot get enough of the idea that they could one day have a piece of land to call home. 

Part 5 Quotes
Why can't I talk to you? I never get to talk to nobody. I get awful lonely.
Related Characters: Curley's Wife (speaker), Lennie Small
Page Number: 86
Explanation and Analysis:

On a Sunday, Lennie sneaks into the barn to play with the puppies. One tries to bite him and, not knowing his strength as usual, he accidentally kills it. Curley's wife wanders into the barn, and seeing that Lennie is upset, tries to speak with him. Lennie remembers that George told him she was bad news, and tells her he can't speak to her. In this quote, Curley's wife complains that she feels lonely on the ranch. She is the only woman on a farm of many single men, and though she attempts to speak to the ranchers, her overt sexuality makes them uncomfortable--particularly due to the fact that Curley is the boss's son. This quote reveals that her flirtatious demeanor is only due to the fact that she is starved for affection, which she does not receive from Curley. She is drawn to Lennie because of his affability, and is surprised when he, too, shuns her like the other men. Tragically, it is this desperation for friendship that leads to her offering Lennie to touch her hair, and as a result, leads to her death. 

He pawed up the hay until it partly covered her.
Related Characters: Lennie Small, Curley's Wife
Page Number: 92
Explanation and Analysis:
Curley's wife offers Lennie to touch her hair to feel how soft it is. Enjoying the feeling, Lennie continues to pet her hair even when she yelps for him to stop. Concerned that George will be mad at him, Lennie tells Curley's wife to stop yelling, shaking her to try and make her stop. The shaking breaks her neck, and she dies instantly. In this quote, Lennie realizes that he has done a bad thing--like in Weed, but worse--and hastily attempts to cover up his crime. Due to his disability, Lennie does not understand that partially covering the body in hay not only does not conceal it at all, but actively shows that someone tried to cover it up and was present, revealing the death as a murder. This further shows how Lennie, though physically at fault for the murder, truly does not understand his own strength or the repercussions of his actions. As George repeats to the other men, nothing that Lennie does is ever out of "meanness"--only careless accidents that stem from his mental impairments. 
Part 6 Quotes
No, Lennie. I ain't mad. I never been mad, an' I ain't now. That's a thing I want ya to know.
Related Characters: George Milton (speaker), Lennie Small
Page Number: 106
Explanation and Analysis:

After killing Curley's wife, Lennie goes and hides out in the brush, just like George told him to if he ever got in trouble. George accompanies the murderous search party, but sneaks away to find Lennie in their chosen spot. Lennie tells George he knows he is probably angry over what he has done, and in this quote, George tells Lennie he is not mad at him--nor has he ever been mad at him. Though Lennie frequently misbehaves and gets both himself and George in trouble, and George acts as if he is very angry and on the verge of abandoning Lennie, George is never truly furious with his friend. He understands that Lennie has a disability and simply does not comprehend his own physical strengths, mental weaknesses, or the actions that result from the dangerous combinations of the two. It is in this heartbreaking final goodbye that George tells Lennie he has never been really mad at him. Rather, this statement implies that he has been truly grateful to have Lennie, who is faithful to a fault, by his side for so many years.

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Lennie Small Character Timeline in Of Mice and Men

The timeline below shows where the character Lennie Small appears in Of Mice and Men. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 1
Male Friendship Theme Icon
The Weak and the Strong Theme Icon
...riverbed of the Salinas River a few miles south of Soledad, California. George Milton and Lennie Small, two men dressed in denim, are walking along a path on the riverbed. George,... (full context)
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The men stop. Lennie drinks huge gulps from a pool of standing water next to the river. George warns... (full context)
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...George complains about the bus driver who dropped them off too far from the ranch, Lennie asks where they're going. George reminds Lennie about their plans, but stops when he notices... (full context)
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George throws the mouse away, and tells Lennie they're going to a ranch like the one they just left in Weed. George also... (full context)
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Lennie remembers that they were "run out" of Weed, but George says they ran away before... (full context)
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George decides they should spend the night where they are. Lennie goes off to find firewood. While he's gone George thinks of him as a "poor... (full context)
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The men have a dinner of canned beans. When Lennie complains about the lack of ketchup, George again says how much easier his life would... (full context)
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The Weak and the Strong Theme Icon
Lennie offers to leave George alone and go live in a cave. Lennie imagines that he... (full context)
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George says he wants Lennie to stay with him. He comments that ranch workers are always lonely, but he and... (full context)
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The American Dream Theme Icon
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At Lennie's urging, George describes their future. They'll save money until they can buy their own farm.... (full context)
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As they go to sleep, George asks Lennie to take a close look at their surroundings. He tells Lennie that if he gets... (full context)
Part 2
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George and Lennie arrive at the ranch the next morning. At the bunkhouse, an old man with no... (full context)
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...bus driver for their lateness. When the boss asks about their skills, George speaks for Lennie. The boss gets suspicious when Lennie repeats something George says. (full context)
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...seen a man go out of his way for another man like George does for Lennie, and suspects that George might be taking advantage of Lennie. George lies, and says that... (full context)
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After the boss leaves, Lennie asks George if what he said was true. George says they were just lies, and... (full context)
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...son, enters, looking for his father. Curley, who wears fancy boots, quickly starts picking on Lennie, who refuses to speak. After Curley leaves, Candy says Curley is a lightweight boxer and... (full context)
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When Candy leaves, George tells Lennie to stay away from Curley. Fighting with Curley, he warns, will get them fired. Lennie... (full context)
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The American Dream Theme Icon
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Slim tells her that Curley is back at the main house. When she's gone, Lennie calls her "purty." George warns him to stay away from her. Lennie, frightened, begs to... (full context)
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...is a leader and authority among the other ranch hands. After talking to George and Lennie and seeing their friendship, Slim is impressed. He says it's rare to see two men... (full context)
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Carlson, another ranch hand, introduces himself to George and Lennie, then asks Slim about his dog. Slim says she gave birth to nine puppies, but... (full context)
Part 3
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Slim agrees to give Lennie a puppy. When George thanks him, Slim says Lennie is the best worker he's ever... (full context)
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George explains that he grew up with Lennie and took care of him after his Aunt Clara died. George admits that at first... (full context)
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George also tells Slim what happened in Weed. Lennie touched a woman's dress. She objected. He panicked and wouldn't let go. The woman claimed... (full context)
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Lennie enters with his puppy under his coat. George orders him to return the puppy to... (full context)
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...to come to a brothel with him the next night. George declines, saying he and Lennie are trying to save money. (full context)
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Lennie and Carlson enter the bunkhouse. Curley enters soon after, again looking for his wife. He... (full context)
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George and Lennie stay behind, and soon begin talking about their farm. Having overheard George's description of the... (full context)
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As the other men return, George warns Lennie and Candy to keep the farm a secret. Candy whispers back that he should have... (full context)
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...for suspecting him, and all the men mock Curley for being so insecure. Curley thinks Lennie is also laughing at him, though Lennie was just smiling while thinking of tending rabbits... (full context)
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Curley wants to fire George and Lennie, but Slim tells him if he does no one on the ranch will respect him.... (full context)
Part 4
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Crooks, whose nickname stems from his crooked back, sits on his bunk in the stable. Lennie stops by Crooks' room, but Crooks demands he leave. Crooks shouts that if he's not... (full context)
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The American Dream Theme Icon
As they talk, Lennie forgets the farm is a secret and mentions it. Crooks thinks this just one of... (full context)
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Suddenly angry and bitter, Crooks tells Lennie that George might not return to the ranch. In terrible fear, Lennie nearly attacks Crooks. (full context)
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Crooks says he was just trying to make Lennie understand what it's like to be black and, therefore, alone. "A guy needs somebody," Crooks... (full context)
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The American Dream Theme Icon
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...says he hears the men returning. Curley's wife leaves. On the way out, she thanks Lennie for beating up her husband. (full context)
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The Weak and the Strong Theme Icon
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The other men return. When George discovers Lennie was talking about the farm, he gets angry. But Crooks says Curley's wife was right,... (full context)
Part 5
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The American Dream Theme Icon
The Weak and the Strong Theme Icon
On Sunday, Lennie sits in the barn stroking his puppy, which is dead. He fears this means he... (full context)
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The American Dream Theme Icon
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Curley's wife enters. Lennie tells her he's not allowed to talk to her, but she says no one will... (full context)
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Lennie starts talking about the farm and rabbits, and explains that he likes to pet soft... (full context)
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Aware that he's done "another bad thing," Lennie sneaks out of the bunkhouse. (full context)
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...He runs and gets George, and the two of them realize that Curley will lynch Lennie. Candy then asks if the plan to buy the farm is now officially off. George... (full context)
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Slim, Whit, Carlson, Curley, Crooks, and George enter the barn. Curley demands that Lennie be killed. Carlson says his gun is missing and guesses Lennie stole it. Slim tells... (full context)
Part 6
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Hiding in the brush by the river, Lennie has a vision of his Aunt Clara, who tells him George would have had a... (full context)
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George shows up. He is quiet and not angry. Lennie begs George to yell at him. George does, but he shows no real anger. Lennie... (full context)
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Lennie then asks George to describe their farm. George does, and tells Lennie to take off... (full context)
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The other men hear the gun shot. George tells Carlson that Lennie had his gun and that he shot him after wrestling it away from him. Slim... (full context)