Of Mice and Men

Lennie Small Character Analysis

Lennie Small is the secondary protagonist in Of Mice and Men. He is a huge, lumbering man whose bearlike appearance masks a sweet, gentle disposition. Lennie has an unnamed mental disability—according to George, this is the result of an accident as a child, though this is likely untrue. His childlike disposition, fallible short-term memory, and fascination with stroking and petting soft things are markers of the ways in which his strong exterior conceals a side of Lennie that many people, were they to witness it, would see as weak and seek to exploit. George is intensely protective of Lennie, and though the other ranch hands perceive their traveling together as strange or even suspect, it becomes clear over the course of the novella that the two men are only able to survive in the harsh landscape of the Depression-gripped American West with one another’s help. Lennie is a hard worker capable of lifting incredible weights, but the side of him most often shown throughout the book is the side obsessed with raising soft rabbits, petting puppies, and fantasizing about a comfortable and idyllic future alone on a farm with George. Lennie clearly doesn’t grasp his own strength, a fact that is evidenced by his repeated killings of animals including mice and puppies. Later, this leads to him accidentally murdering Curley’s wife, which occurs when he shakes her too hard after she begins screaming as a result of Lennie grabbing her hair—something she invited him to do in an attempt to allow him to touch something soft. Lennie flees the ranch and hides in a meeting-spot he and George chose before arriving at the ranch, believing George will come save him so they can flee together. Instead, George distracts Lennie with a story about how they’ll soon get their farm before shooting him in the back of the head in order to save Lennie from the wrath of the other laborers, who are out for revenge. Gentle but fearfully strong, insecure but gregarious, and trusting to a dangerous degree, Lennie is a mess of contradictions whose arc ties in with the novella’s major themes of the strong and the weak, male friendship, and marginalization and scapegoating.

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 numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer 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: George Milton, Lennie Small
Page Number: 9
Explanation and Analysis:
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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:
Quotes explanation short mobile

“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.”

[…] Lennie broke in. “But not us! 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 (speaker)
Related Symbols: George and Lennie’s Farm
Page Number: 13-14
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

“Well,” said George, “we'll have a big vegetable patch and a rabbit hutch and chickens. And when it rains in the winter, we'll just say the hell with goin' to work, and we'll build up a fire in the stove and set around it an' listen to the rain comin' down on the roof.”

Related Characters: George Milton (speaker), Lennie Small
Related Symbols: George and Lennie’s Farm
Page Number: 14-15
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
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:
Quotes explanation short mobile
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:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Part 4 Quotes

“I seen it over an' over—a guy talkin' to another guy and it don't make no difference if he don't hear or understand. The thing is, they're talkin', or they're settin' still not talkin'. It don't make no difference, no difference...It's just the talking.”

Related Characters: Crooks (speaker), Lennie Small
Page Number: 71
Explanation and Analysis:
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“A guy needs somebody—to be near him.” He whined, “A guy goes nuts if he ain't got nobody.”

Related Characters: Crooks (speaker), Lennie Small
Page Number: 72
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

“A guy sets alone out here at night, maybe readin' books or thinkin' or stuff like that. Sometimes he gets thinkin', an' he got nothing to tell him what's so an' what ain't so. Maybe if he sees somethin', he don't know whether it's right or not. He can't turn to some other guy and ast him if he sees it too. He can't tell. He got nothing to measure by. I seen things out here. I wasn't drunk. I don't know if I was asleep. If some guy was with me, he could tell me I was asleep, an' then it would be all right. But I jus' don't know.”

Related Characters: Crooks (speaker), Lennie Small
Page Number: 73
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
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, Slim
Related Symbols: Lennie’s Puppy
Page Number: 86
Explanation and Analysis:
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He pawed up the hay until it partly covered her.

Related Characters: Lennie Small, Curley’s Wife
Page Number: 92
Explanation and Analysis:
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“I think I knowed from the very first. I think I knowed we'd never do her. He usta like to hear about it so much I got to thinking maybe we would.”

Related Characters: George Milton (speaker), Lennie Small
Page Number: 94
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Part 6 Quotes

A water snake glided smoothly up the pool, twisting its periscope head from side to side; and it swam the length of the pool and came to the legs of a motionless heron that stood in the shallows. A silent head and beak lanced down and plucked it out by the head, and the beak swallowed the little snake while its tail waved frantically.

Related Characters: Lennie Small
Page Number: 99
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

“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:
Quotes explanation short mobile

"Never you mind," said Slim. "A guy got to sometimes."

Related Characters: Slim (speaker), George Milton, Lennie Small, Slim
Related Symbols: Candy’s Dog
Page Number: 107
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
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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
...pool. The first man, George, is small, thin, and quick with “restless eyes.” His companion, Lennie, is a huge man who moves like a hulking bear. (full context)
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Lennie runs to the edge of the pool and begins drinking from the surface in huge... (full context)
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...heat after their bus driver let them off on the highway in the wrong place. Lennie shyly asks George where they’re going. George gruffly reminds him of the purpose of their... (full context)
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When Lennie keeps one of his hands in his pocket, George becomes suspicious and asks what Lennie’s... (full context)
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George tells Lennie that when they arrive at the ranch, Lennie is to keep his mouth shut when... (full context)
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Dusk begins to fall, and George announces to Lennie that the two of them will stay by the river for the night. Lennie asks... (full context)
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Lennie runs off into the brush and comes back with some firewood. George tells Lennie to... (full context)
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Lennie begins crying. George tells Lennie to stop “blubberin’ like a baby,” and agrees to let... (full context)
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George starts heating up their supper of beans. Lennie says again that he likes beans with ketchup, and George chides Lennie for always wanting... (full context)
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George begins remembering aloud the incident that got them both kicked out of Weed. Lennie wanted to feel the soft fabric of a girl’s dress—but when Lennie touched her hem,... (full context)
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Lennie quietly says that he was just “foolin’” about wanting ketchup, and insists that even if... (full context)
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Lennie asks George to tell him “about the rabbits.” George says he doesn’t want to, but... (full context)
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George continues spinning a story about how someday, he and Lennie will save up enough money to buy a little farm of livestock and rabbits. Lennie... (full context)
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As the men eat more beans, George quizzes Lennie by asking him what he’s going to say tomorrow when the boss of the ranch... (full context)
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George tells Lennie to remember the spot they’re at right now. He urges Lennie to come straight here... (full context)
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As the fire begins to die down, Lennie and George make small beds on the ground out of their bindles. As they drift... (full context)
Part 2
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Minorities, Marginalization, and Scapegoating Theme Icon
George and Lennie arrive at the ranch. An old man named Candy, who is missing a hand, shows... (full context)
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Candy tells George and Lennie again how angry the boss was that they didn’t arrive in time to start work... (full context)
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...is the boss. The boss steps into the room and demands to see George and Lennie’s work slips. He asks why the two of them weren’t at the ranch earlier. George... (full context)
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The boss asks why Lennie doesn’t speak for himself. George insists Lennie isn’t a “talker,” but is “strong as a... (full context)
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...to try to pull anything over on him—he says he’s got his eyes on both Lennie and George. He orders the men to start work after dinner with Slim’s team—Slim, the... (full context)
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After the boss leaves, George chastises Lennie for talking. Lennie apologizes, insisting he forgot to stay quiet. George orders Lennie to remain... (full context)
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Minorities, Marginalization, and Scapegoating Theme Icon
...the man as Curley, says the boss has gone to the cook house. Curley approaches Lennie and asks if he and George are the men the boss has been waiting on.... (full context)
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...will talk about how unfair the advantage was. George says that Curley had better watch himself—Lennie is big and strong, and “don’t know no rules.”  (full context)
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...to keep their conversation confidential, and George promises he will. After Candy leaves, George warns Lennie to be careful around Curley—if Curley and Lennie “tangle,” Lennie and George will both get... (full context)
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After she’s gone, George calls Curley’s wife a tramp, but Lennie insists she’s “purty.” George warns Lennie never to say anything like that again. Lennie begs... (full context)
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...card table from George, who is lazily playing solitaire. He asks George if he and Lennie are the new guys, and whether they travel around together. George says they do—he must... (full context)
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...with a big stomach comes into the bunk house. Slim introduces him to George and Lennie as Carlson. Carlson asks Slim whether his dog had her litter of puppies yet, and... (full context)
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Lennie excitedly asks George if he heard the men talking about the puppies, and if George... (full context)
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George and Lennie leave the bunk house as George confides in Lennie that he himself is worried about... (full context)
Part 3
Male Friendship Theme Icon
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...the rest of the laborers enjoy a horseshoe game outside. George thanks Slim for giving Lennie one of the new puppies, and says Lennie is probably so excited about his new... (full context)
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...to see two men traveling and working alongside each other like George and the “cuckoo” Lennie do. George remarks that he himself isn’t so bright, either, and that he and Lenny... (full context)
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...begins playing solitaire. He confesses to Slim that he doesn’t want to get rid of Lennie and go around alone like most ranch workers, even though Lennie is a “nuisance” who... (full context)
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Lennie comes into the bunk house, breathless with joy over his new puppy, and lies down... (full context)
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...the “big new guy” is “messin’ around” with the puppies. George tells Slim to kick Lennie out of the barn if he’s making trouble. (full context)
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...he might tag along, but is planning on saving his money so that he and Lennie can buy some land. (full context)
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Lennie and Carlson come into the bunk house together. Lennie gets into bed, and Carlson begins... (full context)
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George asks Lennie why he’s come back from the barn, and Lennie says Slim told him that petting... (full context)
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Lennie asks George how long it will be until they get their piece of land. George... (full context)
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Lennie continues focusing intensely on the fantasy of raising—and petting—as many rabbits as he wants. Both... (full context)
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George is skeptical of Candy’s offer, and says he’d always conceived of himself and Lennie working the farm on their own. Still, as he begins doing the math, he realizes... (full context)
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...being “yella.” As tensions between the three men escalate, George realizes with a horror that Lennie is smiling and laughing—still lost in thoughts of their little plot of land. Curley notices... (full context)
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George, angered by Curley’s attack on the vulnerable Lennie, urges Lennie to fight back. As Curley reaches a fist back and swings at Lennie,... (full context)
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Carlson takes Curley away to go to the doctor in town. George tells Lennie to wash his bloody face. Lennie asks George if he’s in trouble, and whether he’ll... (full context)
Part 4
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...Saturday night, Crooks sits on his bunk alone, rubbing liniment into his sore back, when Lennie appears in the open doorway and looks in on him. Though Lennie smiles amiably at... (full context)
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Lennie says he’s all alone and wants company—everyone else except for Candy has gone into town,... (full context)
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Crooks begins telling Lennie about his past, explaining that he grew up in California—his family was the only black... (full context)
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Crooks asks Lennie what he’d do if George never came back from town. Lennie insists George wouldn’t leave... (full context)
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Lennie calms down. Crooks urges Lennie to see things from his point of view—he is alone... (full context)
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Crooks continues reminiscing about his childhood, telling Lennie about how he and his two brothers used to all sleep in the same bed,... (full context)
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...ask if Slim has come into the barn. Candy answers, saying he’s come looking for Lennie. Crooks tells Candy that Lennie is with him. Candy comes to the doorway but makes... (full context)
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Candy tells Lennie that he’s been doing some figuring and has found a way for them to turn... (full context)
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Curley’s wife looks at Lennie’s battered face and asks where he got his bruises. Lennie, staring into his lap, replies,... (full context)
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...house before her husband catches her in the barn. Before leaving, Curley’s wife looks at Lennie and thanks him for “bust[ing] up Curley a little bit.” (full context)
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Crooks, clearly shaken by Curley’s wife’s words, tells Lennie and Candy that they should go. Candy tries to comfort Crooks, but Crooks plainly states... (full context)
Part 5
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The next afternoon, while the other men play horseshoes outside in the bright sun, Lennie is alone in the barn. He is staring at his puppy, which is dead on... (full context)
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Lennie feels badly and goes over to retrieve the puppy so he can hold it in... (full context)
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Curley’s wife asks Lennie what he’s holding. Lennie shows her the puppy, and she is surprised to see that... (full context)
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Lennie grows quiet and repeats that if George catches him talking to Curley’s wife, he’ll be... (full context)
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As the sounds of the horseshoe game echo in from outside, Lennie wonders aloud if he could avoid trouble with George by throwing the puppy away. If... (full context)
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As Curley’s wife begins screaming, Lennie panics. He puts his hands over her nose and mouth to stop her from screaming,... (full context)
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Candy comes into the barn looking for Lennie, excited to tell him more about some of the figuring he’s done about their piece... (full context)
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...and George stare in horror at Curley’s wife’s dead body. Both of them realize that Lennie is responsible for her death, though neither of them will say the truth aloud. Candy... (full context)
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Candy says he can’t believe Lennie would do something so violent. George insists Lennie didn’t do it out of meanness—out of... (full context)
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Slim asks George where Lennie might have gone—he seems sad at the prospect of hunting the man down and killing... (full context)
Part 6
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Lennie sits at the edge of the green pool on the Salinas River, drinking thirstily from... (full context)
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Aunt Clara reprimands Lennie for ignoring her advice, doing “bad things,” and pushing George away. Aunt Clara points out... (full context)
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Aunt Clara morphs into a giant rabbit. The rabbit tells Lennie he “ain’t fit to lick the boots of no rabbit,” and would only hurt or... (full context)
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George comes crashing through the brush to find a hysterical Lennie screaming and rocking back and forth. Lennie embraces George, and begs him on his knees... (full context)
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Lennie asks George if George is going to give him hell like he always does when... (full context)
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Lennie asks George to tell him again how the two of them are different from other... (full context)
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George begins telling Lennie about the “little place” they’ll soon have in a gentle voice. Behind Lennie’s back, George... (full context)
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George hears the men’s footsteps coming nearer. He assures Lennie that they are going to go to their little farm soon and will have “no... (full context)
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...hand, the one that pulled the trigger. The men crash through the brush. Curley sees Lennie dead on the ground and congratulates George on getting him. Slim sits down beside George... (full context)