The puppy Lennie adopts on the ranch in Soledad represents the futility of the strong trying to care for the weak, and the inevitability of fate. The days-old puppy symbolizes the inescapability of doom and suffering—after narrowly surviving being drowned by Slim, it dies at Lennie’s hands after he accidentally smacks it too hard when it tries to playfully bite him, perhaps as it was even suckling Lennie’s fingers in search of milk. Lennie, a physically strong character, inadvertently kills the tiny, weak puppy while trying to care for it, leading it to the same fate it initially escaped. Similarly, the cunning George looks out for the Lennie, who is mentally disabled, yet must ultimately kill Lennie to protect him from a worse death at the hands of the vengeful ranch laborers. The puppy and its death represent the brutal fate that ultimately bely the weakest creatures, and the inescapability of this fate despite stronger people’s attempts to protect the weak. It is yet another one of the ways in which “the best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men” are shown to go hopelessly awry over the course of the novella.
The Of Mice and Men quotes below all refer to the symbol of Lennie’s Puppy. 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:).
The timeline below shows where the symbol Lennie’s Puppy appears in Of Mice and Men. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
...having seemingly absorbed nothing from Crooks’s story, asks how long it will be before the puppies are “old enough to pet.” Crooks marvels at Lennie’s inability to understand or remember anything... (full context)