Naturalism in Of Mice and Men

Essay by EssaySwap ContributorHigh School, 11th grade February 2008

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Naturalism is a literary style that displays action or thought that is derived exclusively from natural desires and instincts (The Reader's Digest Great Encyclopedic Dictionary, p. 901). John Steinbeck's novel Of Mice and Men contains several instances of this element. Some of these are found when Lennie breaks Curley's hand, when Lennie kills Curley's wife, and when George kills Lennie.

        When Lennie breaks Curley's hand, Lennie's honesty is contrasted with Curley's hotheadedness and arrogance. "Then Curley's rage exploded. . . . He crouched cowering against the wall. 'You tol' me to, George,' he said miserably,"(Steinbeck 68). This scene contributes to the novel the knowledge of the full extent of Lennie's honesty. The reader is shown that Lennie doesn't want to hurt Curley even when Curley is hurting him, and feels remorse when he is forced to go against his nature and inflict harm upon Curley.

        When Lennie kills Curley's wife, it becomes apparent that Lennie's honesty is too stubbornly childlike for the good of himself or anyone else.

"Lennie was in a panic. . . . And then he whispered in fright, 'I done a bad thing. I done another bad thing,'"(99). This scene makes the reader aware that Lennie is too honest to fit easily into society and not smart enough to understand how or why he must stifle his honesty. This helps the reader to understand Lennie's strength and the childlike openness that drives him. Being forced to stifle this honesty expedites his death.

        When George kills Lennie, the reader sees that George is every bit as honest as Lennie, but is smart enough to realize that such brutal honesty is impractical. He would rather deceive and kill his friend than watch him die at the hands of a stranger. "And George raised the gun and steadied it,