When people think of a someone with a disability, what do they often picture? Many often imagine people who have disabilities as having a physically different appearance or something that sets them apart. They think of someone who cannot speak, hear, see or walk. In some cases, though, people that have disabilities are not very different than those without any handicap. They often have a slight impairment that causes them to function a little bit different than everyone else and this sets them apart.
In the book Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck, two migrant workers seek a job during the Great Depression. George Milton and Lennie Small find work on a farm and Lennie, being disabled, needs constant care from George as he cannot completely care for himself. In most cases, men with disabilities are looked at differently. Lennie is judged much differently than the other men due to his disability. Men who have some form of handicap are often criticized and treated a lot differently than men without any impairment. Men with disabilities are treated and judged differently than men without any disability.
Many scenes are cleverly placed throughout the book Of Mice and Men that strengthen the notion that men with disabilities are treated and judged differently than men without any handicap. One of the first displays was when George and Lennie were forced to leave Weed. Lennie’s disability prevents him from thinking rationally and making decisions based on the potential consequences of his actions. The very first scene when Lennie’s experience in Weed is explained is in chapter one. George is conveying his anger and regret due to Lennie’s presence. He is listing all of the possibilities and opportunities he would have ccess to if it were not for Lennie. George is forced to constantly be Lennie’s caretaker and Lennie seems to ruin everything for the two because of his disability. “Jus’ wanted to feel that girl’s dress– Well, how the hell did she know you jus’ wanted to feel her dress” (Steinbeck 11)? Lennie was not thinking properly when he grabbed the woman’s dress. He only felt it because it looked soft, just like a mouse. They were forced to leave Weed and hide in an irrigation ditch to avoid being caught. Lennie’ decision and lack of knowledge cost them both a job and put them in danger.
Lennie did not mean to harm anything, but his impulses took over and he did not think of the consequences. In a quote from the article “Multiple Forms of Prejudice: How Gender and Disability Stereotypes Influence Judgments of Disabled Women and Men”, Jill Coleman explains how people with disabilities often cannot control their actions, yet they do not mean much harm by them. “Specifically, individuals with intellectual disability are viewed as either wholly innocent and naive about sexuality or as oversexed with an inability to control their sexual impulses… Lennie has trouble controlling his actions because his impulses are too strong, even though he means them to be harmless. He is very naive and he doesn’t understand that there are consequences to his actions. Steinbeck portrays how Lennie was judged and seen differently due to his disability and how other men without any handicap are not judged in the same way. The event in Weed was brought up again in a later part of the book when George is explaining what happened in Weed to Slim. George was explaining why he and Lennie travel together and how Lennie constantly needs supervision.
He explains to Slim how Lennie cost them their job in Weed: “Well, he seen this girl in a red dress… he wants to touch ever’thing he likes. Just wants to feel it. So he reaches out to feel this red dress an’ the girl lets out a squawk, and that gets Lennie all mixed up, and he holds on ’cause that’s the only thing he can think to do. ” (Steinbeck 41) Lennie doesn’t understand why he was not supposed to feel the dress or why the girl was frightened. Steinbeck again reinforces the fact that men with disabilities are treated and seen differently than men without any handicap. Lennie’s submissiveness to George is displayed throughout the book.
He is forced to obey George and do what he says as his disability prevents him from functioning properly and making the right decisions. When George and Lennie were about to go see their new boss at the ranch, George was worried that Lennie would ruin their opportunity at a new job by saying something wrong. If the new boss found out how unintelligent and incompetent Lennie is without seeing how hard of a worker he is, the two of them might not get the job. “We’re gonna go in an’ see the new boss. Now look– I’ll give him the work tickets, but you ain’t gonna say a word. You jus’ stand there and don’t say nothing.
If he finds out what a crazy bastard you are, we won’t get no job, but if he sees ya work before he hears ya talk, we’re set” (Steinbeck 6). George doesn’t have much faith that Lennie can talk and fend for himself, so he wants to do the talking for him. Jill Coleman explains to her audience that those with disabilities are stereotyped and people automatically assume that those people cannot be independent and do things for themselves. “People with a disability (PWD) are often stereotyped as possessing a lack of strength, a lack of endurance, weakness, and dependence (Louvet 2007). George assumes that Lennie will cause trouble and that he doesn’t understand how to act properly just because he has a disability. Lennie’s disability causes others to judge him differently and he isn’t held accountable for important things. He is almost treated as though he is a child. Therefore, due to Lennie’s disability, he is treated and judged differently than men without any handicap. The new boss became angry with Lennie and George because Lennie would not talk. George was answering all of the questions, even when they were directed toward Lennie.
After a few moments of their discussion, the boss finally got angry enough to tell George to let Lennie answer for himself. “The boss turned on George. ‘Then why don’t you let him answer? What you trying to put over? ” (Steinbeck 22) The boss was judging the two and he thought George was manipulating Lennie and stealing his pay. They almost lost the job and George had to explain that Lennie was just very unintelligent, but that he is one of the best workers there is. Lennie’s disability and George’s lack of trust for Lennie became evident to the boss and it almost cost them the job.
Steinbeck illustrates once again how men with disabilities are seen and treated differently than men without any form of disability. When Lennie and George were first introduced to Curley, the boss’s son, another confrontation came about as a result of Lennie’s submissiveness due to his disability. Curley came into the house where all the farm hands stayed looking for his father and he asked Lennie and George if they were the new guys. The question was more directed towards Lennie, but when George answered, Curley became furious and told George to let Lennie talk for himself. By Christ, he’s gotta talk when spoke to. What the hell are you gettin’ into it for” (Steinbeck 25)? Curley, much like his dad, became angry when George wouldn’t let Lennie talk for himself. George didn’t want Lennie saying something he shouldn’t or getting into any fights, so he told Lennie not to talk, but it almost caused a fight anyways. Lennie, again, was treated and judged different because he has a disability. Steinbeck repeatedly illustrates how men with handicaps and disabilities are viewed and treated differently than those without any handicap.
Many people with a disability are categorized as “others” and they naturally become segregated from all of the rest. They are excluded from many of the common activities and all of the other men get to partake in. Both Lennie and Crooks, who is black and has an injured back, were left behind on the ranch while all of the other abled men went into town to the whore house. Crooks is not welcomed or accepted anywhere due to the fact that he is black and crippled, which forces him to stay in the barn. George did not want Lennie getting into any trouble, so he forced him to stay behind. “”Ever’body went into town,’ he said. Slim an’ George an’ ever’body. George says I gotta stay here an’ not get in no trouble” (Steinbeck 68). George thinks that Lennie will cause trouble if he goes into town and because he is disabled, he is left behind with Crooks. He is placed in the group of “others” and he isn’t capable of going anywhere without causing trouble, according to George.
“If individuals rely on stereotypes to judge a particular group or are prejudiced against a particular group, then it stands to reason that those individuals would be uncomfortable having close social relationships with members of that group… None of the other men wanted to participate in activities with Lennie because he is different, so they excluded him. People often feel uncomfortable around people with disabilities and they don’t want a close relationship with a disabled person, just like this scene in the book shows, Steinbeck reinforces the notion that men with disabilities are treated and judged differently than men with no handicap. Lennie was excluded numerous times throughout the book due to his disability. When all of the men were out playing horseshoes, Lennie was not.
All of the other men were enjoying time together and relaxing a little, meanwhile Lennie was in the barn by himself. Lennie had killed his puppy, so he was sitting with it, frustrated because it was so fragile and easy to kill. Instead of being included to do the normal activities like all of the other men, he was “othered” and sent away to be by himself. “From outside came the clang of horseshoes on the playing peg and the shouts of men, playing, encouraging, jeering. But in the barn it was quiet and humming and lazy and warm. Only Lennie was in the barn… (Steinbeck 84).
The other men did not want Lennie, so they left him to be alone and they did not bother inviting him. Steinbeck repeatedly portrays how Lennie is left out to make sure the audience knows that he is different and unwanted. This scene further strengthens the belief that men with disabilities are looked at and judged much differently than men without any impairment. In many cases, people with disabilities are judged differently, partially due to the fact that they can often be aggressive and unaware of their actions.
Lennie sometimes became angry and took out his anger on somebody or something, but he was completely unaware of the significance of his actions. In the last part of the book when Lennie was alone in the barn and Curley’s wife came in, his aggressive actions were displayed once again. Curley’s wife walked in on Lennie and all she wanted was somebody to talk to, but Lennie knew that George told him to stay away. At first, he tried not to talk to her, but she convinced him that it wasn’t going to harm anything.
He explained to her how he enjoyed petting nice things, so she convinced him to pet her hair. He liked the feeling and continued petting her hair, but his strokes became harder and harder. She did not like how he was petting her hair, so she asked him to stop and when he didn’t, she pulled away. He then grabbed her hair and she began to scream. In fear of getting in trouble by George, Lennie grabbed her and covered her mouth, but she continued screaming. He jerked her around rather harshly and her screeching came to a halt: Lennie was in a panic. His face contorted.
She screamed then, and Lennie’s other hand closed over her mouth and nose. “Please don’t,” he begged. “Oh! Please don’t do that. George’ll be mad. ” (Steinbeck 91) Lennie’s anger grew then and he knew George wouldn’t let him tend the rabbits, something he dreamed of doing, so “He shook her then, and he was angry with her. ‘Don’t you go yellin’,’ he said, and he shook her; and her body flopped like a fish. And then she was still, for Lennie had broken her neck” (Steinbeck 91). Lennie meant no harm in what he was doing and he really did not mean to break her