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How Appearance Betrays: an Analysis of Natural Criticism in Of Mice and Men

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Due to human nature, the characters in Of Mice and Men have always been fast to judge people based on their physical appearance. The author, John Steinbeck demonstrates how stereotypes are not true and eliminates the social prejudice of judging individuals based on their appearance in this novella. Firstly, the character Lennie is one of the most deceptive characters. Lennie’s big, tall built has always made others perceive him as a tough and an intellectually strong person. When George was telling Lennie to be cautious of Curley, “Lennie’s eyes were frightened. ‘I don’t want no trouble,’ he said plaintively. ‘Don’t let him sock me, George’” (Steinbeck 29). Lennie’s response indicates that his character is opposite of his appearance. While he appears to be intimidating, the quote suggests he is really a childlike and innocent person who people treat differently because of his physical features.

Another important character is Curley’s wife, who is the only female on the whole farm. Because she is the only female, othermen on the ranch are quick to assume that she is a flirt and is always giving them ‘the eye’. When Lennie approaches her she says, “‘I get lonely,’. . . . ‘How’d you like not to talk to anybody?’” (Steinbeck 87). Through this conversation, the readers learn that in reality Curley’s wife is someone who doesn’t love her husband and just wants someone to converse with. Lastly, Crooks, the stable buck is shown as an arrogant black man. However, when the other characters get to know him, they recognize that he is actually a kind man. When Lennie enters Crooks room, he was hesitant to open up to Lennie but when he did, he expressed his isolation and how he truly feels. He tells Lennie how “If I (Crooks) say something, why it’s just a nigger sayin’ it” (Steinbeck 70).

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Crooks was a black man in a time period when there was a lot of discrimination and as a result, people judged him by the color of his skin. The quote indicates that under all his tough skin, Crooks is hurt by the fact that people just see the color of his skin instead of who he is as a person. Through Crooks’s character, Steinbeck portrayed that people should never be judged based on the colour of their skin and every human being has a dream. The different forms of appearance versus reality that Steinbeck uses helps realize that the characters’ natures are like real people, quick to judge and this perception creates many conflicts in people’s everyday lives.


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