Why Did Lennie Kill Curley’s Wife? In John Steinbeck’s 1937 novel, Of Mice and Men, the character of Lennie Small is a mentally-challenged migrant worker who finds himself in a number of difficult situations. One such situation occurs when he accidentally kills Curley’s wife. But why did Lennie kill her? Was it an accident? Or was there something more to it? Let’s take a closer look.
One of the most controversial questions surrounding John Steinbeck’s novel Of Mice and Men is why did Lennie kill Curley’s wife? There are a number of different interpretations, but ultimately it comes down to three things: self-defense, the desire to protect George, or simply because he didn’t know his own strength. Let’s take a closer look at each of these three possibilities.
There are a number of possible explanations for why Lennie killed Curley’s wife. One possibility is that he was simply trying to protect himself. When she came into the barn, she was brandishing a deadly weapon—a broken bottle—and she was clearly intent on doing him harm. In self-defense, Lennie may have acted instinctively and grabbed her neck to protect himself, not realizing his own strength.
One interpretation is that Lennie was simply acting in self-defense. Curley’s wife had been coming on to him for days, despite his repeated attempts to rebuff her advances. She was even brazen enough to enter the bunkhouse uninvited while the men were taking a break. In her final encounter with Lennie, she cornered him and began touching his face. For a man with such a low IQ, this must have been incredibly confusing and scary. So when she wouldn’t stop touching him, he reacted the only way he knew how—by hitting her in self-defense.
The Desire to Protect George
Another possibility is that Lennie wanted to protect George. Throughout the novel, George has been Lennie’s only friend and protector; without George, Lennie would be lost. When Curley’s wife threatened George’s safety, Lennie may have felt he had no choice but to act.
Throughout the novel, George has been forced to protect Lennie from himself time and time again. He’s even killed a mouse that Lennie was petting because he knew that if word got out that Lennie was capable of killing animals, they would be forced to leave the ranch where they’re currently working. So when Curley’s wife came into the bunkhouse and began flirting with Lennie, George may have seen it as an opportunity to finally be rid of his burden. If Lennie killed her, they would be forced to flee, but at least they would be together.
Lack of Understanding His Own Strength
A third possibility is that Lennie simply didn’t understand his own strength. This is something that has gotten him into trouble time and time again throughout the novel. He doesn’t mean any harm when he does things like kill animals or break things, but he doesn’t realize his own strength and ends up causing damage nonetheless. This could very well be what happened with Curley’s wife. He didn’t mean to kill her, but in his confusion and fear, he lashed out without realizing his own strength—with tragic consequences.
Wasn’t Thinking Straight
A fourth possibility is that Lennie simply wasn’t thinking straight. He may have been confused about what was happening and acted without thinking through the consequences of his actions. This explanation is supported by the fact that, after killing her, Lennie seems genuinely surprised and upset by what he has done.
Lennie’s Mental State
First and foremost, it’s important to understand that Lennie is not in full control of his mental faculties. He is often confused and does not always understand the consequences of his actions. This is evident early on in the novella when he accidentally kills one of George’s mice. When George scolds him, Lennie doesn’t fully grasp why he did something wrong. He simply knows that he needs to be careful in the future so that he doesn’t make George mad.
The same can be said for his interactions with Curley’s wife. Throughout the novella, Curley’s wife flirts with Lennie even though she is married. This confuses Lennie because he doesn’t understand why she would do this if she already has a husband. When she finally comes out and tells him that she wants to have sex, Lennie still doesn’t fully understand what she wants from him. In his mind, all he knows is that George has told him to stay away from her, so he tries to push her away. Unfortunately, in his confusion and panic, he ends up breaking her neck and killing her.
Lennie’s childlike innocence can be both a strength and a weakness. On one hand, it allows him to see the world in a more positive light. On the other hand, it prevents him from fully understanding complicated social interactions like the one between himself and Curley’s wife.
Lennie’s Relationship With George
Another factor that may have played into Lennie’s actions is his relationship with George. Throughout the novella, we see that George serves as a father figure to Lennie. He looks out for him and protects him from harm whenever possible. For example, when they first arrive at the ranch where they’ll be working, George tells Lennie to stay hidden in the bushes until he can scope out the situation and make sure it’s safe.
George also frequently tells Lennie what he should and shouldn’t do. In many ways, George is like a parent telling their child not to touch something hot because it will burn them. Unfortunately, because of Lennie’s childlike innocence, he doesn’t always understand or remember these warnings. This ultimately leads to tragic consequences when he kills Curley’s wife despite George telling him multiple times to stay away from her.
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There are a number of different interpretations of why Lennie killed Curley’s wife in Of Mice and Men. The most likely explanation is that he was either acting in self-defense or trying to protect George, but it’s also possible that he simply didn’t realize his own strength. What do you think? Let us know in the comments below!
There is no one correct answer to the question of why Lennie killed Curley’s wife in Of Mice and Men. However, the most likely explanation is that he did it in self-defense or to protect George. What do you think?
While some readers may see Lennie as nothing more than a brute, there is actually some motivation behind his actions in “Of Mice and Men.” Firstly, it’s important to understand that Lennie is not in full control of his mental faculties which leads him to act impulsively without understanding the consequences of his actions. Secondly, his relationship with George serves as a key motivation for why he killed Curley’s wife; because George told him multiple times not to interact with her, Lennie may have felt like he was doing something wrong by even speaking to her which ultimately led to tragic consequences when they struggled over whether or not she would tell anyone about their conversation.. Understanding these motivations helps us to see Lennie not as a villain but as a victim of circumstance who acted out of confusion and fear rather than malice or intent.