3 May 2021
ENGL: Disabilities and Literature
Of Mice and Men is one of the books in this semester that the main character is somehow mentally disabled, but due to the year, the book came out his disability was not labeled as autism. Lennie was rather seen as a character with multiple mental irregularities in how he acted versus the rest of the characters. Multiple traits could be from autism or another mental disability, but due to many of the traits Lennie had, it seems more likely that he has autism. These traits ranged from things like how he would stim, would hyper-focus on some details and ignore others, and asking things just to hear the answer he already knows. Due to the qualities that Lennie has in this book, it seems that he has autism, and the time the book was published is the reason he did not have an absolute diagnosis.
One of the traits that Lennie does the most as a way of comforting himself is asking George to tell him about the rabbits and the farm. This is an autistic trait of hyper-focusing on one thing and ignoring everything else. Lennie is so fixated on this one dream that it seems to be the only thing keeping him going and working hard. After being told this dream of having the farm he seems to only care about it and is fixated with the thought. He keeps this mentality of everything that is happening is for the farm until the end when he is killed.
One of the most obvious autistic traits of Lennie is the way he seeks out the feeling of soft things. From the dress of silk to the soft puppies. He would seek out things that were soft to play with and touch, even if it was gross, like the dead mouse in his pocket. It is an autistic trait to try and feel comfortable or soft materials. Something like a soft blanket or in Lennie’s case an animal or person’s dress. The sensation of just something soft is comforting and a lot of autistic people enjoy the feeling of soft materials.
Another trait of Lennie’s that is linked to autism is how he would remember the entire story that George would tell him about the farm and yet he would ask about it over and over again. There is a specific quote from the book about Lennie asking George to tell the story about how the farm will look and run, but Lennie keeps interrupting George to prompt him to tell the next part. This leads to George asking Lennie if he just wants to tell the story himself. Lennie just wants to hear the story from Georgie’s mouth. He asks again and again because he wants to hear the same answer, in the same way, every time. It is a sort of comforting thing to hear the same answer every time a question is asked. It’s reliable and gives Lennie a sense that things are not changing, that everything is the same as it was the last time.
Another trait of Lennie’s that could be linked to autism is how Lennie remembers specific things, but other things are gone from his memory within minutes. Like how he remembers the entire story of how the farm will be run and how they will be able to get the farm to be theirs, but tasks that George asks him to do are gone from his memory in a matter of minutes. He does not have a selective memory but rather he is not fixated on them so they are not as important. One of the most heartbreaking items he can relay word for word aside from the dream that he and Geroge have is how George tells him that he would be better without him. Lennie can stop George and continue what he was going to say about how things would be easier for George if Lennie was still with his family instead of being with George.
One of the best-described items that seemed to be added in without thought of what that says for Lennie’s character is how he stims. There are a couple of different types of stimming he does. There is a physical one where he moves his hands in excitement or the rubbing on the mouse in his pocket to try and calm himself down. Then there is when he would ask George to tell about the farm and he would stim through George talking about that and his excitement was apparent. This is a trait of a lot of different disabilities, but the most likely given the other traits is autism.
The last trait can be put under many different disabilities just like stimming, but this one is how he does not seem to have control over his body. There are obvious times when this happened like when he was too strong and killed the puppies and the mouse. When Curley’s wife is killed it is because Lennie was touching her too much, but he was enjoying the feeling of her hair and dress. He did not want to let go which ended with him being too strong and breaking her neck. The lack of body control is not always one that is hand in hand with autism, but like stimming, it makes the most sense with his traits and character as a whole.
Lennie’s character is believed to be autistic, but at the time that the book was published in 1937 autism was still not a diagnosable disability. Autism was only made into an actual diagnosable disability in 1943, so the character may have not been labeled as autistic, but I believe that he is from his description. His character exhibits some very classic traits for autism, and because of that, I believe he was written in the likeness of an autistic person in the time before autism was diagnosable. Lennie is a character that everyone in some way is able to relate to no matter what disability they have.
Pledge: I hereby declare upon my word of honor that I have neither given nor received unauthorized help on this work.
Word Count: 1,006