For instance, Of Mice and Men's lead character Lennie Small always has the best intentions, however he also has a notorious background of wrongdoing. Mentally challenged Lennie is massive in size and is "...strong as a bull." (Page 22) George, his best friend and companion, says this and much more about Lennie's strength. Throughout the text, Lennie shows the compassion and care of a newborn child, but also makes the wicked actions of a dangerous killer. Interestingly, neither of his different qualities can outshine one another, making him neither bad nor good. To illustrate, after hearing of a potential fight with his boss's son Curley, Lennie cries out, "I don't want no trouble!" (Page 29) Even though Lennie has more strength and could easily win the fight, he shows firm resistance against the idea of him hurting another human. Further more, George tells Slim honestly that "...he never lifted a finger against me...'course he ain't mean." Slim responds, adding "He ain't mean...I can see Lennie ain't a bit mean." (Page 40-41) Even when Lennie accidentally kills Curley's wife, he states sadly, "I didn't want ta hurt you." Regardless, Lennie still commits very unsettling and almost heinous crimes. He has a history of killing mice and keeping their corpses to pet in his pocket. When he pets a puppy that begins to bite him, Lennie shakes it and kills it as well. Lennie also murders Curley's wife by refusing to let go of her hair and snapping her neck. Lennie shakes it and kills it as well. While Lennie didn't mean to kill the animals and woman, he proved himself to be a danger to everyone around him; however he also proves to be cautious and obedient to the best of his abilities. Therefore, Lennie shows the aspects of someone who is both softhearted and iniquitous.
Similarly, Kino from The Pearl struggles with his own array of mixed actions of good and evil. He lives a poor and humble life until he discovers a perfect pearl. Behind the pearl's veil of opaqueness Kino sees his own dreams he thought would never come true. He sees him and Juana getting a proper marriage at the church, wearing brand new clothes they could never afford. He also sees Coyotito reading a book and breaking down the racial barriers of education. Determined to make sure he could achieve this future, Kino became attached to the pearl and its wellbeing. Whenever he feels tired or defeated he remembers how much by happier he and Juana could be; and how his own son could get the education he never got. Fueled with a picture of a wonderful life for Juana and Coyotito, Kino once again knows he must keep and protect the pearl at all costs. Even when his situation appears to go downhill, Kino stays strong to the idea of a better life for his infant and wife. However this very same thinking is what causes Kino to make malicious decisions and actions. Such as, when Juana tried to get rid of the pearl by tossing it into the ocean, Kino beats her out of pure rage. When an anonymous attacker tries to steal the pearl, Kino kills the person and flees the scene. Furthermore, Kino kills three men sent to track the family down. Kino is described in the story to have turned into "...a terrible machine." He is also described to be have "...become as cold and deadly as steel." While Kino does make terrible actions, he is shown to have acted out of love and desire. He clearly stopped at nothing trying to ensure he and his family would be happy in the end, even though he doesn't succeed. In the end, the evidence shown can confirm Kino is also neither good nor bad.
Again, George from Of Mice and Men demonstrates having both principle thoughts and not so principle thoughts and actions. For one thing, he has taken the role of father for Lennie, his mentally challenged companion. It is an extremely difficult job at times, but George never abandons or tricks Lennie. George always tries his best to make sure Lennie stays out of trouble, even if that means reminding him several times. In addition, George also speaks highly of Lennie to one of the ranch's most powerful people, Slim. George dutifully states that Lennie isn't mean, and wouldn't hurt anyone on purpose. On the other hand, George has made some serious mistakes. Especially, leaving Lennie unattended twice at the ranch. When all of the workers decided to go to a bar, George happily tagged along, leaving Lennie alone and uncared for. George has to later scold Lennie for being around the African American rancher Crooks, even though he was the one who gave Lennie the opportunity. When George leaves Lennie once again to go play horseshoes, Lennie wanders into the barn, and ends up killing a puppy and Curley's wife. For George to make the same mistake twice shows irresponsibility and carelessness, for both times George came out of the situation unhappy or distraught. However George's most arguably evil moment is killing his best friend, Lennie. Instead of trying to save himself and Lennie, George calmly shoots him in the head. George had a large opportunity to take Lennie and run, and find a new job and start over. And yet George decides to kill him. At last, George's conflict of having many different emotions shows he is yet another neutral character, who is neither good nor evil.
John Steinbeck's two novellas Of Mice and Men and The Pearl contain many characters that can not be classified as villains or heroes. These characters rebel against the common idea in literature of good versus evil. In the end, the readers must look within themselves to see what their definitions of good and evil are, and decide who is evil or good. This essay has proven that the two Steinbeck stories offer many characters that are neutral, and are not classifiable by the limits of good or bad.
By, Katie Mumford // English 7 F // 2015