In the United States Criminal Justice System, there is a category of defenses that may excuse an individual who has committed a criminal offense of responsibility for their actions. Insanity is one of these defense excuses, and it claims that the state of mind of the individual in question at the time of the transgression was insufficient so much so that they are not accountable for their actions. One of the various tests used to determine the defendant’s state of mind is called the M’Naghten rule. This rule states that at the time of the offense, the defendant either did not know that what he was doing was wrong, or was unable to distinguish between right and wrong, due to mental incapacitation. In John Steinbeck’s novel, Of Mice and Men, one of the main characters, Lennie Small, clearly commits the physical act of murder. The question that remains is whether or not Lenny had the mental stability at the time of the crime to be held legally responsible for his action. *
Throughout the novel, it is apparent that Lennie is a big and strong, yet mentally deficient individual. In the opening scene, he is depicted gulping down water like an animal, and his friend and fellow main character, George Milton, claims that he would drink out of a gutter if he were thirsty. Based on a conversation between the two men, it can be seen that Lennie is extremely forgetful, both long and short term. He forgets of his aunt who he had known all his life, and he forgets details of what George had told him just earlier that day. More notably, Lennie forgets the bad thing he did at the ranch in Weed, as George states, “Oh, so ya forgot that too, did ya? Well, I ain’t gonna remind ya, fear ya do it again.” (Steinbeck 73). Not only is Lennie forgetful, but it is also made clear that he does not think like a grown adult. He is absolutely fascinated with soft things like mice, rabbits, puppies, and even women’s dresses and hair. It is almost as if he is a full-grown child, as George...
Cited: * Steinbeck, John. Of Mice and Men. New York: Penguin Group, 1993 [Kindle]
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