Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
(Essay #3) In the novel 'Of Mice and Men' (John Steinbeck) a mentally challenged man, Lenny, loses his innocence when he accidentally breaks a woman's neck. In the novel 'Flowers for Algernon' (Daniel Keyes) another mentally challenged man, Charlie, loses his innocence when, through the aid of an operation, he realizes that all his life people were mocking him rather than being his friends. Although, in both cases innocence was the loss, their innocence was also the underlying cause of the loss. Lenny had a soft spot for petting animals and soft things and was totally oblivious to the fact that he was much too big and strong for such delicate creatures, and even some humans. "Lenny's fingers fell to stroking her hair... he stroked harder... "Let go!" she cried... She struggled violently... and then she was still; for Lenny had broken her neck." (page 91). In innocence of his own strength, Lenny had killed a woman and suddenly traded his innocence for guilt. Charlie grew up having a paradise-like world where he supposedly had many friends. His lifelong ambition was to become smart. When the chance came he took the offer readily, unprepared for the changes in his life it would bring. "And what was that Joe and the rest of them were doing. Laughing at me. And the kids playing hide-and-go-seek were playing tricks on me and they were laughing at me too... I felt naked" (page 30). All of a sudden Charlie realized that everyone had always laughed at him, not with him, and he suddenly felt ashamed/naked. In his innocence he had requested "smartness" and with it came the loss of his innocence followed by shame then anger. In both cases Lenny and Charlie were tempted and in their innocence they accepted. In both cases their innocence was lost. Although their innocence may have appeared to others as a struggle, to both Lenny and Charlie it was a paradise, and they knew that. Thankfully they both regained their innocence and in doing so, they both regained their paradise.