In the novel ‘Of Mice and Men’, by John Stienbeck, a mentally challenged man, Lennie, loses his innocence and his dream, of owning his own ranch with rabbits, when he accidentally breaks a woman’s neck. In the novel ‘Flowers or Algernon’, by Daniel Keyes, another mentally challenged man, Charlie, loses his innocence and dreams, of being like everyone else, when, through the aid of an operation, realizes people were making fun of him rather than being his friends. Although, in both cases innocence and dreams were the loss, their innocence was also the underlying cause of the loss. Lennie is a very loveable character, who has hope and dreams. He wants to live on a ranch with George and raise rabbits. He looks at his plans as reachable even when it seems impossible because after he kills Curleys wife, Lennie still thinks he can have a ranch and rabbits, with the assurance of George. Although Lennie never reaches his dream, he dies with the thought of achievement. Charlie on the other hand, has dreams of being smart just like everyone else. He tries very hard in school and when offered the chance of having an operation to make him ‘smart’, he jumps at the opportunity. Although his teacher influences him, she had little impact. Unlike Lennie, Charlie reaches his dream but ends up broken hearted when his dream doesn’t last.
Lennie had a soft spot for petting animals and soft things. He is totally oblivious to the fact that he hurts almost every thing he touches. He had pet mice and ended up killing them and when he played with the ‘pup’ he ended up killing it too. His uncontrolled strength also caused him to kill Curley’s wife. “Lennie’s fingers fell to stroking her hair… he stroked harder… “Let go!” she cried… She struggled violently… and then she was still; for Lennie had broken her neck.” (Page 91). With the death of Curley’s wife, Lennie’s innocence was taken. He had unwillingly killed. He had to pay the price, by losing his life.
Charlie lived in a paradise-like world, he though he had many “friends”. The only thing he felt he was missing was brains. When he was offered the chance to become ‘smart’ he jumped at the chance to be like everyone else. Unprepared for the changes intelligence would bring, Charlie lost his innocence. When he realizes his ‘friends’ don’t actually like him they just liked to make fun of him. “And what was that Joe and the rest of them were doing. Laughing at me. And the kids playing hide-and-go-seek were laying tricks on me and they were laughing at me too… I felt 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 Lennie and Charlie were tempted in their innocence. In both cases their innocence and dreams were lost. Both Charlie and Lennie relied on someone at some point in their life and lost faith briefly. They both obtained true happiness at some point, whether it is with a thought or an action. Charlie was truly happy when he started to become smart. Lennie was truly happy at then end when George described the ranch.
The endings of both stories were bittersweet. Both characters are lost. Lennie is dead, killed by his best friend, the one he trusted the most. Charlie is lost and can’t bear to face the world he once knew so well. Both leave Charlie heads to New York, with a last request for flower to be place on Algernon’s grave, and Lennie dies, with picture of himself feeding the rabbits on his ranch. The ending of both stories bring tears to your eyes.
Although both characters have many similarities, their major difference was in their realization of their dreams. Charlie reached his dream of being smart, only to lose more that he gained. Lennie never had a chance to reach his dream, he died to soon. In both cases innocence and dreams were lost. It seems to be the more innocent you are the more you lose.