The keynote speaker for Disability Awareness Month was Kenny Fries. He is based in Germany and the discussion was held over zoom. The majority of his speaking time was spent reading several different pieces that he had written. However, what interested me the most was the Fries Test.
The Fries Test, as it has come to be known, is a test Kenny created to determine if a book represents disability correctly.
- Does a work have more than one disabled character?
- Do the disabled characters have their own narrative purpose other than the education and profit of a nondisabled character?
- Is the character’s disability not eradicated either by curing or killing?
I would like to briefly apply this test to Of Mice and Men.
For the first question, the answer is yes. Candy has a physical disability and Lennie has a mental disability.
I’m not sure about the second question. Lennie definitely seems to be disabled for the education/profit of George. George is the one that must make a life-changing choice at the end of the novel and thus learn a lesson. However, Candy is the wild card. He doesn’t really have his own narrative purpose, but he also doesn’t appear to be disabled for George to learn a lesson.
For the final question, the answer is yes and no. Lennie is killed at the end of the novel, but Candy is not.
All in all, I think Of Mice and Men fails the Fries Test, but it does a better job than many popular books or movies (such as Me Before You) with disabled characters.