In this novel, ‘Of Mice and Men’, Steinbeck tells a tale of two men who travel frequently, seeking employment. They also share the same dream of having a better life, full of freedom. In the book itself, most of these characters strive to achieve the same dream for freedom. However, at the beginning of the novel, accomplishing this seems impossible, mainly because of Lennie’s character.
The theme of failure is hinted at as Curley’s wife failed to achieve her dream (becoming an actress) and ended up marrying Curley.
The novel consists of two leading characters: George, an intelligent worker stuck with a child-like character, Lennie. Lennie has unrealised immense power, yet the mind of a child. His strength is the reason George cannot settle down anywhere. It gets them both into trouble repeatedly; therefore, they have to move, consistently.
George, it seems, is eager to attain his own land for Lennie’s sake. They are trying to escape their past.
In this essay, I am going to write about how George and Lennie might be related and what they mean to each other, using evidence from the text to support my answer. I am also going to compare their relationship to Candy and his dog’s as it is very similar to George and Lennie’s. (Candy is a character in the novel).
George, in many ways, is like a father to Lennie. ‘”Lennie!” he said, sharply. “Lennie, for God’ sakes, don’t drink so much.”‘ In this quote, George is ordering Lennie, in a fatherly manner. ‘Lennie continued to snort into the pool. The small man leaned over and shook him by the shoulder. “Lennie. You gonna be sick like you was last night.”‘ Lennie, obviously, continues to drink water, ignoring that it could make him sick. This image reminds one of how a child is always ignorantly disobeying his parents or, in this case, his father. This quote also proves that George, who although strict and obdurate, is sentimental at heart and cares for his ‘son’.
His fatherly traits are also demonstrated as George repeatedly tells Lennie of the land, they are going to own, ‘with rabbits an’ pigs an’ some cows’, as a bedtime story. When reciting this dream to Lennie, his voice becomes ‘soft and deep’, indicating the ‘unseen’ love that George has for Lennie and his seldom-seen sympathetic nature.
George and Lennie could also be brothers, with George, evidently, being the older one. One phrase in which this can be illustrated is; ‘Lennie, who had been watching, imitated George exactly.’ This phrase implies that Lennie sees George as a role model, the way a young child may see his older brother as his hero. ‘He pushed himself back, drew up his knees, embraced them and looked over to George to see whether he had done it right. He pulled his hat down over his eyes, the way George’s hat was.’ This, again, emphasises Lennie’s efforts to be like George. His eagerness accentuates his brotherly love for George.
George and Lennie could be brothers or father and son; however, this idea is diminished when George slightly slanders Lennie, saying ‘If I was a relative of yours, I’d shoot myself’. This eliminates the probability of George being Lennie’s father, as a parent would never deride his child like that. It also states that the two men are not blood-related in any way.
George may be Lennie’s guardian. He takes great care of him and watches out for him. No matter how many times Lennie lands George in trouble, George never leaves him.'”…No, you stay with me. Your Aunt Clara wouldn’t like you running off by yourself, even if she is dead.”‘ This cites how George took it upon himself to take care of and sacrifice everything for Lennie, guardian-wise. This is because Lennie’s Aunt is dead and there is no-one there for him except for George.
George also plans ahead and ‘blackmails’ Lennie to keep him from demolishing the peace at the ranch. ‘”But you ain’t gonna get in no trouble, because if you do, I won’t let you tend the rabbits.”‘ This is how George hopes he can get Lennie to be a ‘good boy’ and not do anything to get in trouble, ‘like he done before’.
However, even with this bribery, he knows that Lennie is bound to get into trouble. ‘”…Lennie – if you jus’ happen to get in trouble like you done before, I want you to come right here an’ hide in the brush.”‘ This manifests George’s pre-told knowledge of misfortune, that Lennie will eventually lead to and how he already thought of what to do, supposing Lennie did mess up. This plan is then efficient when Lennie accidentally kills Curley’s wife and has to run, to escape an irate mob’s wrath.
George and Lennie’s relationship corresponds Candy, a worker at the ranch, and his dog’s relationship. Candy is an old worker who’s had a sheep dog ever since it was a pup. The man is used to having the mutt around and by his side; he is very attached to him…just like George is used to having Lennie around. At some point in the novel, Carlson (another worker) wants to shoot the ‘old mutt’ and Candy lets him as the other men convince him that the dog is useless and old, just another unwanted burden. At the end of the novel, Candy persuades George to shoot Lennie himself, when he messes up and is being chased by angry men with guns.
‘”I ought to have shot that dog myself, George. I shouldn’t ought to have let no stranger shoot my dog.”‘ This cites how close Candy was to his dog and how no stranger had the right to kill it. Candy felt he should have shot it because it was his dog and his responsibility. He wanted to spend the last few moments with his dog.
On hearing this, George observes Candy’s mistake and doesn’t want to follow. He agrees that its better he shoot Lennie rather than letting an angry mob torture him to death.
‘”…no, Lennie. I ain’t mad. I never been mad, an’ that’s a thing I want you to know.”‘ This remark clearly shows that George doesn’t want to shoot Lennie but has to before the other men find him. It also suggests that George doesn’t despise Lennie for all his wrong-doings but idolises him for being there as friend and a travelling companion.
Although George loves Lennie and is always protecting him, he can get mad at him easily. In the novel, George tells Lennie quite a few times how his life would be so much easier without him; ‘”God, you’re a lot of trouble,” said George. “I could get along so easy and so nice if I didn’t have you on my tail. I could live so easy and maybe have a girl.”‘ This suggests that George often fantasises about life without Lennie and how luxurious it would be. He could have had his dream come true a while ago, and could have been living in his own house on his own land, without having to run, repeatedly. He could have also started a family with a lady he might have met at previous jobs.
The author displays the relationship between George and Lennie in various terms. George and Lennie are quite close, even though Lennie is oblivious to this.
Lennie, being a bit of a ‘slow-brained’ child, really believes that one day, he and George will own their own land and have many animals. He consistently thinks of this dream as George, repeatedly, tells him that he can ‘tend rabbits’ if he behaves.
George, on the other hand, is smart and thinks beforehand. He has saved Lennie many times and, once again, saves him, in a way, by shooting him to prevent the suffering and torment the mob would have leashed on him. George, unlike Lennie, doesn’t have as much hope of achieving their dream. It is Lennie who makes George, eventually, believe they will one day stop working and live on their own property.
At the end, when George is going to shoot Lennie, the reader may feel sympathetic towards him as the sorrow George feels is evidently depicted.
George treasures the friendship he has with Lennie as he says to Lennie, ‘stay with me’ and ‘don’t leave- I was foolin”. Lennie accompanies him and prevents George’s loneliness, although he is a nuisance. Even Lennie seems to prize their relationship as ‘I got you an’ you got me’. He sees George as his safe harbour and, I think, sometimes may realise what George is giving up for him.
George kills Lennie, his long time travelling companion, to save him from agony and suffering. This is better known as sacrifice and an immensely heroic deed.
Steinbeck’s language is simple yet the communication between George and Lennie can appeal greatly to the reader. This is because the two men are very close and are always sacrificing for each other (although, it is George who has sacrificed more than Lennie). This kind of friendship is quite hard to find in modern days between anyone, especially adults; this may be why some readers may feel empathetic towards the two men and it also might be the reason most people have taken a liking to this particular novel; because of the way friendship is portrayed.