Lennie and George are considerably different from the other ranch workers mainly unlike the workers who are all shown to be lonely, George and Lennie have each other. They relay on each other and their dreams together. There is a bond of trust and friendship between the two main characters which is tragically highlighted in the closing lines of the novel.
The novel ‘Of Mice and Men’ by John Steinbeck is set in the early 1930’s following the collapse of the New York wall street market known as the depression years.
In this time there was heavy unemployment; migrant workers from all over America came to California where the novel is set in the Salinas valley in search of prospects of work. The ranch itself is a microcosm of the life for migrant workers in that time, their insecurities are shown through the characters such as Curley, Candy, Curley’s wife and also the life of Black people through Crooks. All the characters are lonely except for Lennie and George who have each other and this is shown through their hopes and dreams.
Lennie and Georges history together opens up when George talks to Slim a character that everyone respects, even Curley. George openly speaks to Slim about the incident when George tells Lennie to jump into the river jokingly, but to everyone’s surprise Lennie jumps in without questioning George not realising he cannot swim and almost drowns if George didn’t rescue him, even then Lennie thanks George for saving him even though it was George who told him to do it in the first place. At this point George’s fear is shown at Leannie’s inability to comprehend logical and illogical things, George realises at that moment that if he is not careful Lennie could do the wrong thing again.
George’s other fears are also shown in the incident at weed, while talking about it to slim he describes Lennie being ‘slow’ as he likes to touch everything he likes, just wants to feel it. So he reaches to feel a girls red dress and the girl screams, Lennie gets scared all he can think to do is hold on and that George had to hit him with a fence picket to make him let go. Again Lennie’s strength becomes an issue and the writer almost foretelling the future. George is afraid of Lennie not understanding right from wrong and his strength scares George making him think that he might to what he did at weed again.
Lennie is shown to be a child in a mans body . throughout the book he wants to be told their dream almost like a bed time story and doesn’t feel closure until he has been told it. And again like a child he likes soft and fury things relating to the reason why he likes to touch dresses. Lennie’s greatest fear of the all is that he won’t be able to tend the rabbits if he did something wrong like the incident at weed again, he is also afraid of his own strength and not being able to let go.
Lennie and George’s dream of having a place of their own ‘living of the fat of the land’ and Lennie and his alfalfa patch and tending the rabbits, keep’s them going and hoping that they won’t have to worry about Lennie doing the wrong things again, and George being able to do what he wants do and not think about what will happen to Lennie. Their dreams create hope for other characters like Candy and Crooks even for a short while.
On the face of it, it appears that Lennie, because of his mental immaturity, is totally reliant upon George for his survival and for obtaining work at various ranches. Equally important however, is the extent to which George relies on Lennie for companionship in the generally unfriendly and lonely environment of the migrant labourer. As George admits to Slim when discussing himself and Lennie ‘it’s a lot nicer to go around with a guy you know’. It can be seen; therefore that George might not be with Lennie purely out of a sense of pity or duty to Lennie’s aunt Clara.
From the start of the novel Steinbeck raises the questions in the minds of the reader about why these characters should be involved in such an unlikely partnership: George is short of stature, intelligent and projects self-confidence, Lennie on the other hand, is a giant of a man, ponderous in his gait and his mind of a young child.
The course of events that unfold are tragic, most of it starts with Curley and his insecurity about his height and his always willing to pick a fight with bigger men to prove he is not weak. Steinbeck calls him calculating and pugnacious and gives him reptilian animal like qualities representing his behaviour to a crocodile while Lennie is shown to have bear and horse like qualities compared to animals with admirable traits.
Ch 3 begins when Curley busts in looking for Slim who he thinks is with his wife. When Slim re-enters the room telling Curley that he’s sick of Curley asking him about his wife. Curley can’t fight with Slim so he moves to Carlson who warns him not to pick a fight with him, as they all join in Curley feels defenceless and so turns on to Lennie given any excuse to fight with him. As Curley begins to fight him, Lennie gives out a cry of terror and turns to George for help as he was too frightened to defend himself. George immediately gets onto his feet yelling ‘Give it to him Lennie, don’t let him do it’.
George was afraid of Lennie’s strength but he wouldn’t let Lennie go down like that he was protective over him. As Curley goes for another blow to the blood covered face, Lennie grabs his fist. Curley is described to be flopping as a fish. Then just like in weed Lennie held on to the closed fist being crushed by Lennie’s hand. It took both George and Slim to make Lennie let go. Curley was warned not to say a word about what happened. After this Curley’s wife became very interested in what happened actually happened to Curley’s hand but nobody spoke to her.
When Lennie kills the pup in the barn, while wondering what to do Curley’s wife comes in. even though he shouldn’t talk to her he does, she tells him how she is lonely and just wants someone to talk too, also how unhappy she is in her marriage to Curley, this is the only point in the novel where her story comes out, how she was never loved at home, how she married Curley to get away from her life, her dreams of becoming famous in movies.
As Lennie feels her hair vents repeat themselves he can’t let go and in her struggle to get free and Lennie’s fear that she will call George he breaks her neck in attempt to silence her again his inability to control his strength has taken a turn for the worst. He realises what he has done and remembers that if he did anything bad George said to go to the brush where he’d find him there, so Lennie quickly and quietly leaves. Candy is the first to find her in the barn and gets George who knows instantly what has happened he tells candy to let him go to the bunk house first then tell the rest of them so he doesn’t look involved.
There dream is destroyed and candy blames Curley’s wife, when he tells the rest of them Curley shows no sign of remorse all he can do is think about getting Lennie back.
As they all take off to find Lennie, George manages to find him first by the lake; even now he is still afraid he won’t be able to tend the rabbits. George knows that there is no way out for them, knowing Curley he would just want to kill him he wouldn’t put him in jail, and if he let him go the Lennie couldn’t look after himself he would die without food, shelter and someone to look after him.
George knew that he would have to kill him when he found Lennie. Just like Candy’s dog to put him out of his misery for the sake of Lennie. Also he couldn’t let someone else do it he told Lennie about their dream one last time as he told it he quietly put the gun to the back of Lennie’s head without him realising and shot him, it was a sympathy kill. At the end it is Slim who comforts him in telling George that he had to do it.
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck