In the novel of mice and men John Steinbeck uses the two protagonists Lennie small and George Milton to show morals through-out the novella. Steinbeck uses the main characters to portrait the American dream. I realize Steinbeck vaguely gets us to explore each character feeling by feeling, but in the time of age they’re living in we get a clearer understanding of why they are the way they are. In this essay I will discuss the relationship between both George and Lennie, and why Steinbeck has decided to use two completely different characters in the same content.
A rather key way in which Steinbeck introduces Lennie and George is through the use of description. In the opening of the novel, Steinbeck decides to create suspense for the characters. He uses metaphorical language to compare Lennie like an animal “the way a bear drags his paws”, the idea of Steinbeck doing this allows the reader to assumedly suggest what type of person Lennie is straight away, the imagery of the bear represents how masculine, strong and loud Lennie comes across to be, but on the other hand it could represent how sometimes a bear is unaware of its actions and is dangerous, therefore this foreshadows what happens later on in the novel.
Our understanding of Lennie begins to grow as we read further on into the novel. We know Lennie is seen as a strong character physically and George is a strong character verbally, but not so much physically as Lennie. The relationship may face some challenges as they’re dialect is obviously different, you would assume two close friends would show unity in the way they come across, but Steinbeck doesn’t use this typical idea of friendship in the novel.
As we read further on in the book we create an image for both characters. We start to realise how Lennie treats George as a father figure. Lennie, despite being slow and easily confused, is sure of this friendship. We see this when Lennie is subjected to answer Crooks’ joke when he says George might abandon him, Lennie jumps to reply “George wouldn’t do nothing like that” this shows that as dim-witted as Lennie seems, he will continue to reassure himself and believe that George would never leave because of the value of their relationship, from Lennie’s point of view, George is the most important person in his life his guardian and only friend. We also see that Lennie is reluctant and naïve; “but I wouldn’t eat none, George I’d leave it all for you.
You could cover your beans with it and I wouldn’t touch none of it” the fact that Lennie outbursts in apology after George expresses to him his anger, goes to show the extent of earnestness Lennie has for their relationship, the idea that he is willing to sacrifice his desire (being ketchup) just shows how much he truly cares about George. We also see how much Lennie is dependant of George as he obeys George: “Yes” Lennie turned his head.
“No, Lennie. Look down there across the river; you can almost see the place” Lennie obeys George” the fact that Lennie obeys George quickly shows there is a certain amount of respect for George, it shows he trusts George in whatever is being said, But we can then perceive this in two ways; a threatening, cruel way, or just the fact that Lennie understands the level of respect required with George. This also suggests to the reader that there are barriers in the relationship that affect how they treat each other, when Lennie chooses to obey George it may also show how Lennie cant decide for himself and he needs George to make his decisions for him.
On the other hand, I have explored the way Lennie’s and George’s characters may change once they are around other people. We can also link this to the way George treats Lennie, George who is constructed as a responsible father-like man, and then seen as a reluctant carer to Lennie can be seen as a battle between two personalities in one person.
We realise George’s personality changes when he is talking to Lennie and referring to the dream they both share: “George’s voice became deeper. He repeated his words rhythmically as though he had said them many times before. “Guys like us work on ranches…” the fact that Georges voice begins to get deeper as he starts to explain the dream shows how he feels towards it, sweet passionate George begins to reveal itself to the reader implying his interest in what he’s explaining, and it becomes more than words that he is speaking.
But we then realise the contrast when George is talking amongst his work friends, George refers to Lennie as a “Crazy bastard” his dialect is a complete transition from when he was explaining the dream passionately. Describing Lennie as a crazy bastard may give the impression to the reader that George pretends he doesn’t understand the way Lennie is when he behaves unnecessary, showing how he may want to seem bigger than what he really is, in front of his work friends. George finds it hard to show his true love and compassion towards Lennie when around other people.
In Chapter three George is talking to slim about the past, George explains to him how him and Lennie grew up together as neighbours, George mentions that when he first began travelling with Lennie he found it funny to play pranks on Lennie, but as they grew older they were no longer fun. We realise the relationship comes across barriers and obstacles especially because Lennie had a mental disability. “George herd Lennies whimpering cry and wheeled about, “blubbering like a baby! Jesus Christ! A big guy like you!” Lennies lip quivered and tears started in his eyes, “aw, Lennie” George put his hands on Lennie’s shoulder .
“I aint taking it away for meanness, that mouse aint fresh..ect” Lennie cries like a baby, his reaction can be compared to a baby when they get told off, this may show mental weakness. The main thing about it is seeing a grown man cry, What is also interesting is now that George has made Lennie cry, George is considerably softened up by Lennies tears, Georges quick reply was “I aint taking it away jus for meanness” this shows George has a passionate side, he doesn’t want Lennie to be upset, but he still needs to show some control. We also recognize the quick transition in George as his emotions change from firm to soft, some people might perceive this is another way, the fact that George switches the way he talks to Lennie so sudden may show he is forced to put on a responsible role, George doesn’t want to be mean to Lennie, but Lennies behaviour forces him to.
George’s sharp words can sometimes come across threatening to Lennie, his role of having to be responsible and caring towards him can be challenging for George.
Into the second chapter as Lennie and George arrive at the camp and eventually go into meet the boss, George is very keen on being in control. His constant use of language is used to dominate the conversation. “Whats your name?”
“George said, “His names Lennie small”. This shows us that George is carefully thinking about what may happen if he allows Lennie to talk, with full understanding that if Lennie says something out of content, they might loose their opportunity of working there. When we come to talk about how others may see the relationship, I find the boss’s perceiptive can be very intresting, as the boss is conversating with Small and Milton, the boss starts to suspect that George is using lennie to steal his money “he hacked his thumbs in his belt and squinted one eye nearly closed. Say what you sellin?” “huh?”
“I said what stake you got in this guy”
The boss miss interprets George’s authority and sees it as a way of George benefiting himself by taking Lennies money. When George knows he uses his authorative role to benefit them from losing their jobs.
Later on in the novella, it is evident that George begins to feel fed up with Lennie, having to move locations all the time for every little mistake Lennie does. The fact that George ends ups killing Lennie clearly shows his lack of faith. George comes to a realisation that Lennie can not carry on the journey with him especially when he seems to be limiting him from going anywhere.
I believe Steinbeck wants the reader to understand that sometimes you need to do the worst things to get the best results. He uses these two reluctant characters to portrait a hidden hope between them both, but the hope ends up getting crushed once George kills Lennie, which seemed like it was for the best.
With a wider insight of what Steinbeck uses the characters for. I’ve analysed the way he uses the American dream with Lennie and George to separate them from the rest of the workmen. Lennie and George both share the same dream which keeps their hope through out their stay at their workplace. George says: “with us it aint like that. We got somebody to talk to that gives a damn about us.
We don’t have so sit in no bar room blowin in our jack jus because we got no place to go, if them other guys gets in jail they can rot for all anybody gives a damn. But not us.. “the fact that George separates him and lennie from the other guys shows he sees everyone else differently, it shows they have a different mind-set to the rest of the guys and it shows they believe in something bigger and greater than in the walls of the ranch.
Throughout the novel, Lennie seems to be unaware of what is right and what is wrong, and this comes across as a burden on george as he has to correct gim for every wrong thing he does. George knows just how easy his life could be without Lennie and all the confusion he causes. We understand this because at the start of the book George tells Lennie how he would get a decent job with nice guys to talk to and a good pay. Then at the end spend as much as he wanted. George’s life has been made harder because of Lennie, and until Lennie goes, he’ll forever be unhappy.
When George is conversing with the boss, it’s interesting to see how Lennie can hide his strength which only emphasizes his weakness. The boss seems interested in hearing what Lennie can do, because of his masculinity and size, but now that Lennie has been forbidden to talk by George, he is afraid to communicate; “The boss pointed a playful finger at Lennie “ he ain’t much of a talker, is he?” he’s sure a hell of a good worker.
Strong as a bull” The fact that lennie is described as another animal for the 2nd time in this novel re-enforces Steinbecks idea of Lennie, it repeatedly foreshadows his behaviour now and what it could turn out to be, an animal has a lower mind-set than a human, less knowledgeable and less understanding. This episode also highlights’ how Lennie is weaker than George, Lennies physical build is very deceiving and he is limited by his mental ability and by his utter subjugation to George.
We also realise the different types of features used such as imagery, metaphors and similes to dominate the scene or setting. “A water snake glided smoothly up the pool, twisting its periscope head from side to side, and it swam the length of the pool and came to the legs of a motionless heron that stood in the shallow. A silent head and beak lanced down and plucked it out by the head and the beak swallowed the little snake while its tail waved frantically” the great imagery here is used to begin section 6 to describe a setting like the ‘Garden of Eden’ this gives the reader a hint of what the scene may look like, a paradise heaven.
The sliding snake represents the tempting serpent from the Garden of Eden, this symbolism is used to suggest the predatory nature of the world foreshadowing Lennies quick death. The innocent snake narrated in the beginning of the novel is now un-expectedly taken from the world and soon Lennie’s life will be taken from the world just as un expected as the snake. The idea that the snake is classed in a lower category than the Heron shows the difference between George and Lennie, George representing the predator and Lennie as the prey.
We can often question ourselves on the way Steinbeck decided to end the book. The ending was certainly optimistic and interesting and especially un-expected. I believe Steinbeck wanted to get across to the readers that in order to pursue our dreams, we have to get rid of what’s stopping us from achieving, and in this case Lennie was topping George. Steinbeck also wants us to realise the amount of determination you need when you desperately want something.
A successful way in which Steinbeck ends the novel is in the way he links it to the American Dream. The two protagonists lennie small and george Milton clearly help structure the hole idea of the American dream and the deep morals that come along side it. The American dream tells us that everyone is equal and everyone has same rights to achieve success, as long as effort is put into it.
In this case, Lennie and George would love to persue their dream together, but Lennie’s mental ability and slow mindset holds them both back from achieving and becoming successful, Steinbeck clearly show this by proving – in order to persue your dreams, you need full submission, meaning getting rid of anything that is holding you back, and in this case, Lennie.
Another way in which we could perceive the way Steinbeck uses the characters to portrait the American dream, is through their characteristics. Pursuing something great requires a lot of determination and a right mind set, it wasn’t that Lennie and George had no determination but lennie wasn’t in the perfect mind state to pursue the dream, so by George ending Lennies life, it allowed the extra stress to be released of Georges shoulders.
Steinbeck simply uses this to show the reality side of things. The idea that the dream was reachable, but once George gave up on Lennie the dream became no longer attainable. The American dream was for anyone stable enough to work for what they want and to achieve it, but the purpose of the ending was another way of telling people that having a dream and striving for it is definitely not easy, he also gets us to understand that even though everyone around you may not believe in what you do, it does not mean you should stop believing in it. The main core of this novel was the suspense built between Lennie and George to show having a strong desire for something isn’t impossible.