The Forces of Friendship and Loyalty in Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

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In the book “Of Mice and Men”, by John Steinbeck, is a story which shows how friendship and loyalty can be the strongest thing in the world until it gets in the way, and begins to get overwhelming. It shows how people can turn on their family, best friend, and even their life-long companions if they have the opportunity for a better life. Steinbeck develops his theme by using relationships, events, outcomes, and conflicts throughout the story. This theme is established in many instances, when George and Lennie share the same dream and Lennie loves when George tells him how it is going to be when they finally own their own house, when candy allows his loyal and loving old dog to be shot in the back of the head, and when George gets angry with Lennie and yells at him when they are in the woods sitting around the camp fire.

George and Lennie have spent the majority of their adult lives together and know each other better than they know anybody else in the entire world.

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They share their hard times and the good, their victories and their defeats, but most importantly they share a common dream. That dream is of having “a little house and a couple of acres an’ a cow and some pigs an’ live off the fatta the lan'(14), where Lennie can take care of the rabbits just as George has been taking care of him over the years. Lennie is constantly thinking and worrying about the rabits.

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“Why do you got to get killed? You ain t so little as mice.”(85) Says Lennie after he accidentally kills his little puppy. He is upset about this happening because George said that if he did anything bad he won t be allowed to tend the rabbits. This is Lennie’s chance to pay George back for all of the kindness and love that he has showed towards him.

Candy loves his dog with all of his heart; it has been his best friend for years and according to Candy he has “Had him since he was a pup. I herded sheep with him.” (44) Even though he cannot run as fast as in his prime or herd sheep like he did when he was younger Candy loves him just the same. He appreciates all of the joy and loyalty that his once great dog has brought to him during his life and is ready to let his friend now live out the rest of his natural life. Unfortunately that is not the way that some of the other people in the room see it. Carlson feels “This ol’ dog jus’ suffers hisself all the time. If you was to take him out and shoot him right in the back of the head… right there, why he’d never know what hit him”(45). Carlson even offers to give him a new dog to replace the one that he is about to destroy. The way that Candy sees it is that he is not hurting anyone and that there is no reason to have to end his life early. Even though Candy loves his dog more than anything else in the world he chooses to let someone shoot his dog in the back of the head. After all that they had been through and all the years of loyal service that his best friend had performed for Candy, when pressured into a decision, he chose to betray his loyal companion and make the decision let him go. This leads one to wonder why he made the decision that he did. He let Carlson kill his dog in hopes that the other workers would then give him the friendship and loyalty that his dog had provided him for years. If this happened, Candy would not have to spend the rest of his life alone in his old age; he would then have friends and people who he could talk to. He had been lacking this for years and wanted it desperately, even if it meant betraying his oldest friend.

George and Lennie have the same relationship that Candy and his dog have shared for so many years. They are as close to each other’s hearts as any two people can be in life. George has given up his chance at a somewhat normal life to help Lennie live as full of a life as he is mentally capable of doing. As the story progresses you see that George starts to regret the fact that he is being held back by Lennie: “…crazy son-of-a-bitch. You keep me in hot water all the time”(11). After George said this “His anger left him suddenly.” When George blows up on Lennie he then remembers that although he does a lot for Lennie, Lennie does a lot for him. Then George takes what he said back “No-look! I was jus foolin , Lennie. Cause I want you to stay with me.”(13) Without each other they both would be lost in life and have nobody else to turn too. This all changes once they get their jobs on the ranch together. George fits in very well with all of the other workers on the ranch and sees that for the first time in his life, he has a chance to live a typical life. He becomes almost obsessed with the idea of being able to have friends and not have to travel all over the place running from the trouble that Lennie has got them into. As time goes by on the ranch where the two characters are working, George starts to look out for Lennie less. He knows that Lennie cannot take care of himself and that it is hard for him to stay out of trouble, but he still leaves him alone more than he has before. It seems that George’s priorities have been switched around and that he is more concerned with having a good time with the guys than he is about making sure that his life-long companion is safe and not getting himself into trouble on the ranch. This is shown rather clearly when George goes into town and leaves Lennie behind. He is not worried about what kind of trouble Lennie may get in to; all he is thinking about is having the chance to go out with the guys and have a good time. This is something that he could not have done in the past because he had to worry about Lennie and make sure that he was not going to get into any trouble that would endanger himself or George. For some reason he does not seem to worry about this when he makes the decision to leave. As the story closes, George makes the effort to find Lennie before any of the workers from the ranch can. He has a choice to make after he finds Lennie: he can run away and hide as he has done in the past, to protect his best friend, or he can take Lennie’s life himself. Due to his lack of loyalty to Lennie and his selfishness he chooses to take Lennie’s life. It is significant to the story how George decides to kill his friend. He does not even give Lennie a chance to get away from his pursuers but instead he shoots him in the back of the head just like what had been done to Candy’s dog.

When George had the chance to gain something that he wanted, he chose to alienate and kill his most loyal friend in the world. Just as I said, friendship and loyalty can be the strongest thing in the world until it gets in the way, and begins to get overwhelming. Although Steinbeck is not trying to say that you can never trust the people that you call your friends, he is saying to be careful of those who call you a friend but only think of themselves while saying it. Even after spending the majority of his life calling Lennie a friend, George still betrayed him for the chance to become who he wanted to be. As George has showed us, the human trait of loyalty can become very weak if put through the test of time, so avoid trying to test it so that you may not end up as Lennie did, being treated no better than an old man’s dog.


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The Forces of Friendship and Loyalty in Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck. (2022, Feb 06). Retrieved from

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