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Relationship Between George and Lennie in Particular at the Beginning and the End

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The relationship between Lennie and George is very close throughout the book. ‘Of Mice and Men’ is set in the 1930s depression years in America. This means that their relationship was under a lot of strain. It was unusual in those times to be able to sustain friendships because life was all about living for the moment after America’s great depression. They are in a place called the Salinas River near Soledad.

John Steinbeck begins the novel ‘Of Mice and Men’ with a picturesque description of the location where the reader is first introduced to the characters of George Milton and Lennie Small. The opening section of the book lends itself to a feeling of peacefulness. However the scene is set only “a few miles south of Soledad” – a name that is Spanish for “loneliness”, which is repeated throughout the book and is also touched upon between the two main characters. George tolerates Lennie’s company – in part – because without the other man, he would be alone. In turn, Lennie loyally follows George, the one friend he has. Without each other, they have no one. As he introduces the two characters, Steinbeck instantly notes the difference in both the appearance and attitude of the characters. Within the novel, even when the characters reach an opening that should allow them to walk together, one stays ahead of the other. This is George, who is the obvious leader. George “was small and quick, dark of face with restless eyes and sharp, strong features. Every part of him was defined”. In comparison, Lennie – the follower – was “a huge man, shapeless of face, with large pale eyes, with wide, sloping shoulders and he walked heavily”. These positions, as leader and follower, are accepted in mutual understanding.

In order to emphasise some of the mannerisms of George and Lennie, the novel also states during this walk that “the follower nearly ran over him [George]” and John Steinbeck makes this point to signify that Lennie is clumsy while George is not. More comments of this kind are made to build Lennie’s character by comparing his physical build to various larger animals, including a bear and horse. Another significant point to draw from Steinbeck’s development of these two characters is the way he does not compare George to an animal, in contrast to the obvious comparisons that Lennie is held up against. George is often annoyed by Lennie’s childlike and forgetful behaviour but because he is responsible for Lennie, George has to take control and serve as the voice of authority. The two characters serve to highlight the opposites in each other.

Their differences are also shown in the way they adapt to ranch life. George is more socially adept: he can sit and hold conversations with the other ranch workers, play games of cards with them and follow the typical behaviour of any other ranch worker. Lennie, on the other hand, is shown with his animals – petting the mice or the pup and his infatuation for the rabbits. He is socially awkward and does not realise the strength he possesses, something which occurs in increasing degrees of danger and tension throughout the novel. Despite Lennie’s shortfalls and the way his reliance on George is much more obvious to the reader, it can be seen at times that George relies on Lennie. Their dependence on the company of each other sets them apart from everyone else and it is this connection that binds their relationship together in such a way that only death can separate it. The way John Steinbeck has crafted the pairing of George and Lennie is at times heart-warming but is ultimately heartbreaking, something typical of the depression-era times that the novel is set in.

By the end of the novel, George is seen to suffer under the harsh reality of what is to follow but he ensures Lennie vividly pictures ‘the dream’ in his last moments and knowing that “Lennie giggled with happiness” at the end, George has got what he wanted – he was able to fill Lennie’s last moments of life with contentment even though George himself was silent and numb with the knowledge the dream was shattered. Lennie and George’s dream is presented by Steinbeck in order to convey their relationship: “George. Tell me. Please, George. Like you done before”

This dream cannot exist without friendship. This is most demonstrable in the relationship between George and Lennie. Without the other, neither character would be able to maintain the dream. Lennie is constantly asking George to “tell about how it’s gonna be”. The constant repetition of the way things will be is what keeps the dream alive in Lennie. However, George needs Lennie just as much as Lennie needs him, which is apparent at the end of the novel. When George kills Lennie, he also kills the friendship, which results in the death of the dream within himself. Friendship is an underlying factor in the dreams of others as well.

From anger and remorse to a close friendship, Steinbeck portrays many different aspects to Lennie and George’s relationship. It is the main theme in this novel and stands out as a clear point the author is trying to make. Their dream gives the reader an image of peacefulness between the two, they “got each other” and living “offa the fatta the lan”,’ is their aim. They know that they wouldn’t be able to achieve this without each other, Lennie needs George to plan the dream and George needs Lennie to keep it alive. In the end, the obstacles that Lennie has created are so terrible that even George realises he has to bring the relationship and the dream to an end, not just for his own well-being but also to protect Lennie from more horrifying consequences. After shooting Lennie you still feel that George has done the right thing and that he has done it for Lennie, not himself. Three of the key points to their friendship are being supportive for each other, always sticking together and loving each other in a caring way. Without these, their friendship wouldn’t be as strong and the reader wouldn’t get such a potent view on why they need each other.

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