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The irony that George feels towards Lennie in Chapter one is that he complains about being burdened by Lennie when they are traveling together, and in the end, George is burdened with the task of shooting Lennie. When George does this, he is no longer burdened with Lennie and his desire to pet soft things.
George resents Lennie. He is angry because of the situations that Lennie often puts them in. He and Lennie are friends, but George has grown tired of always having to fix the mess that Lennie has made.
Still as angry and burdened as he feels, George still protects Lennie to the very end by killing him as opposed to letting the mob get to him.
The philosopher Johann Wolgang Goethe wrote that man is the only herd animal who does not want to be one. And, George of "Mice and Men" is the quintessential example of this condition of man. On one hand, he broods,
If I was alone I could live so easy. I could get a job an'work, an' no trouble...and when the end of the month come I could take my 50 bucks and go into town and get whatever I want...
Then, he tells Lennie,
Guys like us...They got no family. They don't begelong no place...with us it ain't like that. We got a future. We got somebody to talk to that give a damn.
In another situation, George tells one of the ranch hands,
I ain't got no people. I seen the guys that go around on ranches alone. They ain't no good. They don't have no fun. After a long time they get mean....'Course Lennie's...a nuisance most of the time, but you get used to going around with a guy an' you can't get rid of him.
When Lennie dies, the dream of owning a ranch, the dream repeated for Lennie like a mantra, also dies. Paradoxical as his life is with Lennie, George's aloneness, his isolation from the brotherhood of man, is a death for him, as well.
George's emotions are also ironic when we visualise the two men together. Lennie is a huge, lumbering beast of a man - George is small, lean and sharp-faced. George is very much the dominant party in the relationship as Lennie is mentally challenged. George orders Lennie around, organises him like a parent and even threatens him physically to get a mouse from him. There is irony in the fact that Lennie is capable of destroying George with one blow and yet George totally dominates Lennie.
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