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A description in detail of George and Lennie in Of Mice and Men.

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ih8engyo | eNotes Newbie

Posted September 24, 2013 at 7:12 PM via web

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A description in detail of George and Lennie in Of Mice and Men.

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aszerdi | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 1) Valedictorian

Posted September 24, 2013 at 7:51 PM (Answer #1)

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The following description can be found in eNotes study guide for Of Mice and Men.

Lennie Small

Lennie Small, a simple-minded man of great size and strength. His dream is to have a chicken and rabbit farm with his friend George Milton and to be allowed to feed the rabbits. George tells him about the farm over and over and keeps Lennie in line by threatening not to let him feed the rabbits. The two men are hired to buck barley on a ranch. Lennie crushes the hand of the owner’s son, kills a puppy while stroking it, and breaks a woman’s neck, all unintentionally.

George Milton

George Milton, Lennie’s friend, a small and wiry man. He assumes responsibility for his simple friend and in the new job does the talking for both. At last, after the unintentional killing by Lennie, George knows that he can no longer save his friend; after telling him once again of their plan for the farm, he shoots him.

The entire study guide can be found at the link below.


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William Delaney | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted September 24, 2013 at 11:26 PM (Answer #2)

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George and Lennie are fictitious characters created by John Steinbeck.

Steinbeck wanted to write a story dramatizing the hard lives of itinerant farm workers in California. At the same time he planned to convert the story into a stage play. The play was produced in New York the same year the book came out, in 1937. This proves that Steinbeck was writing his novella in such a way that it could easily be adapted to the stage.

He needed not one but two central characters who have a dream about owning their own farm. If he had only been writing a piece of fiction, he could have used a single character, as Knut Hamsun (aka Knut Pedersen) did in his great novel Growth of the Soil, and written in the third person. But in a stage play exposition has to be conveyed in dialogue. So Steinbeck needed two men who wanted to own their own farm together.

This relationship, however, sounds a little peculiar. Readers have asked about their relationship. Some have wondered if they were gay. Normally it is a man and a woman who share the dream of owning their own farm. But Steinbeck could not have a man and woman traveling around in boxcars and sleeping on the ground. And a woman could not get jobs as a farm laborer. Steinbeck needed two men, and he needed them both to be motivated by the dream of owning their own farm together.

He came up with the idea of making one of them mentally retarded. Thus was born Lennie Small. He was exceptionally big and strong to make up for his lack of intelligence. Steinbeck saw the advantage in having one of them mentally incompetent. It meant that George would always have to be explaining and re-explaining things to him, and in the process George would be explaining everything about their past, present and future to the reader and eventually to the theater audience. Note how, as early as Chapter One, George is telling Lennie all about what happened to them in Weed.

Steinbeck must have felt defensive about his plot. He knew people would question the idea of two men wanting to live together on their own little farm. He deals with this question three times in the early part of the novel.

In Chapter Two, the boss says:

“Say—what you sellin’? . . . . I said what stake you got in this guy? You takin’ his pay away from him?”

George explains that Lennie is his cousin and got kicked in the head by a horse as a kid.

In the next chapter Slim brings up the same question.

“Funny how you an’ him string along together….It jus’ seems kinda funny a cuckoo like him and a smart little guy like you travelin’ together.”

Here George explains:

“It ain’t so funny, him an’ me goin’ around together,” George said at last. “Him and me was both born in Auburn. I knowed his Aunt Clara. She took him when he was a baby and raised him up. When his Aunt Clara died, Lennie just come along with me out workin’. Got kinda used to each other after a little while.”

So Steinbeck created two central characters because he needed their interchange of dialogue for the play he intended to write immediately. They have a symbiotic relationship. George is a little guy, and having Lennie as a companion gives him protection in the vicious world of hobos; while Lennie needs George to find him jobs and tell him what to do. Steinbeck wrote his novella like a play, with most of the exposition handled in the form of dialogue, as can be readily observed in every chapter of the book.


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