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Does George have an obligation to take care of Lennie? What is the price George pays...

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handsworth | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted November 4, 2007 at 3:37 AM via web

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Does George have an obligation to take care of Lennie? What is the price George pays for this?

The story of George and Lennie lends itself to issues found in the question"Am I my brother keeper" Does man have an obligation to take care of a fellow man and what is the price a person pays for this?

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mvmaurno | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Adjunct Educator

Posted November 4, 2007 at 4:21 AM (Answer #1)

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You have posed a very deep question that almost every individual must face at some point in his or her life, whether it may be taking care of a senior family member or a close friend in need.  Most people belief that it is a basic human responsibility and show of caring and humanity to take care of a sick or aging relative, especially a parent.  Few would think one has no obligation in that scenario.  However, beyond an immediate family member, how far does one go to help/take care of another? 

This is a tough decision that George must make, and throughout the whole novel, he is responsible for his mentally-challenged cousin, Lennie.  He promises Lennie's aunt to take on this responsibility, and a big reason for this is his guilt for having teased Lennie unmercifully in their youth.  As a result of his decision to care for Lennie, George has a very unstable and difficult life.  Lennie and George are ranch hands, who often must migrate to find employment. However, they need to move much more than others because Lennie keeps getting in trouble and fired due to his mental deficiencies, and George must leave with him to fulfill his caretaker responsibilities.  George puts an end to this sitatuation when Lennie accidently kills Curley's wife.  He realizes that Lennie is dangerous and now his responsibility lies in ending Lennie's unintentional "reign of terror".

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bmadnick | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted November 4, 2007 at 5:35 AM (Answer #2)

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George got as much from his relationship with Lennie as Lennie did. Yes, Lennie got into trouble, and George would always tell Lennie when he got angry at him that he'd be better off without him. George could have abandoned Lennie at any time, but he didn't because he did feel it was his responsibility to take care of Lennie after Lennie's aunt died. I think it was more than guilt that George took care of Lennie. Eventually, George had become Lennie's parent, and no parent leaves his child just because the child has been bad. Also, it was only because George repeated the story over and over for Lennie that George came to believe that maybe they could actually achieve the American Dream of having their own piece of land. I don't believe George saw Lennie as a burden or felt he was paying too high a price. At the end of the day, George and Lennie had each other.

As far as your question regarding our obligation to take care of a fellow man, I'm not sure this novel does lend itself to the question of "Am I my brother's keeper?" I'm going to take this question to the discussion board, and I'd love for you to join us there to discuss this issue. You'll get a more varied, detailed response to this enigmatic question from a group of intelligent, enlightened people (well, we're teachers anyway)!

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