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The relationship between Lennie and George in Of Mice and Men is one of friendship and stewardship. These two men travel together and share a dream. However, the two are not equals.
George takes care of Lennie and if we slightly tweak his description of Lennie – “He ain’t bright, but he’s a good worker” – we get a good picture of George’s view of Lennie. He is not smart, but Lennie is a good friend.
Within the friendship, George has the role of caretaker almost, as a father would take care of a son. Lenny serves as a companion and potential protection for George (He says at one point, “Ain’t nobody goin’ to talk no hurt to George,” suggesting that his response to any threat against his friend.)
The most telling statement from both men about their friendship is the one they repeat as part of their ritual. As Lenny and George go over the shape of their dream and plan for the future, they repeatedly define their friendship by saying that they are not like the other travelling workers:
George: “We ain’t like that...”
Lennie: “Not us! An’ why? Because…because I got you to look after me, and you’ve got me to look after you, and that’s why.”
A complicating factor of this relationship comes with the fact that Lennie is not a child and is responsible for his own actions. Though George is Lenny’s caretaker, he can only take a moral responsibility for Lennie’s misdeeds, not a legal one. This fact leads to the book’s climax where both modes of responsibility meet in a dramatic resolution.
Steinbeck’s first descriptions of George and Lennie demonstrate the fact that George is like a father figure to the shapeless faced Lennie. Lennie, despite his age, acts and speaks like a child due to mental retardation. He is always mimicking George and following him obediently:
“they had walked in single file down the path, and even in the open one stayed behind the other.” (page 4)
and also when George does something, Lennie does the same:
“Then [George] replaced his hat, pushed himself back from the river, drew up his knees, and embraced them. Lennie, who had been watching, imitated George exactly.” (page 5).
George takes care of Lennie and worries for him like a parent to its child:
“’Lennie!’ he said sharply ‘Lennie for Gods’ sakes don’t drink so much [...] You gonna be sick like you was last night.’” (page 5).
In the opening dialogue between George and Lennie, the nature of their relationship is easily distinguishable: George tells Lennie not to drink too much from the lake because he worries for his health, he speaks condescendingly to Lennie and tells him that he causes them so much trouble with his actions, but due to the fact that George then feels a little guilty and tells the begging Lennie the story of their dream, it is apparent that George really cares for Lennie and want to stay with him. It is also obvious that Lennie respects George and is always looking for his approval, in this relationship George is the leader and Lennie is the innocent follower.
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