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I would say this line has a fair amount of significance. First, we know that George doesn't really open up to many people. Lennie is really the only person George can talk to until this point, and we know he's not a very good conversationalist. When George talks to Slim about his memory of telling Lennie to jump in the water, it is likely the first time he's ever told anyone about it. There is a good chance George has been carrying guilt about that day for a long time. Therefore, when he talks to slim about it, he feels almost as if he is confessing to something that he knows was wrong.
We can guess that this event is one of the reasons George feels to protective over Lennie. He knows that he has done something wrong to Lennie in the past, and doesn't want to find himself taking advantage over Lennie ever again. Moreso, he doesn't want to see anyone else take advantage of Lennie the way he did when he told him to jump.
George's tone becomes confessional with Slim because Slim's personality allows and even warrants this kind of conversation. If you think of a confessional in terms of a church, it is usually a setting in which a person can talk about what they have done without fear of judgement from the person listening. George feels that he can talk to Slim without worrying that Slim will judge him. He is able to confess to what he did in the past, get it off of his chest, and move on.
To tell you the truth, I wouldn't read too much into this. George is explaining his relationship with Lennie to Slim. Many of George's talks with Slim take on a sort of confessional. Slim is the first person that George finds a friend in. Slim has a sophistication and almost empathy uncommon among these itinerant ranch-men. George explains when he, knowing Lennie can't swim, tells Lennie to jump in a river,
George’s voice was taking on the tone of confession. . . . “Tell you want made me stop that. One day a bunch of guys was standin’ around up on the, Sacramento River. I was feelin’ pretty smart. I turn to Lennie and says, ‘Jump in.’ An’ he jumps. Couldn’t Swim a stroke. . . . An’ he was so damn nice to me for pullin’ him out. Clean forgot I told him to jump in. Well, I ain’t done nothing like that no more.”
George knows he isn't a saint or "swell guy" for taking care of Lennie. I think that, in the end, George sees Lennie for what he is and this is enough for him.
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