By the end of chapter two in Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men, George does appear to be a good friend to Lennie.
George can be a bit pushy and insulting at times, like when he gets terse with Lennie about not having any ketchup, but for the most part he takes care of Lennie. Most of George's shortcomings in his conversations with Lennie are just the result of a lack of patience. He probably doesn't speak any more harshly that most people would in dealing with Lennie.
And George is careful to take care of Lennie. He brings beans for their meal the first night, makes Lennie give up the dead mouse, brags about what a good worker he is, protects him from aggressive people like Curly, and asks Slim about getting a puppy for him.
The novel's society has no place for someone like Lennie. George does his best to give Lennie a place.
While an argument can be made either way for Lennie and George's friendship, I've always believed that George always had his best intentions in mind for Lennie. While George does tell us of times when he toyed-with and manipulated Lennie (the river incident) he has learned from it, and since then, cares for Lennie a great deal.
Guys like us, that work on ranches, are the loneliest guys in the world. They got no family. They don't belong no place. . . . With us it ain't like that. We got a future. We got somebody to talk to that gives a damn about us. We don't have to sit in no bar room blowin' in our jack jus' because we got no place else to go. If them other guys gets in jail they can rot for all anybody gives a damn. But not us.
While Lennie is obviously more dependent on George, George depends on Lennie for companionship and brotherly love.
But not us, George, because I... see, I got you to look after me, but you got me to look after you.
Let me give you some things to consider, and you judge if it means George is a good friend or not. This sounds like it is supposed to be your job to do the interpreting.
- George doesn't let Lennie talk to the boss.
- George lied about the way Lennie lost his good sense in order to get Lennie a job.
- George cusses and swears at Lennie.
- George repeats information for Lennie... repeatedly.
- George encourages Lennie to watch out for Curley. George has a sense that a guy like Curley is looking for a fight with a guy like Lennie.
- George defended Lennie to the other guys after Curley left the room.
Now, you decide if these things are good for Lennie or bad.
Overall, I would say that he probably is a good friend to Lennie.
You can say that he's not, because he keeps getting mad at Lennie. He tells Lennie that he wishes he (George) could just leave Lennie and be free of him. That's not really very nice.
But on the other hand, George is clearly looking out for Lennie. He tries to make sure that the boss doesn't suspect anything and he tries to be sure that Lennie doesn't get in trouble with Curley. Finally, he agrees to get Lennie a puppy because he knows Lennie would really like one.
George is just a man who is ordinary and burdened with a role in life that he is responsible enough to consider his own. He was asked to look after Lennie and he does this. He shows that he is a good friend because he sticks by him when things get tough.
The hardest time for George has had to be when he moves on because Lennie gets them in trouble. He has stuck by Lennie through his ups and downs. He may loose patience with him sometimes, but I believe he treats him far better than an institution would have treated Lennie.
George could have left Lennie along time ago, but he did not and that makes him a good friend and protector.