In Of Mice and Men, according to George, how did he end up travelling with Lennie?

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At the beginning of Chapter 3, Slim mentions to George that he hardly ever sees two workers traveling together. He then says that it seems funny that a smart guy like George travels around with a cuckoo like Lennie. George defends Lennie by telling Slim that Lennie isn't cuckoo. George then mentions that he and Lennie were both born in Auburn. George tells Slim that he knew Lennie's aunt, Clara. Aunt Clara raised Lennie, and when she died, Lennie began following George around. Lennie also began working with George and he got used to having him around. George and Lennie have been traveling and working together ever since. As George continues to talk to Slim, he tells Slim that he doesn't have any family. Having Lennie around gives George a companion and someone to talk to. George then discloses what happened in Weed to Slim. 

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According to George, he and Lennie ended up travelling together as companions because of their shared background and history. This is something that he reveals to Slim when they chat together in the bunkhouse whilst Lennie is busy petting one of Slim's dogs. Note what George tells Slim about their shared past:

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 came along with me out workin'. Got kind of used to each other after a while.

Lennie and George have therefore ended up together because of the way that they grew up together and George's relationship with Lennie's Aunt Clara. Lennie is above all a helpless figure, more of a child than a man, and so it would have been clear to George that if he didn't look after Lennie, nobody would. This is why they ended up travelling around together with George adopting the curious role of parent to Lennie, even though Lennie is so much physically larger than George. Slim is not the only character to comment on the fact that very few itinerant workers travel together. It is clear that Lennie's helplessness and inability to survive by himself is a key factor in their companionship.

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The short answer of how George and Lennie started traveling together is that "it just happened." This is probably the most profound and truest answer. In the world of poverty, people don't really make choices. Things just happen. Options, decision, and weighing choices exist only in a world where opportunities exist. From this perspective, the ability to choose is a luxury. 

In a conversation with Slim, George explains his relationship with Lennie. He says that they were born close to each other in Auburn. George knew his Aunt Clara. When Aunt Clara died, Lennie just tagged along. They worked together, and they got used to each other. There is nothing profound. Here are the words of George.

“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.”

The paradox of George and Lennie is that they are the only friends in the book. So, what "just happened" turned out to be one of the great bright spots in the book. 

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George Milton and Lennie Small are an unlikely pair, but they always travel together in Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck. While this is a really good thing for Lennie, a mentally challenged giant of a man, it is certainly an inconvenience for George, a small, spare man. Quickly we learn the reason for this is that Lennie gets himself in trouble everywhere they go. 

The men are itinerant ranchers who had to leave their last job in Weed because Lennie has an innocent but annoying obsession with petting soft things. When he tried to "pet" a woman's dress, she got frightened and the men had to leave. Now they are on their way to a new job, and George has to make sure Lennie understands that there can be no screw-ups this time. He tells Lennie to keep quiet and let him do all the talking.

In chapter three of the novella, when they arrive at their new ranch, that's kind of how it goes; however, the boss is a little concerned that George is taking advantage of Lennie by making him work and then stealing his money. When the boss asks George directly about it, this is the explanation George gives:

"He's my.... Cousin. I told his old lady I'd take care of him. He got kicked in the head by a horse when he was a kid, He's awright. Just ain't bright. But he can do anything you tell him. " 

We learn something more about their pasts later, but this is George's public story.

It is interesting to note, however, that while traveling with Lennie is often inconvenient for George, he does appreciate the companionship. Theirs is a lonely and detached kind of life, moving from place to place without putting down any roots or developing close relationships. Earlier in the story, Lennie eagerly asks George to again tell him about the dream and plans the men have for their future.

While other men drift from place to place and have no one or nothing to call their own and no prospects for a satisfying future, George and Lennie are different.

"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' 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. " Lennie broke in. "But not us! An' why? Because .... Because I got you to look after me, and you got me to look after you, and that's why. " 

Obviously there are some negative aspects of traveling with Lennie, but it is clear that George does appreciate having someone to travel with in a world where most people like him have no one. Lennie, of course, could not survive on his own, so he is blessed to have someone like George to look after him. 

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