In his acceptance speech for the Nobel Prize for Literature, John Steinbeck declared
The writer is delegated to declare and celebrate man's proven capacity for greatness of heart and spirit--for gallantry in defeat, courage, compassion, and love. In the endless war against weakness and despair, these are the bright rally flags of hope and emulation.
The relationships of the men in "Of Mice and Men" exemplifies the virtures that Steinbeck describes. With great pathos Steinbeck portrays the compassion and love that George has for his friend, Lennie, who, in turn keeps the dream of a homestead alive in his childlike innoncense. For, in Lennie's demand to hear the dream repeated, George begins to entertain the idea that it may truly be a reality some day. Lennie and George give meaning to each other's life; they hold despair at bay as they prevent the terrible isolation each would feel alone. (Significantly, George and Lennie work outside the town of Soledad, a Spanish word that means solitude).
This loneliness and despair that man feels when isolated is stated by Crooks, a black worker who is man to live separately in the stable away from the other ranch hands:
A guy goes nuts if he ain't got nobody. Don't make no differnce, long's he's with you.
After George shoots Lennie to prevent his suffering horrible loneliness in prison, he then, ironically, is isolated. But, with Steinbeck's "rally flag of hope," one of the ranch hands, Slim, consoles George: "You hadda, George. I swear you hadda. Come on with me." Slim shows compassion and love to George, rallying against George's grief and isolation in the loss of his friend.
Steinbeck shows an unspoken camaraderie among the workmen. Their friendship is based off achieving a common purpose. This is especially true in the relationship of Candy and George, as their friendship grows out of the goal of having a stead of their own. A different type of relationship is seen between George and Lennie. Their friendship is the result a long history, and Lennie's need of George's protection. Throughout the novel, George expresses a desire to be freed from the responsibility of caring for Lennie, yet is tied to Lennie because of their childhood friendship until the end of the novel.