How to write an essay on "friendship between Lennie and George" in Of Mice and Men, taking in the complexities of the notion of this friendship?

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Lennie and George have a friendship based on mutual need. In fact, they each seem dependent on the other. Lennie, being mentally handicapped, needs George to help him navigate life at a very basic level. Being with George enables Lennie to avoid being institutionalized, jailed, or hurt in some cruel...

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Lennie and George have a friendship based on mutual need. In fact, they each seem dependent on the other. Lennie, being mentally handicapped, needs George to help him navigate life at a very basic level. Being with George enables Lennie to avoid being institutionalized, jailed, or hurt in some cruel way. George, being a lonely migrant worker, constantly moving from place to place seeking work, depends on Lennie for companionship and hope. Because he has Lennie in his life, he can dream of the two of them pooling their money to buy a small farm and achieving a better life than they have.

Normally, friendships are not so intently based on need, so that complexity would be important to explore in an essay. People often enter into friendships because of personal affinity or shared interests, but they are not so needy that they can't walk away from each other if need be. In George and Lennie's case, this is not so. George, for example, is often impatient with Lennie and gets angry at him, and Lennie tries to hide things from George.

Given that Steinbeck was writing not primarily to explore their friendship but to make a wider critique of the society in which they lived, you might examine how the capitalist system, in Steinbeck's opinion, created their high level of need. Could it be that George and Lennie were forced into codependence by a system that valued people more for what they could produce at the lowest possible cost than as as human beings? That case can certainly be made.

Finally, it's important to question why George kills Lennie at the end. It appears to be a mercy killing that arises out of the love and compassion George feels for Lennie and desire to spare him further pain. Do you agree that it is an act of friendship? If not, why might George have done it?

Be sure to pull quotes from the book to back up your arguments.

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You could begin this essay by considering the notion of friendship in general. What does friendship actually mean, what does it involve? We might say that friendship involves mutual respect, affection, shared circumstances, values and interests - any or all of these things, but a true and enduring friendship is likely to involve most, if not all of them.You could then go on to discuss the particular case of George and Lennie. To begin with, we can note that, on the face of it, they are a very unlikely pairing. As Slim says to George: 'Funny how you and him travel round together.' It is 'funny' not just because it's unusual for migrant workers to travel together, but because George and Lennie are polar opposites. George is smart and quick, Lennie is mentally slow and physically clumsy; George is cynical, Lennie has a childlike good-humour and affection.Yet they stick together.

You should consider the reasons given in the novel for this friendship, when George confides in Slim that he promised Lennie's Aunt Clara that he would always look after him. You could then discuss whether this friendship has arisen solely out of need: George's need for companionship, and Lennie's need for a mentor. Outside of the dream of sharing a farm together, they don't appear to have anything in common at all. Do they really have enough to make for a truly lasting and unbreakable bond? Think about George's shooting Lennie at the end, and his reaction to this. These are the kind of factors you could consider when writing this essay. 

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