Explore how George and Lennie’s ways of speaking reveal aspects of their characters and relationships in Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men.

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noahvox2 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men, George Milton and Lennie Small are best friends who travel around California doing various odd jobs. George is intellectually superior to Lennie, who clearly suffers from mental challenges. The way that they speak to one another strikes me as being the way a parent would speak to a child. George tells Lennie what to do, usually to keep Lennie from getting into trouble. George speaks in a manner comparable to the way a parent would speak to a child. Consider the following exchange from Chapter One as George quizzes Lennie on how Lennie is to respond at their next job:

“O.K. Now when we go in to see the boss, what you gonna do?”

“I . . . . I . . . .” Lennie thought. His face grew tight with thought. “I . . . . ain’t gonna say nothin’. Jus’ gonna stan’ there.”

“Good boy. That’s swell. You say that over two, three times so you sure won’t forget it.”

Although George speaks to Lennie as if he were a child, Lennie is a grown man so some of the things George says to Lennie would be inappropriate comments to make to a child, such as:

“’Cause I can jus’ as well go away, George, an’ live in a cave.”

“You can jus’ as well go to hell,” said George. “Shut up now.”

Only an extremely cruel parent would make such a remark to a child.

Still, George's creation of an ideal existence for himself and Lennie on a little farm of their own and George's threats that he will not let Lennie tend the rabbits if he gets into trouble do again recall the way in which some parents will try to manipulate a child's behavior by promising them a toy or some other reward. As we see throughout Steinbeck's novel, Lennie constantly has the dream of tending the rabbits on his mind. 

ilvfoxes | Student

In chapter 3 when George confesses to the god like character slim, we see the way George speaks to someone as an equal, staying calm, unlike when he usually shouts orders. Even when Lennie isn’t in the room we see how strong George feels for Lennie as he speaks ‘proudly’ of him, praising him, and he defends Lennie, telling slim that ‘he ain’t no cuckoo’. In this chapter we also learn that the relationship was forged out of guilt, but I think that it grew and they both need each other to get through the day as George says ‘that ain't no good’ to travel alone, it’s not a good life.

And finally in the last chapter we see the final fight inside George of if he should or shouldn’t shoot Lennie. George’s demeanour has changed so much since the first chapter; he now speaks quietly, his voice wooden as he talks to Lennie. George and Lennie both share trust, one example of this can be seen when Lennie states “you ain't gonna' leave me George”, it's more of a statement than a confirmation; Lennie knows and trusts that George won't leave him. And as Georges last act towards Lennie, which shows his love, he retells the dream of the ranch, trying to make Lennie as happy as possible before he shoots him.

To conclude, returning to the question, George and Lennie’s way of speaking reveal that they have a parent child relationship, George is a short tempered, but a kind, loving man, and Lennie is a childlike, simple minded man who adores Lennie.

(i got a B for this, so i hope it gives you some ideas)

ilvfoxes | Student

Explore how George and Lennie's ways of speaking reveal aspects of their character and relationship

A lot about a person can be taken in through their language, and how they talk to other people. From the beginning of the novel, Steinbeck presents George and Lennie with a powerful connection.

George is instantly depicted with being the leader, or parent role towards Lennie, telling him to not drink the water, to give the mouse over, to not say anything etc, just as it would be with a parent and child. George continually shouts commands or orders to Lennie, ‘come one, give it here’ or by using strong language like ‘Jesus Christ’ or ‘crazy bastard’; it is the only way that George portrays his worry and frustration to Lennie. George frequently loses his temper and often snaps ‘George said sharply’; as he doesn’t want Lennie to get into anymore trouble, linking back to the protectiveness of a parent. George usually ‘snaps’ or ‘demands’ telling the reader that he is quite a short tempered, impatient man who is the leader in the relationship.

Lennie’s adoration for George comes through strongly in the first chapter; Lennie even tries act like George, embracing his knees with his arms  and then he “pulled his hat down a little more over his eyes, the way George’s hat was.”. All Lennie wishes to do is to make George happy, suggesting to George that he could run ‘right up in those hills and live by himself’, so George could have his beloved Ketchup if there were any. The word “timidly” portrays the anger George often cast towards Lennie, and Lennie's learnt how to approach George when he's upset It is also evident from the start that Lennie could not possibly function in the harsh world that they inhabit without George, who holds his companion's work card and always does the talking for him. Through Lennie’s use of child like speech and his ‘pleading’, we instantly understand that Lennie is simple and is the child or the omega in the relationship, bearing the brunt of Georges rants about how great it would be if he weren’t stuck with him.

When George talks to Lennie about the dream of their own ranch, a whole different demeanour over comes George. The parent child relationship is still there, as George tells it like a bedtime story, ‘his voice becoming deeper... many times before’, but we see a more compassionate side as George speaks softer, almost as if he also would love to believe in the dream he made up for Lennie. We see the thought of the dream cheer up Lennie, as he is ‘delighted’ and even George as he praises Lennie for remembering to not talk.

In chapter 2 George and Lennie meet the boss and we see a less commanding said to George and a more protective one appear. When the boss becomes suspicious of Lennie and fires a question at him, George is the one that comes to his aid, bathing him in praise and making up a lie  saying that ‘he’s my cousin’. However, after the boss leaves, George gives Lennie an earful, establishing the leader role again.

When Curleys wife appears for the first time in the story, George makes it clear immediately that he isn’t very fond of woman as he replies to her ‘brusquely’ and warns Lennie ‘fiercely’ to not have any association with her, returning back to the protective parent relationship again. However Lennie’s mind only sees’s her as a ‘purty’ lady, unknown to the dangers a ‘rat trap’ like her can get you into.


stopstart | Student

george speaks to lennie as if he was a child "lennie looked hopelessly at george for instruction." , this shows that george is the one taking care of lennie, he is the leader.

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Of Mice and Men

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