George Milton of Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men is one of many disenfranchised men of the Great Depression who have been forced to leave their homes and become an itinerant worker, a "bindle stiff," in his effort to find work. Along with this challenge, George has the responsibility of caring for Lennie who is mentally incapable of living on his own. As one of two lonely and alienated men, George comes into conflict with other "bindle stiffs" as well as members of the ranch on which they obtain employment.
- In Chapter 1, there are some arguments between George and Lennie as the child-like man disobeys George by hiding a mouse in his pocket and asking why they cannot go to the ranch that night as well as insisting that he wants ketchup with his beans.
- In Chapter 3, the son of the boss, Curley comes into bunkhouse after his wife has been there. Of course, George has recognized this temptress as a potential problem:
"She's gonna make a mess....She's a jail bait all set on the trigger."
- Later, when Curley appears in the doorway, he is immediately confrontational with the men, and when the big Carlson meets his challenge and calls him "yella as a frog belly," Lennie laughs. Enraged, Curley punches Lennie repeatedly, so George yells, "Get 'im, Lennie!" When Lennie grabs Curley's hand, his massive strength breaks Curley's fingers. Thus, George and Lennie both come into conflict with Curley.
- After Lennie inadvertently kills Curley's wife, George knows that Curley especially will want to murder Lennie; in addition, he realizes that Lennie will be institutionalized if he survives attacks from the men. So, he finds himself in conflict with the ranch men and society in general.
- George has conflicting feelings about Lennie. While he has promised Lennie's dying aunt that he will care for Lennie after she is gone, George often reflects upon how much less complicated his life could be without Lennie who has cost them jobs such as in Weed.
...if I was alone I could live so easy. I could go get a job an' work, an' no trouble. No mess at all, and the end of the month come I could take my fifty bucks and go into town and get whatever I want....
However, after George has said this, his
anger left him suddenly. He looked across the fire at Lennie's anguished face, and then he looked ashamedly at the flames. (Chapter 1)
- In their loneliness and alienation, George and Lennie sustain a dream of owning their own place someday and having a little farm on which they belong. But, because of the reality of their financial situation, George really has trouble believing that this dream will ever be realized.
- After the death of Curley's wife, George is greatly troubled as he fears that the other men will tear Lennie apart and murder him, or Lennie will be caged in an institution. His voice is "shaky" as he speaks to Lennie; his hand "shakes" as he holds the gun to save Lennie from both the men and an asylum. After he shoots Lennie,
George shivered and looked at the gun, and then he threw it from him, back up on the bank, near the pile of old ashes.
With the death of Lennie, George then is as alone as all the other bindle stiffs;his dream destroyed, he is faced with living without friendship and hope.