In Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck, how does George react to others?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Alienated from others as itinerant workers George Milton and Lennie Small of Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men are vulnerable to the predatory human tendencies around them.  Aware of man's propensity for cruelty and his own powerlessness in his isolated condition, George, who must also protect his mentally deficient friend, is extremely wary, skeptical, and often cynical in his dealings with others.

When he and Lennie first arrive at the ranchhouse, he distrustfully asks the old swamper, "What the hell kind of bed you giving us, anyways?" when he sees a spray for lice.  Even when provided an explanation, George tells the old man "skeptically" that he is not "so sure." He thoroughly checks the bunks and asks what type of person the boss is.  Then, after Curley enters, George's tone is cold and tense as he responds to the son of the boss's questions, and defensive about Lennie.  Upon Curley's departure, George asks the old man suspiciously what is "on his shoulder"?  And, as Candy talks of the boss's son, George makes some derogatory remarks.  Later, he tells Lennie, "I hate that kinda bastard"; he, then, cautions Lennie to keep away from him.

Regarding Curley's wife, George is cynical, calling her "jail bait" and cautioning Lennie to avoid her entirely because "She' gonna make a mess."  When Lennie ogles her one time that she stands in the ranchhouse doorway, George chides him severely.  Similarly suspicious of others such as the cruel Carlson who desires to shoot Candy's old dog, George does warm to Slim after the mule skinner's "calm" invitation to confidence and seeing his "God-like eyes"; in fact, he takes Slim into his confidence by telling him about what happened with Lennie in Weeds.  Yet, he maintains his mistrust of others, refusing an invitation to go to town with the other men because, as Lennie tells Crooks, "George is careful."

The reactions of George represent man's universal struggle for a place in nature.  It is George's dream to have independence and security, to be a person in his own right; however, until he can achieve his goal of having a sanctuary away from others, George senses his vulnerability and knows that he must protect himself and Lennie by being suspicious of others, who, in their own weakness, find the strength to oppress others.

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