How is the realationship between George and Lennie in "Of Mice and Men" represented as a "leading and following" relationship?

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gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In the opening scene of the novella, Steinbeck symbolically represents George and Lennie's relationship by writing,

They had walked in single file down the path, and even in the open one stayed behind the other... The first man was small and quick, dark of face, with restless eyes and sharp, strong features. Every part of him was defined: small, strong hands, slender arms, a thin and bony nose. Behind him walked his opposite, a huge man, shapeless of face, with large, pale eyes, and wide, sloping shoulders. (2)

Throughout the novella, George is considered the leader and Lennie obediently follows him wherever he goes. Lennie even mimics George's mannerisms and often repeats his words. George is more intelligent and driven than his partner, Lennie, who is mentally disabled and would have a difficult time surviving on his own without George. Despite their dramatic intellectual differences, both men enjoy each other's companionship and company. George not only helps Lennie find work, but also gives him valuable advice, defends him when necessary, and eases his mind when he is upset. In turn, Lennie provides George company while both men traverse the country looking for work. George is responsible for making all of the decisions and even speaks for Lennie when the boss's son asks him questions. Overall, George is the leader in their relationship and Lennie is his obedient, helpless companion.

jeff-hauge eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Certainly George leads this strangely matched twosome. Lennie lives only in the present. He is described in animal terms for a reason. He is aware of his surroundings and his mindset reflects whatever sensory input he is immediately receiving. This is why he desires petting soft objects. He knows the pleasure of immediate gratification. George takes great pains to manage this drive in Lennie. George leads him as the carrot leads the horse.... to its next task.

This keeps them together. They solve the problem of loneliness by managing the balance in this symbiotic relationship.