In Of Mice and Men, why does George stay with Lennie?  

George stays with Lennie because he feels responsible for Lennie's safety, and because he considers Lennie a good friend.

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George stays with Lennie because he values his friendship and takes care of Lennie. It may seem that Lennie needs George more than George needs him, but in actuality, they both need each other equally. George made a promise to Lennie's Aunt Clara, who raised Lennie, that he will stay by Lennie's side and take care of him, and true to his word, he becomes Lennie's guardian.

At first, George feels obligated to protect Lennie to honor his promise to Aunt Clara. He also knows that Lennie basically cannot survive without him, due to his naivety and innocence, as well his intellectual disability. He understands that he needs to be there for Lennie, because Lennie doesn't have anyone else besides George to take care of him. As time passes, however, George begins to see Lennie not as someone he's forced to spend time with and look after but as a good friend and companion that he likes and feels very protective of.

Some argue that George behaves like a parent at times, but the more accurate description would be that George behaves like an older brother; he appreciates Lennie and tries to keep him safe and makes sure that they both stay out of trouble. In the end, George's morality and his sense of responsibility, and his love for Lennie, is what drives him to do what he believes is the right thing. He kills Lennie out of a sense of mercy, before Curley and his men come after him, to save his friend from a more painful death.

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Lennie's Aunt Clara and George knew each other; after she died, Lennie started traveling around with George. George also likes having Lennie around.

When he's asked why he stays with Lennie, George says he stays with Lennie because it's nicer to travel around with someone you know. Slim finds it strange that he does so, saying that other guys don't travel around together.

George explains that both he and Lennie were born in Auburn. Clara adopted Lennie when he was a baby. Once she died, Lennie started traveling with George. Though it's not said directly that Clara asked George to take care of Lennie, it's somewhat implied.

Later on, George reminds Lennie not to run so fast because his Aunt Clara wouldn't have liked it. Lennie also remembers his aunt and says that she gave him a piece of velvet to pet. He also hallucinates a vision of her later in the story.

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George stays with Lennie because he promised Lennie's Aunt Clara that he would take care of him. George also enjoys Lennie's friendship and company as they travel from ranch to ranch, searching for work as migrant farmers. In a conversation with Slim, George briefly discusses his relationship with Lennie. George says,

"We kinda look after each other...It's a lot nicer to go around with a guy you know" (Steinbeck, 17).

Despite the fact that Lennie is mentally handicapped and somewhat of a burden on George, George enjoys Lennie's company and values his friendship. In the rough, unforgiving environment of America during the Depression, many migrant farmers travel across the country by themselves. As isolated individuals with no permanent home or family, they live tragic lives and become callous, insensitive individuals. Steinbeck juxtaposes the lonely, isolated workers to George and Lennie, who have a meaningful relationship, in order to illustrate the value of friendship and brotherhood. George also understands Lennie and is used to being around him after so many years. Essentially, the two men morally support one another during the difficult time in America's history. 

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George explains to Slim in Chapter 3 that he and Lennie were born in the same town and after Lennie's Aunt Clara died, Lennie just started to accompany him "out workin'." George adds that he and Lennie became used to each other so that it felt odd to be alone.

As further explanation to Slim, George tells Slim that he has witnessed many men who travel alone that have become anti-social and even mean because they are alienated and on the defensive:

"I seen the guys that go around on the ranches alone....They don't have no fun. After a long time they get mean. They get wantin' to fight all the time."

Slim agrees that the men are mean, and adds that these men withdraw and do not even talk to others.

This scene is a significant one as it underpins the theme of the fraternity of man that Steinbeck stresses in his novella set in the Depression. Steinbeck felt that in a fraternity men were stronger and could overcome oppressive conditions with the strength of others.   

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In chapter 3, George is talking to Slim about how he and Lennie met. George explains that they were born in the same town. George knew Lennie's Aunt Clara, who raised Lennie from the time he was a baby. George takes up for Lennie and explains that he's not dumb, just simple. George explains that when Lennie's Aunt died, George began to take care of Lennie. He says he has never thought of leaving Lennie because Lennie is such a loyal friend.

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