In Of Mice And Men, what is Lennie to George?

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kellykflanigan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The two main characters in Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck, are George Milton and Lennie Small. It's a common assumption by readers that George and Lennie are cousins, but they are, in fact, not related at all. 

Lennie grew up being cared for by his Aunt Clara. George also knew Clara, and, prior to her death, agreed to take care of Lennie after she was deceased. 

The confusion likely arises from the lie George tells their potential boss at the ranch in chapter 2: "He's my... cousin. I told his old lady I'd take care of him."

Later, though, in the same chapter, Steinbeck uses George to clarify that they are not related. Lennie says,

"You said I was your cousin, George."

And George replies,

"Well, that was a lie. An' I'm damn glad it was. If I was a relative of yours I'd shoot myself." 

It can be very tempting to believe that George and Lennie are related because of the care and love they show for one another throughout the novel. Though they would certainly be considered "family," they are not related.