Of Mice and Men Questions and Answers
by John Steinbeck

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

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Gretchen Mussey eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Lennie is simply George's close friend and is not related to him in any way. When George and Lennie meet the boss of the ranch for the first time, George lies to him by saying that Lennie is his cousin. George is aware that the boss would not understand his unique friendship with Lennie and finds it easier to tell him that Lennie is his cousin. Later on, George explains to Slim that he was childhood friends with Lennie and mentions that they both grew up in Auburn together. George also mentions that he made a promise to Lennie's Aunt Clara that he would take care of him when she passed away. After Aunt Clara died, George kept his promise and has been Lennie's friend and guardian ever since. Overall, George and Lennie are close family friends who grew up together in Auburn and have been traveling the country looking for work together ever since Aunt Clara passed away. George acts as Lennie's guardian and protector while Lennie acts as George's loyal companion.

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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. 

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