What is the relationship between George and Lennie in Of Mice and Men?

In Of Mice and Men, George and Lennie are close friends and migrant workers in the midst of the Great Depression. Their friendship is mutually beneficial, and both men make sacrifices for each other. George acts as Lennie's guardian, while Lennie provides George with much-needed social interaction. They also share the same dream, which offers them a mental respite from their desperate, hopeless situation.

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The relationship between Lennie and George is one of close friendship. The two men, who on the face of it, seem like chalk and cheese, have developed a close bond over the years that keeps them joined together through all manner of adversities.

And it's just as well that they...

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The relationship between Lennie and George is one of close friendship. The two men, who on the face of it, seem like chalk and cheese, have developed a close bond over the years that keeps them joined together through all manner of adversities.

And it's just as well that they have, because the life of a transient farm worker can be a very lonely one indeed. Traveling from place to place inevitably involves being separated from your loved ones, so it's good to have a faithful friend with you, a loyal companion with whom you can share the good times and the bad.

The friendship between Lennie and George isn't one of equals, however. Lennie has the mental age of a child and so needs George to look out for him. Even with George around, that still doesn't stop Lennie from getting into trouble, as when he frightened a woman in Weed by touching her dress. The simple fact is that Lennie isn't capable of taking care of himself; he needs George by his side virtually the whole time.

Even George's killing of Lennie, after Lennie inadvertently kills Curley's wife, can be seen as an example of George's taking care of his friend. George knows that if Lennie is caught by the authorities, then he won't be able to cope, and so, under the circumstances, he feels he has no choice but to shoot him.

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The relationship between George and Lennie is frustrating for both men. It’s difficult for George because, minus Lennie, George could have a far less stressful life. As George tells Lennie early on, “I could get along so easy and so nice if I didn’t have you on my tail.” For George, Lennie represents vexation. Even little things—like Lennie stating that he likes his beans with ketchup—get on George’s nerves.

Lennie, too, is frustrated by their relationship. Alas, his annoyance isn’t with George so much as with himself. He knows that he pesters George, and it bothers him that he can’t seem to control himself. For instance, after George makes it clear to Lennie that they don’t have any ketchup, Lennie tells George that he doesn’t want ketchup. In fact, if there was ketchup right beside him, he wouldn’t eat it with his beans.

Conversely, the relationship between Lennie and George is loyal. Despite the irritation that Lennie brings, George sticks by him. He makes sure that Lennie has food, shelter, and work.

The end reinforces this loyalty. Rather than leave Lennie to Curley, George opts to kill Lennie himself so that it’s done humanely.

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George and Lennie grew up together and became close friends when Lennie's Aunt Clara passed away. Ever since Aunt Clara died, Lennie has been traveling with George, looking for manual labor jobs on farms and ranches. Unlike most migrant workers, who travel by themselves and experience lonely, stressful lives, George and Lennie's friendship is unique and beneficial. Given Lennie's mental disability, George acts as his guardian and protector. George makes every significant decision for Lennie, continually comes to his defense, and offers him valuable advice.

Despite Lennie's impulsive nature and mental handicap, he has an amazing work ethic, which provides some job security in the unstable economic environment. George recognizes that Lennie's strength, endurance, and obedient nature are valuable assets and gives them an advantage when applying for competitive jobs. Lennie also provides George with much-needed company and social interaction. In addition to their comradery, George and Lennie also share the same dream of owning an estate, where they can "live offa the fatta the lan'." Although their dream is illusory and unattainable, it gives them a mental respite from the harsh reality of their hopeless circumstances.

Even though Lennie keeps George in "hot water all the time" by jeopardizing his freedom and job security, George enjoys his company and values his friendship. Both men rely on each other for emotional support to endure the hostile environment. George and Lennie are also extremely loyal to each other and willing to make sacrifices during desperate situations. Overall, George and Lennie have a unique friendship which is mutually beneficial and makes their arduous lives significantly more bearable.

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When evaluating the relationship of George and Lennie, keep in mind the influential external factors. The setting takes place during the time of the Great Depression and the Dust bowl. Lennie and George are both migrant workers and depend on farm work for money at a time when America's economy was the weakest and its farms were struggling to keep animals and crops alive. In addition, the Unites States is filled with intense prejudice towards races, sexes, and outcasts. There are a number of relationship pairs to evaluate throughout the story so keep the setting complications in mind.

Through figurative language and characterization used in chapter one, Steinbeck reveals the characteristics of both George and Lennie. Lennie has a mental disability and is a regular burden on George; he has lost jobs because of his inability to control his strength and is regularly badgering George with questions. Because of his strength, however, Lennie is able to impress farm owners who desire capable physical laborers. On the other hand, George has the wit and instinct to navigate from farm to farm and find new areas to work.

While George sacrifices job stability and independence, he gains companionship at a time when the rest of world is indifferent to him. Likewise, Lennie sacrifices some personal dignity (George regularly casts crude, demeaning remarks on Lennie) and gains a protector, provider, and friend.

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George and Lenny are friends. There is no family relation between these two men.  George takes care of Lenny because he is mentally handicapped and he feels a social responsibility to help him. However, in many ways Lenny takes care of George as well.

They travel together, work together, and dream together.  They provide each other with companionship that they otherwise would not have.  Their ultimate goal is to have their own farm one day, but unfortunately that dream is cut short because of other events in the novel. 

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