What are the similarities in George and Lennie's language in Of Mice and Men? 

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andrewnightingale eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Since both men have grown up in the same surroundings and have followed an inseparable path, it is logical that they would utilise the same speech patterns. It is clear from the context and setting of the novel that they have not had much of an education and therefore their language is simple and direct. They have no knowledge or need for sophisticated language conventions. All they need is to make themselves heard and understood. The language is therefore very basic, as in the following extract taken from chapter one. It is the first occasion in which the two actually communicate verbally:

"Lennie!" he said sharply. "Lennie, for God' sakes don't drink so much.""... Lennie. You gonna be sick like you was last night."

"That's good," he said. "You drink some, George. You take a good big drink."

The first speaker, George, is reprimanding Lennie for gulping down water from the river. One immediately notices that both men do not quite follow the rules of grammar in their speech. The language is simple and obviously colloquial. George, for example, says 'gonna' instead of 'going to' and the use of 'was' instead of 'were' does not follow the correct grammatical pattern. Lennie, in this example, omits the requisite 'should' when he tells George to also drink some water.

The similarities in their language become even clearer when they speak later:

"O.K.- O.K. I'll tell ya again. I ain't got nothing to do. Mightjus' as well spen' all my time tellin' you things and then you forget 'em, and I tell you again."

"Tried and tried," said Lennie, "but it didn't do no good. I remember about the rabbits, George."

"The hell with the rabbits. That's all you ever can remember is them rabbits. O.K.! Now you listen and this time you got to remember so we don't get in no trouble. You remember settin' in that gutter on Howard Street and watchin' that blackboard?"

Lennie's face broke into a delighted smile. "Why sure, George. I remember that... but... what'd we do then? I remember some girls come by and you says... you says..."

"The hell with what I says. You remember about us goin' in to Murray and Ready's, and they give us work cards and bus tickets?"

"Oh, sure, George. I remember that now." His hands went quickly into his side coat pockets. He said gently, "George... I ain't got mine. I musta lost it." He looked down at the ground in despair.

"You never had none, you crazy bastard. I got both of 'em here. Think I'd let you carry your own work card?"

Lennie grinned with relief. "I... I thought I put it in my side pocket." His hand went into the pocket again.

Both Lennie and George speak about 'ain't' and both do not use past tense verbs as in, 'I remember some girls come by and you says ...' and '... and they give us ... ' The two men clearly do not care about using proper, conventional English since the language they speak adequately fulfils its purpose as a means of communication.

They relate to each other and understand one another. Also, they are involved in a form of employment which does not require fancy language. As migrant workers, they speak a language that others in their situation can understand and relate to. If George and Lennie were to speak any differently, they would be seen as outsiders and would not have easily been accepted by other workers on the ranches which employ them. This is the language of the rancher and his workers, and that is what the two men are: migrant ranch workers.