There are three relationships that George and Lennie share. This is the order in which they are presented in the novella Of Mice and Men:
- George is a caretaker for Lennie
- George and Lennie are co-workers and partners in the "dream"
- George and Lennie are friends
1. George shields Lennie from the world. In Chapter 3 Slim remarks, "Funny how you an' him string along together," having noticed the contrasts in personal size, personality, and intellect. George explains that he and Lennie are both from the same town; he was acquainted with Lennie's Aunt Clara, who took Lennie in when he was a baby. But when Clara died,
"Lennie just come along with me out workin'. Got kinda used to each other after a little while."
Because George has "no people," no relatives, he took Lennie to shield himself from loneliness:
"I seen the guys that go around on the ranches alone. That ain't no good. They don't have no fun. After a long time they get mean."
Also, because Lennie "jes' like a kid," George feels responsible for him.
2. George and Lennie, two dispossessed men of the Great Depression, are itinerant workers who know no one but each other. This companionship is valuable, for, as expressed by lonesome stable hand Crooks, without another person, a man does not know if what he sees or thinks is real because "he got nothing to measure by." But, as Lennie says, "I got you an' you got me," so they are not so lonely, and by putting their earnings together, they have a goal, the dream of owning a little farm someday.
3. George and Lennie are friends and love each other, thereby giving their lives meaning because meaning depends upon sharing one's joys, worries, and hopes. Their relationship as friends gives their lives a purpose. When Lennie commits his errors of violence, he worries about George's being angry with him: "He's gonna be mad." Also, after Lennie inadvertently kills Curley's wife, George reflects that the dream of the farm is gone:
George said softly, "--I think I knowed from the very first. I think I knowed we'd never do her. He usta like to hear about it so much I got to thinking maybe we would."
When George sets Lennie free from a world that would cage him, he is absolutely bereft. Alone in the world, George finds no more purpose to life.
Slim twitched George's elbow. "Come on George. Me an'you;ll go in an'get a drink."
George let himself be helped to his feet. "Yeah, a drink."
Curley and Carlson looked after them. The insensate Carlson asks, "Now what the hell ya suppose is eatin' them two guys?"