In Of Mice and Men, what are the functions of the characters, Lennie and George?John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Set in the emotionally desolate period of the Great Depression, George Milton and Lennie Small of John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men exemplify the motif of the fraternity of men, a fraternity which offers support and friendship and meaning in men's lives in a time of desperate alienation. Like a refrain to chase away their loneliness, they remind themselves of their friendship,

"...We got a future.  We got somebody to talk to that gives a damn about us.  We don't have to sit in no bar room blowin' in our jack jus' because we got no place else to go.  If them other guys gets in jail they can rot for all anybody gives a damn.  But not us.

...because I got you to look after me, and you got me to look after you."

When George talks with Slim in Chapter 3, he tells Slim that men who go around alone all time get mean.  "They get wantin' to fight all the time."  And, Slim agrees, "They get so they don't want to talk to nobody."

In contrast to Lennie and George, the stable buck, Crooks expresses the desperate alienation that he suffers, telling Lennie that because he is alone, he never knows if what he sees is really there without being able to turn to another man and ask him whether he is right or not. "He [a man alone] got nothing to measure by."

Steinbeck himself wrote of his character Lennie Small,

"Lennie was not to represent insanity at all but the inarticulate and powerful yearning of all men."

This yearning is that of sharing with others, for meaning depends upon sharing, as Crooks points out.  Meaning to one's life is what fraternity does provide, and Lennie and George represent this fraternity.

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Of Mice and Men

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