Why does George ask Lennie to familiarise himself with the location of the clearing?

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If Lennie happens to get into any trouble, George wants him to run away and hide at the clearing. They have just come from a job in Weed. They had to leave because Lennie felt a girl's dress and panicked when she tried to get away from him. Lennie ended...

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If Lennie happens to get into any trouble, George wants him to run away and hide at the clearing. They have just come from a job in Weed. They had to leave because Lennie felt a girl's dress and panicked when she tried to get away from him. Lennie ended up hanging on to her dress, which the girl took as a sign of aggression.

George adds, "She yells and we got to hide in a irrigation ditch all day with guys lookin' for us, and we got to sneak out in the dark and get outa the country." Lennie can't help himself when it comes to soft things like rabbits, puppies, and girls. He also doesn't know his own strength. Lennie is innocent but destructive.

George knows the possibility exists that Lennie might cause some trouble again. Near the end of the chapter, George tells Lennie to come back to the clearing and hide in the brush.

Well, look. Lennie—if you jus' happen to get in trouble like you always done before, I want you to come right here an' hide in the brush.

This is certainly a bit of foreshadowing, even though George tries to convince Lennie that this time will be different.

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If the reader finishes the novella, Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck, and then returns to the first chapter and rereads it, he/she will apprehend that almost everything that happens in the plot is laid out in this first chapter.  This pattern of Steinbeck's metaphorically reflects the line of Robert Burns's poem, "To a Mouse," whose line the novella's title has borrowed:

The best laid scemes of Mice and Men, gang aft agley

[The best laid plans of Mice and Men often go awry]

George lays the best plans he can--as does the author, Steinbeck--, conditioning Lennie to return to the brush by the river if anything "bad" happens, but like the mouse who builds its nest in the field that is mowed in Burns's poem, the "nest" of George and Lennie's dream is destroyed in the death of the figurative "mouse" in Lennie's bear paws, Curley's wife, that Lennie inadvertently, like the mower, kills.  With the dream of George and Lennie destroyed, there is no real safe "nest" to return to:  indeed, "the best laid plans go awry."

 

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I, too, believe that this is George's way of protecting Lennie with a place to hide if or when he gets into trouble again.  George knows that Lennie does not do well with thinking for himself especially when he is under stress as he is when he is in trouble.  Therefore, George teaches Lennie that he can just run to the prepared hiding place, and George will find him there.  It gives Lennie and George a specific place to meet if they need to find each other in an emergency or when Lennie needs to leave suddenly again.

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George tells Lennie to remember where they are as an escape plan. They seem to have required something similar before - this is probably how they came to hide in the irrigation ditch when they were run out of Weed.

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Lennie always gets into trouble eventually. He does not know his strength, and he is attracted to soft things. Before George and Lennie arrived at the ranch, they had been run out of their last job when Lennie wanted to touch a lady's dress. It turns out George was right. Lennie did get into trouble.
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As has been pointed out above, George can't quite trust Lennie to stay out of trouble. They have to have an escape plan because of the likelihood of needing to make an escape.

This is a sad and telling hint at Lennie's ability to enact self-control and at George's dilemma - in taking care of Lennie, George has to put other people at risk. He chooses to protect Lennie, to side with Lennie, and goes so far as to create an escape plan for Lennie's next (violent) mistake.

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George is anticipating trouble. He realizes that Lennie can find himself in trouble easily. He is preparing for such an instance. If he and Lennie should have to make an escape, George is preparing Lennie for a place that they can meet. George is used to Lennie getting in trouble. He is used to having to make an emergency run for safety. Ironically, Lennie does get in trouble and he has to run for safety at the clearing. George knew where to find Lennie. Of course, this would be Lennie's last run.

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I believe it is so that Lennie can come back there if there is an emergency.  George knows that Lennie has a tendency to get himself in trouble like he did in Weed.  So maybe he thinks that there might be a need for Lennie to get away to somewhere that is secluded and where George can find him.

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Like many people of that time, the Great Depression, George is one of those people who would always have a backup plan, a plan for an emergency.  Since he hangs out with Lennie, he's more likely to have an emergency plan than ever.  Lennie, as he says, "Gets me in hot water all the time".  Later in the story, Steinbeck also tells us about an incident which happens "up in Weed", where Lennie gets hold of a red dress and won't let go - trouble which forced them to run away from men with dogs, hunting them.  So George knows from painful experience that he might not always be nearby to help Lennie out, so he plans for a rendezvous spot in case he gets into trouble again.

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To answer this question, just look at the little bit after the part where George tells Lennie to remember the place where they are.  George tells Lennie that he should come back to this place and hide in the bushes if he gets himself into some sort of trouble.

When George tells Lennie this, he mentions that Lennie has gotten himself into trouble before (he talks about this earlier in the chapter as well).  So George kind of expects that something bad will happen again.  If it does, he wants Lennie to go somewhere safe until George can come for him.

 

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