What makes George and Lennie different from other ranch laborers in chapter 1 of Of Mice and Men?

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In chapter 1 of Of Mice and Men, George elaborates on what makes him and Lennie different from other ranch laborers by saying, "With us it ain’t like that. We got a future. We got somebody to talk to that gives a damn about us." George and Lennie have each other for support and company, which is rare for most migrant workers. They also share a collective dream and have a future while other workers are lonely and hopeless.

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George and Lennie believe they are different from the other migrant ranch hands because they have their friendship with each other to stave off loneliness and because they have the dream of owning their own farm.

In showing what the two men have, Steinbeck is able to critique a system that keeps people alienated, atomized, and alone. Most of the workers don't have even such a simple support system as a friend to work and travel with, which leads many of the men to drinking and hiring prostitutes. As George says to Lennie:

Guys like us, that work on ranches, are the loneliest guys in the world. They got no family. They don’t belong no place. They come to a ranch an’ work up a stake and then they go inta town and blow their stake, and the first thing you know they’re poundin’ their tail on some other ranch. They ain’t got nothing to look ahead to.

As the above quote also suggests, the pool of migrant workers, many displaced by the Great Depression, have been denied the chance at even such a simple version of the American Dream as owning their own small home or farm. This makes it impossible to put down roots, develop lasting friendships, or start a family.

George and Lennie's friendship is real and does set them apart from the other migrants. However, their dream of owning a farm, while inspiring to the other ranch hands, is little more than a fantasy. They have saved almost no money, even if they haven't blown their wages on drink and women. As George explains to Lennie, they can't afford to leave the ranch, even though it makes them both uneasy:

If we can get jus' a few dollars in the poke we'll shove off and go up the American River and pan gold.

George and Lennie dream, but they are in almost as bad a situation as the other men.

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In chapter 1, Lennie persuades George to elaborate on their dream of owning an estate, where they will grow their own crops, live off the land, and tend rabbits. George begins to describe their dream by stating that migrant workers are typically the loneliest people on earth because they have no home or family. George goes on to say,

With us it ain’t like that. We got a future. We got somebody to talk to that gives a damn about us (8).

George acknowledges the difference between their unique lifestyle and how typical ranchers travel and work alone. According to George, migrant workers build up a small stake, blow their money, and continue looking for another job. Since they have no home or family, no one cares about them and they experience a lonely, arduous life. In contrast, George and Lennie rely on each other and have a close friendship, which helps make their difficult lives easier. Their comradery, support, and collective dream give them direction and hope for a better future.

George offers Lennie protection while Lennie provides George with much-needed social interaction. Even though Lennie continually leaves George in hot water, George values his company and looks forward to living on their own homestead. George and Lennie's dream gives them a respite from the harsh reality of their bleak situation. Tragically, George and Lennie's dream is simply a fantasy, which is jeopardized the moment Lennie interacts with Curley's wife.

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Look towards the end of the chapter, and you will find Lennie asking George to tell him "about the rabbits." At this point, George begins to tell a story which is obviously very well rehearsed -- it's something he has been thinking about for a long time, and which Lennie likes to hear.

George explains that he and Lennie are different to other ranch workers for one very fundamental reason: other ranch workers don't have "fambly" (families) and George and Lennie do. While other ranch workers are lonely, and have nobody to care for them and nothing to do but work and then blow their money in town and then move on to another ranch, George and Lennie have something to look forward to. In the form of each other, they also have a family, a support system, and somebody to care about them.

George says that he and Lennie, by contrast to the other ranchers, have "a future." They have someone "that gives a damn" about them. With other ranch workers, they could end up in jail and simply be left there to rot, but George has Lennie, and Lennie has George, which makes all the difference.

Lennie has heard this story told to him so many times that he could, George says, tell it himself, but he wants to hear George tell him about their imaginary future. In this future, the two men would live in their own little house, with a vegetable patch and a cow and acres of land. They would have chickens and rabbits to tend.

In many ways, this is only a fantasy which is unlikely ever to happen, as George knows, but in other ways he is right that he and Lennie are very different to other ranch hands. They certainly support and care about each other.

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George tells Lennie that they're different to other ranchers. For one thing, ranchers are the loneliest people in the world. They have no family and no place to go. When they get paid they head into town at the first opportunity and blow all their money, presumably on liquor and women. The next thing they know they've moved on to some other ranch where they end up doing the exact same thing.

But as George explains, he and Lennie aren't like that at all:

With us it ain't like that. 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.

George and Lennie are different to the other ranchers because they have something to look forward to in life. They have dreams, big dreams, about owning their own ranch one day. That gives them something to aim at, a reason to get up in the morning. And if they should ever get into trouble, they still have family on whom they can rely. With other ranchers, however, it's a different story. They could rot away in jail without anyone knowing or caring about them.

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