Discussion Topic

Negative aspects of George and Lennie's friendship in Of Mice and Men

Summary:

The negative aspects of George and Lennie's friendship in Of Mice and Men include dependency and tension. George feels burdened by Lennie's constant need for guidance and protection, which limits his own freedom. This dependency also creates stress and frustration for George, as Lennie's actions often lead to trouble that George must resolve, ultimately leading to tragic consequences.

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What are negative aspects of George and Lennie's friendship in Of Mice and Men?

I believe you are referring to the first essay topic listed on the link, under Chapter 1.  The idea with this topic is to look at the negative aspects for the friendship in order to explain why it is that they continue to stay together.  What makes their bond so strong?

The drawbacks to their relationship are mostly involved in Lennie's disability and George's attempt to protect him.  George turns into a sort of boss, ordering Lennie to do and not do certain things, and getting mad at Lennie when he disobeys.  This creates a sense of rebellion in Lennie, who sulks and yells at George for being too mean.  To say such a thing to a man who is risking both job and freedom to stay with you is unfair.  George feels that -- he says to Lennie in Chapter 1: "You crazy son-of-a-bitch. You keep me in hot water all of the time."  

So with these conflicts, why stay together?  It relates to Steinbeck's portrayal of life in this time period and setting.  Think about the bunkhouse at the ranch.  A group of men who are mostly civil to each other, but who have no friendship and seemingly no family.  This was the life of the migrant farm worker, and it was a very lonely life.  Lennie and George at least have each other, and they share a common dream.  This dream of having their own little home helps keep them together and keep them pushing forward when it would be easier to give up.

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What are the negative aspects of George and Lennie's relationship in Of Mice and Men?

As friends, Lennie Small and George Milton are misfits, both physically and mentally; and, yet, each is dependent upon the other. However, this dependence creates a certain anxiety.

Lennie

Physically larger and stronger than George, Lennie's strength does less to defend George than to cause him worry.  As they enter the clearing in Chapter I, Lennie appears bear-like, dragging his feet behind him. He hides a mouse that he has been petting, but after George discovers it, he tosses the rodent away; nevertheless, Lennie tries to find another. Always Lennie is too strong, crushing anything he captures.  As they sit around the fire, George recalls the girl from Weed and expresses a wish that he could travel alone because

"I could get along so easy and so nice if I didn't have you on my tail. I could live so easy and maybe have a girl."

As he prepares the meal for them, Lennie asks for ketchup that George does not have. When George becomes angry, Lennie says that he will go away and live in a cave or somewhere.  But, of course Lennie cannot live by himself, so George has to appease him.

Of course, George is always worried that Lennie will overpower the other bindle-stiffs, so he cautions the big man about staying out of trouble.  When Curley's wife stands seductively in the doorway, George takes him by the ear exhorting him, "...She's a rattrap if I ever seen one."  But, Lennie protests, saying he has not done anything, and he wants to leave, "I don' like this place, George. This ain't no good place." 

When he pets the puppy given him by Slim, he accidentally kills it. Then, he is anxious about what George will say, "I done a bad thing....George ain't gonna let me tend no rabbits now." Later, when he inadvertently chokes Curley's wife, Lennie becomes extremely anxious about George's response. knowing his action is a repeat of what had happened in Weed.

George

Compellled to care for Lennie out of a sense of obligation because the man's aunt has died, George resents Lennie at times; however, even in his irritations at Lennie's repeatedly asking for a repetition of the dream of owning a farm of their own, George begins to believe in this dream. However, his mistrust of others and anxieties prevent him from letting Lennie really enjoy himself. Instead, he feels the need to scold the big man.  When he talks with Slim about Lennie, George explains their friendship in somewhat negative terms which hides the real comaraderie they share,

"'Course Lennie's a god damn nuisance most of the time...But you get used to goin' around with a guy an' you can't get rid of him." 

Further, George mentions how he used to tease Lennie until the man nearly drowned. Then, he stopped.

Thus, in their relationship George and Lennie both have feelings of anxiety and negativity toward each other either from disparagement or fear. This negativity often arises from their alienation and loneliness, which ironically, unites them as well by the hope that their dream of a farm affords them.

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