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Steinbeck's portrayal of George and Lennie's relationship in Of Mice and Men


Steinbeck portrays George and Lennie's relationship in Of Mice and Men as one of deep, brotherly companionship. George acts as a protector and caretaker for Lennie, who has a mental disability. Their bond is rooted in mutual dependence and shared dreams, highlighting themes of friendship and the human need for connection amidst the harsh realities of the Great Depression.

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How does Steinbeck develop and present the character of Lennie in Of Mice and Men?

Steinbeck portrays Lennie through several literary devices in the beginning.

I would use your introduction to discuss the significance of Lennie's character throughout the story. In my opinion, Steinbeck uses Lennie to reveal messages to society even today about kindness, those less fortunate than us, humanity, and equality. What do you think some of those messages might be? Then, write a thesis statement that uses the author, title, Lennie's name, and some of the literary devices he uses as you will see referenced below.

METAPHOR: In the first few pages, Lennie's stature is revealed through metaphors to a bear and his paw.  Find the quotes that reveal this information and explain why they are important.

Lennie is also described as extremely large.

DIALOGUE: When George and Lennie talk, you see Lennie repeat George, you see Lennie speak like a child, and you see slang that is language similar to that which a child might use. You also see Lennie get excited about things like a child does.

CONTRAST: The difference in intellect, role, and size between George and Lennie demonstrates that both have strengths and weaknesses. It is interesting how the story explores the value each of them are given for what they are capable of doing. Steinbeck points out these in the first chapter.

You might conclude by referring back to the message that you ultimately uncovered through your exploration of these literary devices.

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How does Steinbeck's presentation help visualize George and Lennie's relationship in Of Mice and Men?

John Steinbeck wrote Of Mice and Men with the intention of turning it into a stage play, which he did in 1937, the same year the book was published. This fact explains a great deal about the construction of the novella. He wanted to make the adaptation as easy and as faithful to the original as possible. This meant relying heavily on dialogue, since most stage plays are almost totally dependent on the spoken word. Much of the exposition is conveyed through conversations between the characters, and this is especially true of the conversations between George and Lennie. 

Steinbeck probably hit on the idea of making Lennie feebleminded so that George would have to keep explaining everything to him--and at the same time explaining everything to the reader and to the future audience at the stage play. In the opening chapter George tells Lennie where they are going, where they have been, describes the trouble they had in Weed, and instructs him to come back to this campsite by the river and hide if he should get into trouble at their new place of employment. Steinbeck also uses Lennie's imbecility as an excuse to have George explain the shared dream of owning their own farm, which is the main motif of this story.

Lennie pleaded, "Come on, George. Tell me. Please George. Like you done before."

George's voice became deeper. He repeated his words rhythmically as though he had said them many times before. "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. . . . 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."

As it is, George and Lennie make a grotesque and ill-fated partnership. Nobody can understand why George burdens himself with an overgrown child who kills little animals by petting them to death and who nearly got them lynched in Weed for trying to pet a girl. Even George can't understand why he does it--and if George can't understand it, how can the reader be expected to understand it?

"You can't keep a job and you lose me ever' job I get. Jus' keep me shovin' all over the country all the time. An' that ain't the worst. You get in trouble. You do bad things and I got to get you out."

George's only substantive reason for putting up with such a burden, as we learn through still more dialogue, is that he made a promise to some "Aunt Clara" to look after Lennie. It is an insufficient motivation, but Steinbeck was wise not to try to pile on more excuses because they would only call attention to the bizarre partnership and the improbability of their being able to realize their "American Dream."

It is easy enough to visualize George and Lennie but hard to understand their relationship, and it is hard to sympathize with Lennie because he seems almost like a monster and because he is always killing little animals--either accidentally or perhaps accidentally on purpose..

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How does Steinbeck present George and Lennie's relationship and what themes do they represent?

Steinbeck presents the relationship shared between Lennie and George as being similar to a "caretaker" relationship. An argument can be made that the relationship is not only similar to a "caretaker" relationship, but is actually a relationship of that type.

George explains that he agreed to take care of Lennie after Lennie's Aunt Clara died.

We see Lennie from the outset of the novel as being childlike and innocent, yet he also has a tendency to get into trouble. The pair have been "run out of weed" where Lennie got into trouble. He needs to be taken care of, protected from harm, from starvation, and from the law as well (when he gets into trouble).

Beyond the dynamic between the two characters, the relationship they share is also presented as being both intimate and historic.

George and Lennie have known each other for a long time and they know each other well. We see this when Lennie tries to trick George at the beginning of the book (by retrieving the mouse) and George immediately penetrates Lennie's deception.

There is also a great loyalty between George and Lennie, seen when Crooks suggests to Lennie that something bad may have happened to George in town. Lennie grows quickly upset and begins to threaten violence to Crooks and to anyone who would dare even "talk harm" to George.

Finally, this friendship is complicated and it compromises both men to some extent. Lennie sacrifices some of his desires in order to please George and George sacrifices quite a bit of freedom due to his role as Lennie's caretaker.

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Does Steinbeck use direct or indirect presentation to depict George and Lennie's relationship in Of Mice and Men?

Steinbeck uses both.

I find that we indirectly see George as a father-figure to Lennie. This is evidenced by the facts that George sacrifices his opportunities to have relationships with girls to take care of Lennie. His effort to make Lennie remember the "secret place" by the pool just in case he gets into trouble evidences this belief as well.

Directly, Steinbeck shows that George takes care of Lennie when George works with the boss to explain that Lennie isn't all there and that he does work hard. George sacrifices his own potential to work to give this explanation.

The terms indirect and direct characterization are much more familiar in literary analysis. When we see indirect, it is like showing that someone has a particular trait. When we see direct characterization, it is telling what someone's trait is. This is the difference between, "John's leg shook like an earthquake," and "John was nervous."

It is rare that Steinbeck directly states their relationship. He spends more time building it by showing their relationship.

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What does Steinbeck convey through Lennie and George's strong friendship in Of Mice and Men?

The friendship of Lennie and George began some time previously to the story’s beginnings. George had promised Lennie’s aunt that he would take care of Lennie. In this way, George becomes Lennie’s protector, often from Lennie’s own actions. Lennie looks to George to do the hard thinking for both of them. Their plan to buy their own place (with rabbits) is symbolic of their friendship. The world is a troubled place, which provides little protection for someone alone in the world, especially someone that is different. Their friendship serves as a fortress from those who would take away whatever strength they have together as friends.

Steinbeck uses this friendship to showcase the plight of the common man in contemporary America. During the Depression, people were faced with trouble and tragedy, usually out of no fault of their own. It is only in friendship, relying on each other, that there can be any comfort in this world. Lennie and George thus serve as Everyman, in which the reader can identify his/her own need for friendship, rather than facing life’s troubles alone.

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What is the nature of George and Lennie's relationship in Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men?

As critical and close readers will discover, the relationship between the intelligent, but small and weaker George Milton and the mentally handicapped, but large and stronger Lennie Small [notice the last names!] is symbiotic, just as the second post clarifies. Even Lenny expresses this relationship:

because I got you to look after me and you got me to look after you, and that's why

While George complains in the first section of Steinbeck's novella Of Mice and Men that he does not know why he keeps Lennie around--"I could get along so easy and so nice if I didn't have you on my tail"--he later explains the importance of Lennie's friendship:

I ain't got no people....I seen the guys that go around on the ranches alone.  That ain't no good.  They dont' have no fun.  After a long time they get mean.  They get wantin' to fight all the time.

So, although he is often irked with Lennie, George stays with Lennie out of commitment to his promise to Lennie's aunt, but also because he cares about Lennie and understands that, as Joseph Conrad wrote, "Meaning in life depends upon sharing."  This idea is central to Steinbeck's theme of the brotherhood of man and how men fare better if they are not alienated because, if alienated, they become mean and cruel out of their fear of vulnerability, as does the character, Curley.  The strength to oppress others is itself born of weakness, Steinbeck tells his readers.

Most importantly for both George and Lennie, Lennie is the keeper of the dream.  For, without the child-like Lennie there is no dream of a ranch and rabbits and "livin' off the fat of the land."  It is for Lennie's sake that George repeats the dream of their having land; George does not really believe that this dream will come to fruition--at least, at first.  But, with his childlike friend's belief being so strong, George himself starts to believe in a future, thus acquiring some hope in his life.  So, Lennie not only gives George much needed love, but he also lifts George from his life "of quiet desperation" as Thoreau wrote.

When Lennie dies, so does the dream for George and old Candy.  And, this is why George has Lennie recite the dream one more time before his death:

George shivered and looked at the gun, and then he threw it from him, back up on the bank, near the pile of old ashes. [symbol of death of Lennie and the dream]

According to Steinbeck, all men need someone to help them measure the world.  The dysfunctions and psychological complexes of the other characters all stem from their lacking this someone.  After all, it is the predatory human tendencies that defeat Lennie and George in the desperate mouse maze of life of the Great Depression.

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What is the nature of George and Lennie's relationship in Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men?

In a couple of places in the story, there are conversations that reveal this relationship for what it is.  As migrant workers with no family or permanent roots, both George and Lennie represent someone who cares about the other person.  George speaks of other guys who could disappear and no one would notice, whereas "we got someone who gives a hoot in hell about us".  So while Lennie is trouble, can't take care of himself and gets in the way of George just having a good time with the guys, he wouldn't abandon him for this reason - he's the only family he's got.

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What is the nature of George and Lennie's relationship in Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men?

In Of Mice and Men, George is a combination of mother/protector/friend/bully to Lennie.  Lennie owes his survival, such as it is and as short as it is, to George.  The society of the novel has no place for someone like Lennie, and he is completely dependent on George.

When someone talks to them, Lennie is dependent on George to talk.  Lennie's conversation with Curley's wife near the end of the novel is proof that George does well not to let Lennie talk--Lennie doesn't talk about anything but rabbits.  He cannot carry on an intelligent conversation. 

What little hope is actually present of buying their own place and raising rabbits is also dependent on George.  Lennie certainly isn't going to save money, find a place, negotiate a deal, etc., much less run the place.  They have little to no chance of ever succeeding with their goal and dream, anyway, but whatever little chance Lennie does have, rests with George. 

Finally, what little dignity Lennie possesses is also in George's hands, although dignity may not be the best word.  George puts Lennie out of his misery, rather than allowing him to suffer indignities (maybe it is the best word) and death at the hands of Curley and a mob. 

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What is the nature of George and Lennie's relationship in Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men?

To me, these two men have sort of a strange relationship.  I think that the strangest part is what is in the relationship for George.

I think Lennie's part in the relationship is pretty clear.  He relies on George to keep him out of trouble.  Most of all, he relies on George to be the one who can make their dream come true.

But why does George keep Lennie around?  This is much harder to understand.  So I think that George must have some sort of issues that make him need to have someone around that he can boss and bullly.  I think he feels how powerless he is and he needs Lennie so he can feel powerful.

So in a way, it's almost like an abusive relationship where the abuser (George) keeps the abused around so he can feel powerful.

However, when I think about George killing Lennie, this doesn't make any sense anymore.  He clearly cares for Lennie a great deal at that point -- making sure that Lennie dies in a "good" way.

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How does Steinbeck portray Lennie and Crooks' relationship in Of Mice and Men?

Steinbeck presents the relationship between Lennie and Crooks as a rare example of interaction between a white man and a black man that doesn't involve racism and repression. Lennie's severe learning difficulties mean that he doesn't really understand what racism is, and so he has no problem with spending time in the company of Crooks, who's segregated from the other men at the ranch on account of his skin color.

At the same time, in the figure of Lennie, Crooks is presented with a rare opportunity to talk back to a white man without the threat of any serious repercussions. We see this when he taunts Lennie about relying on George to look after him. Crooks gleefully peppers Lennie with a string of hypothetical questions: What would Lennie do if George didn't come back? What if he got injured and died?

Lennie doesn't understand the nature of hypothetical questions and so quickly starts to lose it. Sensing he's in imminent danger, Crooks calms the big guy down by telling him that George is okay. But he then goes on to say that at least now Lennie knows what it's like to feel all alone in the world. Through his taunting of Lennie, Crooks has given him an insight into what it's like to be the only black man on the ranch.

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How does Steinbeck portray Lennie and Crooks' relationship in Of Mice and Men?

Crooks, who has been made bitter by the racism he experiences from the other ranch hands, is at first standoffish toward Lennie, who shows up in his room by the stable when most of the other ranch hands, including George, have gone to town.

Crooks tells Lennie to go away because his room is his own space, and Lennie is not wanted there. Then he perceives Lennie's open-hearted friendliness and gives in:

Crooks scowled, but Lennie’s disarming smile defeated him. “Come on in and set a while."

Crooks frightens Lennie with talk of George not coming back, then softens when he realizes how alarmed Lennie is becoming. Crooks's talk had a point: Crooks emphasizes that Lennie has someone to depend on, whereas he, Crooks, is all alone. Lennie tells him about the dream of owning a small farm. Crooks at first is very interested but then bitter reality sets in that he would not be accepted there.

Lennie and Crooks are presented as two outsiders, each damaged in his own way, who nevertheless get along because they don't present a threat to each other. Crooks can relax around Lennie and enjoy being able to alleviate his loneliness. Lennie accepts Crooks as he is, as a fellow human, because he does not know enough to be racially prejudiced. One can imagine the two having a friendly relationship in a different, better world.

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How does Steinbeck portray Lennie and Crooks' relationship in Of Mice and Men?

Lennie and Crooks have an interesting relationship because they do not adhere to societal norms. Because Crooks is the only black man on the ranch, he has his own living quarters. He has a good working relationship with the men, but it does not go much further beyond that. He is not a part of their card games and does not go to the "saloon" with them.

In Chapter 4, when all of the men have left, only Crooks and Lennie have been left behind because they do not quite fit in with the group of men. Lennie wanders into Crooks' living quarters, simply because he is lonely and doesn't have anyone else to talk to. He has no idea that white people do not just "hang out" in Crooks' room for no reason. Crooks' initial reaction is to distrust Lennie. He tries to explain to Lennie that he has no place being there, but Lennie doesn't understand, so he continues to stay and ramble to Crooks. Eventually, Crooks softens and invites Lennie to come in and sit.

Crooks and Lennie are brought together by their loneliness, and this is perhaps their only common bond. Their conversation in Crooks' bunkhouse takes a bit of a sour note when Crooks asks Lennie to consider whether George might just take off and leave him there, which upsets Lennie. Most likely, Crooks was not trying to upset Lennie. He brings this issue up because he is projecting his own loneliness and bitter views of the world to Lennie. He believs that each man is out for himself, and for a moment wonders why George would not be the same.

For a moment, Crooks is allowed to have some hope for his life during his conversation with Lennie in his room. Until this point, he has accepted his place in society as a black man who can do nothing but keep to himself and do his job. When he talks to Lennie, Candy walks into the room and they begin discussing their dreams for the future. Crooks, getting caught up in the fantasy and forgetting his place, asks if he can join their plan. He is able to believe it can happen only briefly, because soon Curley's wife walks in and tells him his place.

Loneliness and the desire for a place to call home are the two things that bring Crooks and Lennie together, if only for a moment. Lennie's blindness to racial inequalities allows him to open up to Crooks, and Crooks' desire for someone to talk to allows him to open up to Lennie. Though this bond is short-lived, it is a significant event in the novel because it highlights the loneliness of ranch life and shows that though all men had dreams, these dreams were not always realistic.

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How does Steinbeck portray Lennie and Crooks' relationship in Of Mice and Men?

The main way Steinbeck portrays friendship is through the relationship between Lennie and George. Lennie is mentally handicapped and relies on George to guide and take care of him as they travel from job to job as migrant workers. Yet they are united by a true bond of friendship and care deeply about one another.

This friendship differentiates them from most of the other men they meet as ranch workers. As George says to Lennie, migrant workers are the loneliest of people. But he and Lennie have each other. George states:

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.

As they enter the new ranch, they meet with men who are lonely and isolated because of their work and inability to put down roots. The other men express a great longing to be part of George and Lennie's dream of owning a small farm, because then they too could have a sense of community and belonging.

One of the tragedies of George having to kill Lennie is how the loss of his friend will impact him: he will be as lonely and hopeless about the future as the other men he meets on the road.

While George and Lennie are extremely lucky to have the close friendship they do as long as they do, Steinbeck's larger point is that one cruelty of capitalism is the way the endless tramp from job to job and an uncertain future robs people of commonplace joys of friendship and a stable home life.

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How does Steinbeck portray Lennie and Crooks' relationship in Of Mice and Men?

In Chapter Four, Steinbeck gives Crooks a thorough introduction, particularly in describing Crooks himself and his living quarters. Since Crooks is black, he is forced to live apart from the other white workers; clearly, racism was a part of this culture and era. Crooks lives/sleeps in a shed attached to the barn. Crooks was also excluded from other things at the ranch. While the rest of the workers are in town, Crooks stays behind claiming he isn't wanted. Having become accustomed to being excluded, Crooks has become a loner himself as if to accept his isolation or to have some control over it.

This room was swept and fairly neat, for Crooks was a proud, aloof man. He kept his distance and demanded that other people keep theirs. 

It is fitting then that Steinbeck gives Crooks his own introduction, thereby presenting him as he is in the novel: somewhat isolated from the others. 

Crooks has a back ailment, a crooked spine, and he has to rub ointment on it every night. He must deal with being a social outcast in addition to dealing with a physical ailment. Crooks is one who suffers yet perseveres. And being that he is often isolated, he suffers alone, seemingly with no hope. 

So it is unlike Crooks to allow Lennie (and then Candy) into his bunk. And although Crooks initially criticizes Lennie and the dream of owning a farm, Crooks eventually opens up a little bit. Even Crooks, in his solitude has not lost all hope of having a better life. When Candy and Lennie talk more about the farm, Crooks reluctantly offers to help: 

He hesitated. ". . . If you . . . guys would want a hand to work for nothing--just his keep, why I'd come an' lend a hand. I ain't so crippled I can't work like a son-of-a-bitch if I want to." 

Unfortunately, Curley's wife interrupts this moment and after she threatens Crooks, he retreats back to his original demeanor and attitude of being aloof and keeping his distance. 

It is fitting that in this chapter, Crooks is befriended by Lennie and Candy. Lennie is a social outcast because he is socially awkward. In his innocence and mental disability, he often gets into trouble, often violent trouble on account of not understanding his own strength. Candy is the aging ranch hand, fearful that he will be too old to work (in the eyes of others) and therefore he feels like a potential outcast (being fired) in the future. All three are treated as different, "other," or unwanted in some way. Crooks is black, Candy is old, and Lennie is mentally challenged. And yet they come together in a fitting place, Crooks' isolated bunk, to discuss one last dream. 

Curley's wife interrupts talk of this dream, but her presence is somewhat fitting as well. She later reveals to Lennie that she had dreams herself but married Curley and now finds herself stuck at a ranch with nothing to do but flirt and talk with the other ranchers. 

The chapter ends with Crooks rubbing ointment on his back and this symbolizes his reluctant acceptance of his role as the isolated, ailing worker on the ranch. It is more melancholy knowing that Crooks had at least entertained the idea and hope of following George, Lennie, and Candy to a better life on a new farm, a place where he would probably not be persecuted the way he is in his current situation. 

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How does Steinbeck portray Lennie and Crooks' relationship in Of Mice and Men?

Crooks is presented as an outsider.  He is old, crippled, and black, so he does not think anyone needs him anymore and he is terribly lonely.

When we first meet Crooks, we see an example of him trying to be helpful but being gently rebuffed.  Crooks is described as “a lean negro head, lined with pain, the eyes patient” (ch 3).  He tells Slim he has warmed up tar for the mule, and offers to put it on.  Slim tells him it’s all right, he will do it himself.  Then Crooks tells him Lennie is playing with the puppies, and Slim tells him it doesn’t matter.  Crooks is trying to be helpful, but Slim does not need him.

As the stable buck, Crooks is “more permanent” than the other men.  As a Negro, he also gets his own space because no one else wants to room with him.  His age, injury, and color all make him outsiders to the other men.  He does not get company, and the men won't allow him to share in the games.

"'Cause I'm black. They play cards in there, but I can't play because I'm black. They say I stink. Well, I tell you, you all of you stink to me." (ch 4)

Lennie finds Crook interesting because Lennie is an outsider too. He tells him about the dream of a ranch.  Crooks realizes that Geroge and Lennie do not consider him less of a person.  While they are around, he feels needed and worthy again.

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How does Steinbeck portray Lennie and Crooks' relationship in Of Mice and Men?

Although the men refer to Crooks with a derogatory term which was widely used at that time, Steinbeck treats the character sympathetically. When he is first described in chapter two, Candy, the old swamper, tells George and Lennie that he likes Crooks and tells them why he has a crooked back:

“Yeah. Nice fella too. Got a crooked back where a horse kicked him. The boss gives him hell when he’s mad. But the stable buck don’t give a damn about that. He reads a lot. Got books in his room.”

Crooks is segregated and sometimes the victim of racism, as with the episode in the bunkhouse at Christmas, involving "Smitty." Because of this, he is naturally "aloof" and suspicious. His segregation makes him understandably mistrustful as he angrily tells Lennie why he's not wanted in the bunkhouse:

“’Cause I’m black. They play cards in there, but I can’t play because I’m black. They say I stink. Well, I tell you, you all of you stink to me.” 

Crooks is also terribly lonely. He expresses this loneliness to Lennie in Chapter Four. He tells Lennie many of the details of his life, including how when he was a kid he played with white children. As an adult, however, he has grown bitter because he is generally excluded from companionship with the other men on the ranch:

“A guy goes nuts if he ain’t got nobody. Don’t make no difference who the guy is, long’s he’s with you. I tell ya,” he cried, “I tell ya a guy gets too lonely an’ he gets sick.”

When Candy enters the scene, talk turns to how George, Candy and Lennie are buying a farm. While Crooks is at first skeptical, he soon begins to believe in the dream and offers to go along and "lend a hand." Unfortunately, Curley's wife soon reminds Crooks of his position as a second class citizen, and at the end of the chapter he withdraws his offer go to with the men. 

Crooks is used by Steinbeck to help establish the theme of loneliness which pervades the novel. It's not a coincidence that the two loneliest characters in the book, Crooks and Curley's wife, also a second class citizen, would clash in Chapter Four as the girl threatens Crooks with hanging if he doesn't keep his "place." After this episode, Crooks is once again diminished as a black man in a world that views him with derision, and he retreats into the solitude of a lonely and distant figure:

Crooks had reduced himself to nothing. There was no personality, no ego—nothing to arouse either like or dislike. He said, “Yes, ma’am,” and his voice was toneless. 

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How does Steinbeck portray Lennie and Crooks' relationship in Of Mice and Men?

Crooks is the black stable buck character in John Steinbeck's novella Of Mice and Men. The dislike and prejudice against Crooks is expressed through the dialogue of the story, mostly in Crooks's own words but also by Curley's wife. It centers around racism and segregation.

In chapter two, Candy reveals that he likes Crooks ("Nice fella too.") but does relate the story of the time Crooks is allowed into the bunkhouse and is involved in a fight, presumably because of racial tension. Candy says,

"They let the nigger come in that night. Little skinner name of Smitty took after the nigger. Done pretty good, too. The guys wouldn’t let him use his feet, so the nigger got him. If he coulda used his feet, Smitty says he woulda killed the nigger. The guys said on account of the nigger’s got a crooked back, Smitty can’t use his feet.”

In chapter five, Crooks agonizes over his loneliness and that he is the victim of racism. He tells Lennie that he is not allowed into the bunkhouse where the white workers live, and when the mentally challenged Lennie asks why, Crooks says,

“’Cause I’m black. They play cards in there, but I can’t play because I’m black. They say I stink. Well, I tell you, you all of you stink to me.” 

Crooks lives alone in a room in the barn. He explains to Lennie the loneliness he feels as a result of being segregated because of the reality of racial relations in 1930's America. He tells Lennie,

"S’pose you didn’t have nobody. S’pose you couldn’t go into the bunkhouse and play rummy ‘cause you was black."

Later in the chapter, Curley's wife reinforces the racism which victimizes Crooks. When he tells her to leave his room, she lashes out at him and puts into words the brutality of racism. She informs him that she could get him "lynched" very easily, and she is right. All she would need to do was say he had touched her or made improper advances. She says,

“Well, you keep your place then, Nigger. I could get you strung up on a tree so easy it ain’t even funny.” 

Because of Curley's wife's retaliation, Crooks retreats back to his normal demeanor of quiet and "aloof." In the end of the chapter he tells Candy he doesn't care about going to the farm. He says he was just fooling. He realizes the level of dislike there is for him in the white world.

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How does Steinbeck portray Lennie and Crooks' relationship in Of Mice and Men?

The way in which George has to always look out for Lennie is one way in which Steinbeck is able to present the unequal relationship between both men.

Throughout the course of the novel, Lennie is George's responsibility.  As a result, he exerts a great deal of power in the relationship between them.  It is his duty to be the "brains" of the operation.  At different points in the narrative, George must come up with the plans for both men.  In almost every chapter, there are moments when the success of their unequal relationship is dependent on George telling Lennie what to do.  

In Chapter 1, George reminds Lennie not to speak when they are interacting with people on the ranch. George's power is continued in Chapter 2 when he has to reprimand Lennie for ogling at Curley's wife because he knows what happened in Weed. 

In Chapter 3, George's power is displayed when he controls Lennie's opportunity to fight with Curley, instructing him when to lay off and when to attack.  In Chapter 4, Lennie shows some independence in approaching Crooks, but George's power is evident when he orders him to leave Crooks's room.  The climax of the novel is the result of what George realizes he must do to save Lennie. 

While the situations might change, George's power over Lennie is constant throughout the narrative.  Through such a consistent exertion of control, Steinbeck is able to show the unequal nature of the relationship between George and Lennie.

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How does Steinbeck present the relationship between George and Lennie in Of Mice and Men?

The friendship between Lennie and George is based on loyalty and a common dream. George agrees to take care of Lennie and assumes responsibility for him as a parent would for a child. George does this because, beneath his rough exterior, he is an admirable man. George and Lennie also rely on, and are loyal to, each other because they share a dream of owning their own farm some day. George reluctantly retells the story of their future farm at Lennie's request; each time Lennie asks for this, George does so begrudgingly but must also enjoy entertaining the dream aloud. 

The other significant aspect of their friendship is that it sets them apart from typical ranchers. While most itinerant ranchers move from job to job, saving little money (some spending it on booze and brothels), Lennie and George keep each other honest and out of trouble. This gives them a strategy, based on friendship, that will give them a better shot at saving more money. The two men rely on their friendship to facilitate their dream: 

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." (Chapter 1) 

In the end, this genuine and strategic friendship does not result in the dream of a farm. This is because Lennie is never quite able to adapt to this lifestyle and because the social world of itinerant ranchers makes it very difficult to save money and rise to a higher class. As strong as the friendship is, the harsh reality of their social situation makes their dream unreachable. 

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In Of Mice and Men, explain how Steinbeck explores the complex relationship between George and Lennie?

Steinbeck must have originally started with the idea of writing a story about two itinerant workers who had the dream of owning their own farm so that they wouldn't have to work so hard, so that they could have a home of their own, and so that they could be independent. But it must have occurred to him, as it has to many commentators, that a reader could easily form the impression that two such men were homosexuals. And Steinbeck did not want to write a novel about homosexuality. Such a novel would never get published in the 1930s anyway.

The conventional "dream" is for a man and a woman to own a farm together. This has been the standard since the start of the agricultural revolution in Mesopotamia and Egypt. The man and woman have children who eventually take over the land and provide for their parents, and life goes on like that for generation after generation. But Steinbeck couldn't write a story about a man and a woman traveling around together as itinerant workers, because women couldn't get such jobs, and they couldn't sleep in bunkhouses with a lot of men.

It apparently occurred to Steinbeck that he could make one of the characters mentally retarded and the other a man who looked after him. Steinbeck intended to convert his novel to a stage play immediately. He was using lots of dialogue in his novel to make it easy to adapt it to the stage. In a play the exposition has to be conveyed through dialogue. Making one of the men a retard would have an added advantage because the other man would have to explain everything to him and even repeat his explanations, which would be conveying information to the reader/viewer at the same time.

Thus Lennie and George were born. George has to take care of Lennie because of a promise he made to Aunt Clara, a rather nebulous figure from their past. Lennie is dumb but his creator makes him extremely strong to compensate by making it relatively easy for him to get farm jobs and to show that he would be an asset to George if and when they acquired their own farm.

Furthermore, it was Steinbeck's intention to have one buddy kill the other at the end. This would dramatize the thesis that the best laid plans of mice and men often go astray. Making Lennie a retard explains why he is always getting into trouble. Steinbeck needed Lennie to do something really bad at the end to explain why the mob wants to lynch him and why George shoots him to save him from being tortured.

Steinbeck establishes in the opening that Lennie is strongly attracted to soft little things but always kills them. He also establishes that Lennie is a liar.

Geprge said coldly, "You gonna give me that mouse or do have to sock you?"

"Give you what, George?"

'You know God damn well what. I want that mouse."

Lennie reluctantly reached into his pocket. His voice broke a little. "I don't know why I can't keep it. It ain't nobody's mouse. I didn't steal it. I found it lyin' right beisde the road."

Steinbeck's decision to make one of the bindlestiffs a retard led to his characterization of Lennie as dangerouosly irresponsible and to explaining the relationship between the two men. It also suggests how Lennie might get into trouble if his interest in soft little things leads him into the kind of trouble he had with the girl in Weed. Steinbeck also uses the opening chapter to establish that Lennie will return to this exact spot by the river and hide in the brush if he gets into trouble at the ranch where they are to start working tomorrow.

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How does Steinbeck immediately contrast George and Lennie in Of Mice and Men, particularly through opposing descriptions?

If you are referring to John Steinbeck's introduction of his main characters in Of Mice and Men, I assume you are looking at how the author describes the men physically at the book's outset.

In a sense, he allows the men to begin on an "equal footing:" Steinbeck relates how they are similar. Both are wearing...

denim trousers...denim coats with brass buttons...both wore black, shapeless hats...and both carried tight blanket rolls...

This is where the similarities end, for indeed the men seem to be complete opposites.

The man we learn to be George is small in stature, but everything about him is purposeful and focused:

quick...restless eyes...sharp, strong features. Every part of him was defined: small, strong hands, slender arms, a thin boney nose. Behind him walked his opposite.

Lennie is very different from George:

...a huge man, shapeless of face, with large, pale eyes, with wide, sloping shoulders; and he walked heavily, dragging his feet a little...His arms did not swing at his sides, but hung loosely.

By comparison, we find that George is sharp in every aspect: his looks, his movements, etc. He is small, but precise and well-defined in appearance.

Whereas Lennie has a shapeless face, perhaps even body. His movements are slow and dragging.

While George is aware of everything, calculating and quick with regard to what lies ahead, Lennie is passive. George is a leader—mentally alert; Lennie is a follower—impulsive and "slow" in many ways.

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How does Steinbeck immediately contrast George and Lennie in Of Mice and Men, particularly through opposing descriptions?

 Steinbeck presents George and Lennie through the use of dialogue and their actions. Their continuous dialogue, in particular, reveals their highly differing characters, the way that they relate to and depend on one another, and the dream which they share of one day owning their own land. Lennie's simple character is particularly well-emphasized through dialogue, for example the way in which he repeatedly asks George when they're going to get rabbits. George's sharper, more cynical, and yet still caring nature is revealed in his replies to Lennie.

George's essentially caring nature is also presented through his actions, most notably in the way that he always looks out for Lennie. Lennie's childlike nature is revealed through many of his actions, for example his fussing over little animals like mice and puppies. But his unfortunate brute strength, over which he has no control, is also shown when he kills animals by petting them. He also ends up breaking Curley's wife's neck, most unintentionally, when, like a child, he starts patting her lovely soft hair.

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What does Steinbeck portray about friendship through George and Lennie's relationship in Of Mice and Men?

You may begin your essay with a hook of some sort to grab the reader's attention (a quote, an anecdote about friendship or dreams, etc.) or you can simply begin by introducing the title and author as well as a brief synopsis of who George and Lennie are, the background of the time period, and what they are doing (ie: seeking a  better life for themselves in the pursuit of their American Dream [the farm]).

Then continue by explaining that friendship is a complex idea, especially between George and Lennie, as without George, Lennie could not survive, and without Lennie, George would be alone in a world where it is every man for himself. As George says, "guys like us, we're the loneliest guys in the world". (I am sorry I do not own the book and so cannot give you a page number, but George tells Lennie this in the very beginning when they are settling in for night before traveling on to the ranch). Lennie responds by saying that they are different - they have each other ("But not us! I've got you and you've got me!" is Lennie's response).

Moreover, they are different in the fact that they have a dream: their little farm house where they will be able to live off the land and not have to depend on anyone for their income. Therefore, I believe Steinbeck is trying to delve into the fact that without friendship, the world would be a stark and lonely place Every character in the novel represents the theme of loneliness.

State your thesis last. Do not go into detail about your reasoning behind each thesis point, as that should be the focus of each body paragraph. Try something along the lines of, "John Steinbeck provides insight into the complexities of friendship through the characters of George Milton and Lennie Small. Through their co-dependence, their devotion to a better life, and Lennie's eventual death, Steinbeck shows the reader that friendship is at the heart of world in which we live."

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What does Steinbeck portray about friendship through George and Lennie's relationship in Of Mice and Men?

An introduction in an essay contains the following:

  • A "motivator," or "hook" that captures the reader's interest. This can be a relevant observation, a quotation, or a catchy turn of phrase.
  • Thesis statement - This contains the main idea of the essay. it is composed of the statement and a "blueprint."
  • "Blueprint" - This is a short list of the main points that you are about to propose in the essay. There will be three points, one for each topic sentences.
  • Central paragraphs - Each central paragraph supports the thesis. Much like a one-paragraph essay, there is in each paragraph the topic sentence that is supported with details from the novella and examples that are quoted.
  • Conclusion - This contains the reworded topic sentence which recalls the main ideas that have been supported.
  • "Clincher" - This is a final sentence or two that finishes the essay and provokes an extended thought.


[Motivator] Having witnessed so many displaced men during the Depression, men who were alone and disenfranchised, John Steinbeck became convinced that a fraternity of men would provide them much needed companionship and a strength not possible in their aloneness and alienation. Steinbeck himself wrote that the child-like Lennie was not to represent insanity, but the inarticulate and powerful yearning of all men.

[Thesis Statement] George Milton and Lennie Small unite in a friendship (1) that fortifies them both against others and (2) gives meaning to their lives as well as (3) the hope of a better life.

(1) Find examples of how George and Lennie's friendship protects them. For instance, George directs Lennie not to drink from the pool so he will not become ill, telling Lennie not to drink too fast. etc. George keeps Lennie from hurting others, but tells Lennie to fight back against Curley. ...."because I got you to look after me, and you got me to look after you, and that's why." George protects Lennie from life in prison by shooting him.

(2) George and Lennie have each other with whom they can talk; as Crooks says, with someone else, a man has someone by whom he can measure himself. They share a dream of owning a ranch; they have someone to look out for each other. Together they save for a ranch. (Find passages that support with examples and details. Remember that the separateness of men is a dominate theme, so think how George and Lennie together fight this separateness.)

(3) The dream of owning a little farm allows the friends hope; it also provides the men with a reason to work and save in their dream of a better life. When Candy and Crooks want to come in, the dream seems even more possible.

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