Discussion Topic

Steinbeck's portrayal of George's character, including his good and bad sides, in "Of Mice and Men."

Summary:

In Of Mice and Men, Steinbeck portrays George as a complex character with both good and bad sides. He is caring and protective, especially towards Lennie, demonstrating loyalty and compassion. However, George can also be short-tempered and impatient, occasionally expressing frustration over the burden of caring for Lennie. This duality highlights his humanity and the struggles he faces.

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How does Steinbeck portray George's good and bad sides in "Of Mice and Men"?

George in Of Mice and Men is basically good. He takes care of a friend in a world where most of his peers are solitary. He allows a new friend to share their dreams. His honest pursuit of the America Dream would be viewed as good by Steinbeck's readers.

Let's look at how George takes care of his friend, Lennie. He helps Lennie get a job at the ranch: "... We're gonna go in an' see the boss. Now, look- I'll give him the work tickets, but you ain't gonna say a word. You jus' stand there and don't say nothing. If he finds out what a crazy bastard you are, we won't get no job, but if he sees ya work before he hears ya talk, we're set. Ya got that?" -George, page 3. Without his help, Lennie would not be able to get a job. George is a good person because he helps a guy who can't succeed on his own. He tells Lennie about their future on their own farm: "...we're gonna get the jack together and we're gonna have a little house and a couple of acres an' a cow and some pigs and-" George, page 7. Lennie cuts him off because he has heard the story so many times he can recite it himself, but he prefers to have George tell it and George indulges him. He's a good friend.

Even though most ranch workers prefer to stay on their own, Candy loses his only friend, his old dog, and then George accepts him as a companion in their dream of owning a little house. Candy has some money saved up which George knows he can use to buy the house sooner. However, George could exclude Candy and continue to save money for the house as he and Lennie have planned. George knows that Candy is getting too old to work on ranches and won't have anywhere to retire, so he takes the old man under his wing as well as Lennie. This also shows that George is a good character.

When the novel was published in the 1930s, the dream of being able to rise from nothing to something through honest hard work was a big part of being American, and with the depression going on, the American Dream gave people hope. Therefore George's drive to work hard, save up money, and buy his own plot of land is another example of the goodness of his character. He doesn't break the law for his own benefit, and he doesn't hurt anyone else to get what he wants.  He just keeps working towards his dream and helps his friends along the way. This would make him an American hero for downtrodden readers to look up to at that time.

You can read more about George here on eNotes.

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How is the character of George presented in Of Mice and Men by Steinbeck?

George Milton is portrayed as an intelligent, stressed-out man, who struggles to keep Lennie out of trouble while he attempts to make a living as a migrant worker. Unlike Lennie, George is a small, intense man with sharp features, who is passionate and easily irritated. Even though George continually yells at Lennie and ridicules him for his lack of intelligence, he reveals his sympathetic nature by apologizing and expressing his concern for Lennie. Similar to most migrant workers, George has a difficult life but takes on the added responsibility of looking after Lennie. George goes out of his way to offer Lennie valuable advice and attempts to keep him out of trouble to no avail.

George also desperately wants to one day own an estate and live a comfortable life without being given orders from an ornery boss. Some of the most memorable scenes in the novella are George and Lennie musing about their peaceful life on their own homestead. George is also a frustrated man, who continually laments about his difficult life as a migrant worker. George does not have financial freedom, a loving family, or his own home. George is also forced to always keep his guard up in order to avoid trouble and is depicted as a rather discerning, cautious individual. Despite George's tough exterior and explosive temper, he genuinely cares about Lennie and reveals his love for his friend by killing him before Curley's mob arrives at the riverbank. The audience sympathizes with George's character and realizes that he will be forced to live a lonely, difficult life without Lennie.

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How is the character of George presented in Of Mice and Men by Steinbeck?

One of the central characters in John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men is George Milton. The author presents him as a street-wise man, who possesses a good deal of common sense, although he himself admits that "I ain’t so bright neither." One example of George's common sense appears in the opening chapter as Lennie drinks eagerly from the pond and does not think twice about it. George, in contrast, is cautious and advises Lenny not to drink from water that is not running.

In some ways, George is rather manipulative because he creates a dream that he does not really believe that he can ever achieve, namely the goal of having a "little place" of his own. George uses this dream to help control Lennie and keep Lennie focused. Still, once Lennie kills Curley's wife, George admits that he never really believed they would be able to have their own place:

I think I knowed from the very first. I think I know’d we’d never do her.

Although George does manipulate Lennie to some extent, he is a loyal friend to Lennie and Lennie is convinced that George would never leave him, even though George himself sometimes expresses this desire and other characters in the story tell Lennie that George may leave him.

In the end, even George's killing of Lennie seems to be right thing to do. He knew that Curley and the other men would kill Lennie once they found him. In contrast to Candy, who allows Carlson to kill his old dog, George will not leave to someone else the responsibility of putting Lennie out of his misery. Thus, at the close of the novel, Slim says to George, "“You hadda, George. I swear you hadda."

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How does Steinbeck employ characterization in Of Mice and Men, especially with George and Lennie?

It is significant that most of the characters in "Of Mice and Men" have names that begin with the letter C. Perhaps this letter represents a semi-formed circle, the symbol of completeness and unity, indicating that the men need to unite into the fraternity of man; in this brotherhood they can find meaning and share in friendship, helping one another, working together.

Representing his belief in socialism and author John Steinbeck's motif of the community of man that needs to unite, George and Lennie serve as examples of how sharing with another gives meaning to a man's life against the profound sense of aloneness.  Early in the novella, George Milton [the great poet's name] reflects upon this idea:

guys like us, that work on ranches, are the loneliest guys in the world.  They got no family.  They don't belong no place....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...

With these brotherly bonds, Lennie Small and George Milton have someone to help them measure the world.  Against their friendship, however, are the predatory human tendencies. One type of predatory character is Curley's wife who seeks to entice the men into behaving in ways in which they normally would not.  Only Slim, with his "god-like eyes"  and George, who is cynical about women, perceive the Eve-like danger in this women.  Like an innocent animal, Lennie is unaware of the danger and is trapped and, later, destroyed.

Steinbeck's characters are helpless in their isolation. yet in their weakness they seek to destroy one another's happiness.  The pugnacious, insecure Curley wishes to beat the others, while Carlson wants to kill the old swamper's aging dog, the men force the black stabler Crooks to live alone in the barn with the mules.  Crooks tells George,

A guy goes nuts if he ain't got nobody.  Don't make no difference who the buy is, long's he's with you.

In Soledad--which means solitude in Spanish--the men are alone, powerless, uncertain of the future.  Because of their uncertainty and powerlessness, the men want instant gratification in the face of life's unpredictable nature and become predatory as they seek a place in nature.  Only dreams give meaning to their lives, dreams (dream is mentioned throughout the novella) and friendship, for in dreams human dignity is an integral part. 

Clearly, the characterization employed by John Steibeck in "Of Mice and Men" develops the main themes of his stirring novella.

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How is the character of George presented in Of Mice and Men by Steinbeck?

A language device is a special way of using words.  One language device Steinbeck uses to show the relationship between George and Lennie is paternal is dialect.  Dialect is language specific to a certain group.  The dialect demonstrates that George and Lennie have background in common.

When the story opens, George is telling Lennie not to drink scummy water.

"Tastes all right," he admitted. "Don't really seem to be running, though. You never oughta drink water when it ain't running, Lennie," he said hopelessly. (ch 1)

The use of slang and familiar words continues throughout the story, and shows that George and Lennie are close and have a paternal relationship.  George talks more often than Lennie, and Lennie often repeats what Geroge says because he looks up to him.  Lennie knows that George is protecting him and looking out for him.

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

Certainly, the naturalism of Steinbeck's writing is evinced in the characterization of Lennie Small of Of Mice and Men who, in the exposition of this novella possesses a gait like that of a bear who drags his feet and has hands described as "paws."  After their long trek from the bus that let them off a few miles south of Soledad, George and Lennie come to a clearing where Lennie dips his entire head under the water in order to drink and refresh himself.  That there is a Darwinian determinism to the character of Lennie is evident as this opening scene is identical to the final scene, and George's early description to Slim of the incident in Weed with the girl in the red dress is similar to the fateful one of Curley's wife, who also is associated with red. 

Of diminished mental capacities, Lennie depends upon George for approval. When George scolds Lennie in Chapter One, Lennie is hurt and tells George that he will just go away and live "off in the hills or in a cave" or something, but he is terrorized to think of being alone.  Always, he seeks advice from George regarding his conduct and speech.  Fearful that he will anger George, Lennie tries to behave, saying repeatedly, "I don't want no trouble" after Curley  enters the bunkhouse, for instance. But, when Curley attacks him, Lennie only hurts Curley after George tells him, "Get him, Lennie.  Don't let him do it."

Childlike, Lennie is the keeper of the dream of owning a farm as he   constantly asks George to "Tell about how it's gonna be"; he also has George recite about their fraternity,

"Guys like us, that work on ranches, are the loneliest guys in the world.  They got no family.  They don't belong no place.....With us it ain't like that.  We got a future.  We got somebody to talk to that gives a damn about us....."

Lennie's relationship with George is a symbiotic one.  Critic Roger Moore explores the relationship of George and Lennie in his essay "Of Mice and Men:  George and Lennie."  Moore writes,

Lennie wears the same clothes as George and even imitates his gestures. The extent of Lennie's psychological integration with the George is acutely apparent in the novel's concluding chapter when the giant rabbit of his stricken conscience mouths George's words in Lennie's own voice.

When George has to shoot Lennie in the final chapter, the determinism of this scene is apparent in its repetition of the setting of Chapter One.  With Lennie's death is the death of the fraternity of men and the dream, for as George remarks,

"I think I knowed we'd never do her.  He usta like to hear about it so much I got to thinking maybe we would."

Lennie is pursued as though he is a hunted animal after Curley's wife is discovered by the others.  But, it is too late as George has put the bear-like Lennie out of his future misery after he returns to the stream described in Chapter One where the "best laid plans of mice and men go awry."

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How is the character of George presented in Of Mice and Men by Steinbeck?

Lennie is portrayed in a few different ways. First, physically speaking, Lennie is a giant of a man.  He has prodigious strength.  We can see this in the work he does on the field. We can also see this in his reluctant fight with Curley. We should also add that Lennie does not know his own strength, which will get him into trouble.

Second, Lennie is slow.  From the beginning we can see that Lennie is mentally challenged.  He is, therefore, like an innocent child. He is probably the only character in the novella that does not have a mean bone in his body. He is also fiercely loyal to George. We can see this loyalty in his interaction with Crooks.  When Crooks intimates that someone might harm George, Lennie gets upset.

Finally, Lennie does not fit into Steinbeck’s world.  He is the odd man out.  People do not know what to do with him. He is too innocent, too slow, and too childlike in a world of jaded adults, who will do whatever it takes to survive. This is partially why, George had to put him down. From this perspective, Lennie is a tragic figure.

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In Of Mice and Men, how does John Steinbeck develop the characterizations of George and Lennie?

I think that Steinbeck uses dialogue as a way to flesh out the characters of Lennie and George.  Right off the bat in the first chapter of the novel, the reader gets a perfect feel of Lennie's vulnerability, his loves, and his embrace of a world that is definitely not the world in front of both Lennie and George.  Additionally, it is evident that George bears responsibility for Lennie.  Dialogue is critical in bringing this out into full bloom.  This is also seen in the third chapter of the book when George talks with Slim.  Their discussion takes on a "confessional" tone, something that Steinbeck himself invokes in describing how George explains their relationship and how he looks out for Lennie.  The conversation reveals how George feels responsible for Lennie and how the loyalty both men share to one another is unique for the ranching world.  Slim brings this out in his measured comments, as well. Dialogue that triggers flashbacks with commentary is also a part of this process and part of Steinbeck's style:

The focus on time, too, is limited to the present: there are no flashbacks to events in the past, and the reader only learns about what has happened to Lennie and George before the novel's beginning through dialogue between the characters.

Steinbeck's use of dialogue is what enables the reader to grasp the characterization being advanced throughout the course of the novel.

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How does Steinbeck portray the main characters' good and bad sides in Of Mice and Men?

I think that Steinbeck depicts the good and the bad in the main characters in Of Mice and Men by showing them to be human.  There are no simplistic or reductive elements in his characterizations.  Steinbeck has constructed characterizations of human beings.  This means that they possess desirable traits alongside not-so-desirable ones. They are human. George and Lennie feature good traits within them such as their loyalty to one another, their willingness to earnestly work, and their ability to treat people as ends in and of themselves as opposed to treating them as means to specific ends.  However, George is shown to be irritable with Lennie, sometimes abusing him and disrespecting him.  Lennie is a child and, like all children, he gets into trouble.  Sometimes, the trouble is fairly destructive.  The reality is that both of them are shown to be human.  They are filled with good and bad qualities, but Steinbeck creates an empathy within the reader to look at them in the most open light.  We simply feel bad for them, understanding who they are - blemishes and all.

Steinbeck carries this dynamic to the other characters as well.  Crooks is shown as a human being in his fullest form. He is one who yearns for company, but also has difficulty trusting people.  The combination of both yearning and rejection is a part of Crooks' human condition, a way for Steinbeck to show the good and bad in him.  Curley's wife is much the same.  There is a sadness to her, believing in the hopes of her dreams only to be let down by them.  At the same time, this pathetic portrait is balanced out by her cruelty to Crooks, Candy, and Lennie when she confronts them. At that moment, there is little that is likable in her character. The combination of both realities is what makes her so human.  Even Slim, a character that earns Steinbeck's respect, is shown to be human.  He is the consummate leader on the ranch, but when the group intending to find and harm Lenny is formed, Slim does not speak out and appeal for calm.  He does not join the group as an active member like Carlson or Curley.  However, Slim is human.  He demonstrates both good and not- so- good within him.  Steinbeck seeks to make a statement that in showing people as they are - capable of both destruction and restoration - human beings are complex and intricate.

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How is the central character Lennie presented in Of Mice and Men?

Lennie, one of the central characters in John Steinbeck’s novel, “Of Mice and Men,” is presented as a powerful yet peaceful man. He suffers from a mental deficiency and he does not possess clear thinking ability. Despite his lack of ordinary intelligence, Lennie has an enormous capacity for love and for loyalty. He is drawn to small animals, such as mice and rabbits and he is unquestionably loyal to George, his best friend and companion. Lennie also has the capacity to dream for a better life. Like George, he wants to someday own a small farm, to work independently and to care for the land and the animals that inhabit it. In this manner, Lennie is like most men. However, his limited mental abilities sometimes make him a menace to society. When he is provoked, he displays an uncontrollable rage and an intensely violent behavior, which leads him to kill many of the mice, a puppy and Curley’s wife.

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How does Steinbeck present central characters in Of Mice and Men?

It is through the third person narrative where the characters are presented and revealed.  Steinbeck is our guide through their lives and we understand the central characters through this style of narration.  The third person narrative provides us "stage directions" to an extent.  An example of this would be the first chapter where Lennie imitates George lying down, reflecting to us that there is a great deal of admiration that he has for George.  Another would be the excitement and anticipation that Lennie talks about the rabbits.  While the words tell this to us, the third person narration allows us to understand the full implications of the meaning behind the words.  The third person narrative style allows the reader to float in and out of conversations between characters.  This also allows the main charaters to be presented and fully understood in a way that a narration from one charater might not.  An example of this would be in chapter 3 when George and Silm are talking about Lennie and their past experiences in Weed.  George's use of Slim in a "confessional" manner helps to bring out information about both of them, but also how George sees Slim in the same way that a penitent would view a priest.  It is through the third person narration and the ability to move freely to conversations between the characters that more is understood about the main charaters in the work.

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