The Relationship between George and Lennie
The close association between the intelligent but weak George Milton and the mentally disabled Lennie Small forms the basis of Steinbeck’s novella. The friendship shared between George and Lennie can, therefore, be viewed as a personal and committed relationship which forms part of the salient themes in the novel. Though retarded, Lennie dutifully intones that “he got George to look after him,” an indication of their intimate closeness and sacrifices the two are willing to make for the sake of each other’s wellbeing.
From the onset, George takes full responsibility for Lennie’s actions regardless of their inappropriateness. One particular instant in the story highlights Lennie’s vulnerability in his inability to communicate his feelings and opinions. Naturally, George talks for his friend underscoring the unique bond that the two share. Lennie, therefore, is entirely reliant on what George has to say before making any decision of his own. The boss at the ranch became aware of the bond which led to suspicions of their actual intent since George spoke for Lennie. Slim, the jerk line skinner, similarly echoed his employer’s bewilderment by asking George how he managed to “string along together” with Lennie. From the preceding, it becomes imperative to realize that the two characters thrived on a substratum of mutual affection.
However, when one delves deeper into understanding George, it becomes apparent that he secretly detests having Lennie around him because of his troublemaking tendencies which frustrated George. On one occasion, George had to flee after Lennie was accused of attempted murder. Lennie’s love for dead pets also annoys him, and he cannot establish how to get rid of Lennie. More tellingly is the fact that without George, Lennie could have ended in a mental asylum. As such, Lennie’s psychological integration with George efficiently makes life easier for him while he protects George from any form of danger.
Depiction of Characters as Having Sense of Value, Self-Respect and Nobility
Despite their several limitations, John Steinbeck depicts his characters as having an array of characteristics that set them apart. Most importantly, the characters get portrayed as socially inferior but it is their sense of maliciousness and wanton folly that makes them lack an understanding of value, self-respect, and even nobility. Lennie, one of the principal characters gets depicted as the least dynamic of the entire lot. Throughout the story, he never undergoes any significant changes, development, or growth and remains almost wholly unaltered in his perception of the world around him.
Other than his love for petting soft things, there is nothing else inspiring about him. He cuts across an image of a highly deluded and irrational individual incapable of thinking for himself and thrives on illusions and the beauty that hypothetical success guarantees him. He lacks nobility and any sense of dignity. He appears to compensate for his inadequacies through the use of brutal force, and Steinbeck’s insistence on mentioning him in every chapter forebears the intuitive feeling of boredom. George Milton, a personal confidant of Lennie, does well to stand in for his friend. George sacrifices so many things to cover up evils committed by Lennie and such a connivance does not represent the actions of a noble person. George eventually murders Lennie after having too much of his problems. Finally, George is vilified for his murder of Lennie thus making him lack any sense of value, self-respect, and nobility. Similarly, Curley, the flagrant son of the ranch owner, does not meet the parameters of nobility. Curley presents the image of a boisterous and vainglorious individual who prides in himself as a prize bullfighter and jealous of his slatternly wife. He eventually provokes Lennie into breaking his hands. Curley’s wife ultimately makes advances to Lennie who inadvertently kills her. Most of the individuals depicted in the story lack moral standing to embody self-respect.
Why Lennie is not Sensitive, Gentle, Caring and Insightful
According to Steinbeck, Lennie’s attributes make him almost unlikable to those who read about him. Depicted as a big lumbering man, he is shapeless, rambunctious, resembles a bear both in physique and strength, and acts like a dog. The animal comparison makes Lennie an out of place character with nothing inspiring about himself. Such associations with an animal delineate every sensitivity, gentility, caring and insightful nature of a respectable gentleman. Lennie embodies the personality of a child, insecure and paranoid. He represents a typical subtlety, and because of his mental illness, he cannot understand abstract concepts such as death. While he acts with great loyalty towards his close friend George, he does not decipher the idea of commitment. The physical impairment makes Lennie far removed from comprehending anything knowledgeable thus lacking insight. Imperatively, Lennie has no conscience to define what actions entail guilt.
Invariably, Lennie only realizes that he has done wrong from the consequences of his actions. Such impaired judgment can never make him a caring and loving soul who has a weakness of killing everything that comes to his gigantic hands. He squeezes a puppy to death, breaks Curley’s hand, and murders his wife without any qualms of conscience. Imperatively, Lennie’s lack of insight gets revealed in his far-fetched imaginations regarding owning a big farm with George, yet he does not have any money to fulfill such outlandish ambitions. Lastly, Lennie’s unfathomable prodigious strength combined with his lack of intelligence and consciousness out rightly makes him a very dangerous person. Lennie, therefore, embodies the broken hopes of the American society, especially after the events that preceded the Great Depression.
Justifying George’s Decision at the End
Though depicted as consistent throughout the story, George despite his limitations provides the best a friend can offer to Lennie. From the onset, George protects Lennie from every conceivable threat by going to the more considerable lengths of speaking for him. Unreservedly, he never fails his friend, an indication of a committed and mutually beneficial relationship. As a caring man, George initially shouts at Lennie and consequently issue him a stern warning to prevent him from drinking too much lest he gets sick. From the preceding, one can deduce that regardless of George being terse and worryingly impatient at times, he means well for the people around him while never straying from his fundamental purpose of protecting Lennie. Unlike his friend, George does not change as the story progresses.
George’s versatility is self-evident during his interactions with other characters in the story and appears more receptive to change and growth. As a sentimentalist, he frequently shares his innermost feelings and has a massive sense of remorse whenever he commits a wrong. The honesty with which George operates leads him to the admission of guilt he felt when he abused Lennie for his amusement but later regretted it. From the preceding, George accepts the moral reality that it is wrong and unacceptable to oppress the weak and vulnerable in the society. As an optimistic dreamer, he believed in their shared dream with Lennie of owning a big farm one day away from the evil and unjust society. Ultimately, in recognition and appreciation of George’s selflessness and dedication to Lennie, he takes an act of defiance and brutality when he kills his true friend to save him from the slow and painful death that Curley had organized with his lynch mob. He, therefore, spares his friend a continued complicated lifestyle shrouded in mystery, agonizing pain and controversy.