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  • Level: GCSE
  • Subject: English
  • Essay length: 4214 words

Of Mice And Men --- How does Steinbeck present the relationship between George and Lennie in section 1 to 3?

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Of Mice and Men Q: How does Steinbeck present the relationship between George and Lennie in these sections? Steinbeck presents the relationship between George and Lennie by utilizing a number of literary techniques and devices, particularly in the first 3 section. The skilled and careful presentation of this relationship forms the foundation upon which almost all of the novella's prevailing themes are structured, from the preciousness of companionship to the futility of dreams (and, in particular, the so-called American Dream). The first paragraph focussing on the men (second paragraph, page 4) opens with the sentence: "They had walked single file down the path, and even in the open one stayed behind the other". Immediately, Steinbeck portrays the essence of George and Lennie's relationship through this first quote about the men: that this relationship had a hierarchy; it was a leader-and-follower relationship, with one member guiding the other. The entire book revolves around this concept (George being Lennie's carer as Lennie cannot lead himself), so it is appropriate that Steinbeck chooses this idea to be the cornerstone of the reader's understanding of their relationship. However, in order to avoid any assumption that one man was better than the other, Steinbeck dissolves the idea of a hierarchy immediately as he details the similarities between the two men, all of which refer to clothing and possessions, such as them both being "dressed in denim trousers and denim coats with brass buttons", and having "black, shapeless hats" and "tight blanket rolls slung over their shoulders". Through their sole similarities being material possessions, Steinbeck shows that these two men are completely equal in circumstance and situation, intensifying attention on and the significance of their physical and mental differences. Steinbeck follows this with detailed and highly contrasting descriptions of the two men. He first describes the leader, using words such as "small and quick", "slender" and "sharp". This does not create the image of a traditional leader, a fact which is compounded with the description of a "huge man" with "wide, sloping shoulders" as his follower.


The first new character introduced is Candy, an old, disabled swamper. His interactions are limited to George and he seems not to notice Lennie, who does a very good job of following George's instructions not to speak. It is significant that when he does speak, he merely repeats what George says ("'As strong as a bull,' he repeated."). Steinbeck uses the men's interactions with the boss to explain to the reader that George and Lennie's relationship was not an often-seen sight in this part of America at this time. Steinbeck's portrayal of the ranch is as a microcosm of 1930s America, and so each person within the ranch represents a different group of society. The Boss symbolises all authority figures, and his suspicion of George and Lennie's relationship typifies the money-centric mentality of men in business - he presumes George is only with Lennie to take his money off him, and the difficulty he has accepting this indicates the strangeness of companionship in this world of solitude (as he says, "I never seen one guy take so much trouble for another guy.") George's role as Lennie's carer is exampled prominently in this scene; he has to talk for Lennie, and testify to his ability to work. His speech almost feels like he is trying to sell an animal, insisting that he "can do anything you tell him". The suggestion of Lennie as an animal isn't a new one; Steinbeck employs this method many times, particularly on page 10, where he describes Lennie as a "terrier who doesn't want to bring a ball to its master" and in further pages, when Steinbeck advances the association between Lennie and a pet to give an additional viewpoint on his and George's relationship through the description of Candy's old dog. Steinbeck implies that George himself doesn't even know how to justify their relationship by writing that George says Lennie was "his cousin" who was "kicked in the head by a horse when he was a kid" which, as we learn from Lennie, is a lie.


In their minds it was perfect, but in reality it could turn out to be just a disappointment, which would possibly be worse than it never having been real at all. Because, if the dream broke down, then George and Lennie's friendship would break down too, and that was really the only thing that either of them actually had. The section closes with Curley entering the bunkhouse, trying to pacify an angered Slim. Events escalate and suddenly Curley turns on Lennie, and he "slashed at Lennie with his left, and then smashed down his nose with a right". As Steinbeck has suggested through the text up to this point, Lennie is completely helpless, and it is only when George guides him clearly that Lennie can fight back. But even then it isn't fighting - Lennie merely "watched in terror" as Curley flopped on the ground, Lennie having unintentionally broken his hand. In a repeat of the girl in the red dress incident, George has to physically beat Lennie away from Curley. Steinbeck's aim in depicting this event is to make the reader aware not only of the harm Lennie can do, but the importance of George's presence at all times. This emphasis makes the climax of the story all the more believable, and all the more affecting. In conclusion, John Steinbeck employs many literary techniques and devices to present the relationship between George and Lennie, and manages to show not only several sides of the relationship, but several sides to each man as well. It now becomes clear to the reader that, in fact, this is a traditional case of the pack following the strongest member as, although Lennie is physically the strongest, this is far outweighed by the superior mental strength that George possesses over Lennie. Through the depiction of their relationship the reader is provided with a more succinct understanding of the text and life at that time, and is able to appreciate the significance of each theme in the novella on its own, and when applied to George and Lennie's complexly intricate friendship.

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