Of Mice and Men
Re-read the end of Chapter One, from: 'George's voice became deeper. He repeated his words rhythmically as though he had said them many times before.' to the end. What does this tell us about the relationship between George and Lennie and why is it important to the novel?
In this novel Steinbeck present two ranch workers who dream of owning their own land. Many men in the 1930’s travelled around America in search of work. These men were often lonely, with no companionship. It is this migrant lifestyle which highlights the significance of the relationship between Lennie and George, which is perceived as a rarity amongst other characters.
George claims that ranch workers are ‘the loneliest guys in the world’. This is a result of the great depression in the 1930’s; men would travel alone to places such as California in search of work at a ranch. However, George and Lennie stay together, as Lennie says ‘I got you…and you got me’. This suggests their friendship gives them comfort and companionship, something which other ranch workers lack. Their relationship is perceived as surprising by their fellow workers, later on in the story. This emphasises its exclusivity.
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Steinbeck first presents the theme of dreams in this chapter of the novel. George and Lennie dream of being able to independently. Lennie is set on ‘tending rabbits’ whereas George focuses on freedom. As the story develops the reader begins to believe they will be successful. Steinbeck reveals that George and Lennie are dependent on one another. ‘With us it ain’t like that. We got a future.’ This demonstrates the uncommonness of their relationship. Even though George is the one who recites the dream speech, Lennie knows it off by heart, ‘an live of the fatta the lan!’ Lennie’s response is childlike and further establishes his immaturity.
Lennie is simple minded, this is shown by his enjoyment of petting soft things. George tells Lennie ‘I can let you tend the rabbits all right’. The writer is presenting a caring relationship; George wants Lennie to be happy but also wants to keep him safe. He understands that Lennie is comforted by soft things like the rabbits and letting him tend them would provide him with a small amount of independence. The reader is shown previously how Lennie’s obsession with soft things gets him into trouble. For example, scaring the girl in weed and killing the mouse. This technique is foreshadowing, these events suggest Lennie is likely to cause trouble once again.
The writer presents a father-son relationship between George and Lennie. Lennie agrees ‘I ain’t gonna…say a word’ when they meet the owner of the ranch. George then replies ‘Good boy!’ his response is reminiscent of how a parent would praise their child for doing as they’re told. As the novel continues we can infer that George doesn’t think of himself as superior, he sees it as his responsibility to take care of Lennie who is mentally handicapped and referred to as a ‘crazy bastard’. From this we can understand that Lennie is unable to look after himself.
This section of the novel is successful in establishing the close relationship between the characters George and Lennie. In the closing paragraphs of the first chapter Steinbeck concludes ‘As the blaze dropped from the fire the sphere of light grew smaller’. This description of sunset is symbolic of change. At the end of the novel George shoots Lennie to end his suffering, the sunset perhaps symbolises the ending of their relationship.