Of Mice And Men - The Importance Of George

Of Mice And Men - The Importance Of George

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Even from the very start of John Steinbeck’s novel, Of Mice and Men, the uniqueness of George, as a character, is already noticeable. He is described as “small and quick, dark of face, with restless eyes and sharp strong features” and has an obvious dominance over the relationship between Lennie and himself. This lets the reader know from a very early stage in the book that George is different, and probably the essential character. George’s character seems to be used by Steinbeck to reflect the major themes of the novel: loneliness, prejudice, the importance of companionship, the danger of devoted companionships, and the harshness of Californian ranch life.

George’s relationship with Lennie has made him selfless; his conversations, with and with out Lennie, are generally revolving around Lennie, although in the case of their dream-ranch George seems to find fulfilment for himself as well. Due to these altruistic tendencies that he shows throughout the novel, a danger is bestowed upon George; he tends to care for Lennie far too much, and too little for himself. In occasional moments, he escapes his sympathy and compassion for Lennie, and realises the burden that he causes. This usually results in George taking his frustration out on Lennie, which can often harm his simple mind, leaving Lennie upset and forced to confess to his own uselessness, and George feeling guilty for what he has caused. We can learn very little about George through his actual conversations, which made it necessary for Steinbeck to focus the novel on him in particular, and let the reader gain an closer insight on him through his actions. Generally, he seems to be caring, intelligent and sensible, but is greatly worn by the constant attention Lennie requires. This illustrates a major theme in Of Mice and Men, the dangers that arise when one becomes involved in a dedicated relationship.

Despite the frustration that Lennie causes, without him George would probably be a lot like the other men on the ranch; simply roaming the country-side of California looking for work, and although he often prides himself on being different, he sometimes complains, usually after Lennie has caused trouble, and wishes that he could be like a normal guy and not have to live with Lennie’s hindrance. An example of this is seen when George responds sharply to Lennie's constant request for ketchup. "If I was alone I could live so easy…no trouble…no mess at all.

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" These bursts can be seen as being quite incongruous, as he temporarily appears happy in the thought that he could blow his pay each month as other men do, enjoying himself in a pool bar or a brothel before returning to work, yet at other times, he condemns other men on the ranch for doing this. This highlights another of the major themes in the novel; the importance of companionship.

Although he may seem to be discontent, and wishes he was like the other men on the ranch, the truth of the situation however, is that George is simply expressing his frustrations with some points of his relationship with Lennie. This can be seen in the commonly revisited phrase, "But we ain't like that…I got you and you got me". At first this may seem to the reader to be somewhat incorrect, as their relationship is very one-sided in that George sacrificing much of his own time and effort to Lennie, a suggestion that is supported by Lennie's hallucination of Aunt Clara, "when he had a pie he always gave you half, or more than half". However, it becomes clear that their relationship means a lot more, as it is Lennie who keeps George out of the brothels and pool bars, which leaves him better off in the long run, as the more he saves by not indulging on such luxuries, the more he saves, and the closer they get to fulfilling their dream or owning their own farm. Crooks later highlights the importance of Lennie in his discussion with George; Lennie simply provides George with someone to talk to, to stop him going mad, even if Lennie does not always understand what is said. This point deeply underlines one of the main themes of Of Mice and Men; that companionship, regardless of who the companion is, is vitally important in the well being of any person, a theme that is demonstrated similarly by the relationship between Candy and his dog; Candy adores his dog, as it provides him with a companion. Even though he cannot communicate with his dog, Candy finds satisfaction in the care he has to give to it and company it provides him with. John Steinbeck has purposely conveyed this message of the necessity of companionship by contrasting characters like Cooks, who has a bitter personality, due to being neglected by the other men on the ranch, and Candy, who until the tragic death of his companion, the dog, seemed at least content with his life.

A reader can understand very vividly from his actions and attitudes that George is sensible and able to think quickly in a situation. He seems to have a very good understanding of the nature of others, especially of their attitudes towards Lennie, for example, that if the boss hears Lennie talk and realises his handicapped, then it is unlikely they will get work. He also knows, to make Lennie repeat things two or three times over to himself, to help him remember, for example when he slowly repeats, “Hide in the brush till I come for you, can you remember that?” to Lennie. He also knows that Lennie is likely to do things and attempt to hide them, such as when Lennie appears from his walk in the woods, and is immediately suspected of smuggling a dead mouse, or when George instantly realises Lennie has a puppy with him when entering the bunkhouse. The fact he is so fast and sure in his actions implies there is very little uncertainty in his prediction. He also knows to be naturally suspicious of the other people he encounters, for fear that they will be prejudiced against Lennie which may result in the loss of potential friendships after he is forced to protect Lennie. An example of this is his natural reaction to Curley's wife when he warns Lennie to stay away from the “jail-bait all set on the trigger.” Much of George's character concerns his relationship and interaction with Lennie, perhaps because he is so constantly occupied with Lennie that the relationship has begun to emphasize his entire character. He cares for Lennie, ensuring his safety and instructing him in almost every situation. This again typifies the theme of the necessity of companionship shown in Of Mice and Men.

Excluding his dependant relationship with Lennie, the main factor that helps George to remain focused and prevents him from taking up the life of other workers is his dream of owning his own farm. This dream is frequently revisited throughout Of Mice and Men, and is especially told to Lennie, and in a way that suggests he has done it many times before; “he repeated his words rhythmically”. Initially, it seems that the dream calms Lennie and is used simply as a method of controlling him, however later on in the novel it becomes apparent that the dream is just as much a hope-giver to George as it is to Lennie, as he becomes genuinely excited about the vision when he realises that it could be a real possibility. More support for the idea that it is genuinely George's dream as well is that it includes sections of his own childhood, such as pigeons circling “like they done when I was a kid”. This is a strong indicator of his personal involvement in the dream. George’s and Lennie’s dream, as well Curley’s wife’s dream of becoming a movie star, and even, to a certain extent, Crooks’s reminiscence of his childhood on the chicken farm, bring out another major theme in Of Mice and Men; the importance of goals and dreams.

After the death of Curley's wife, George knows instantly what will become of Lennie and wishes to ensure the most humane form of punishment, a quick death. Immediately, George understands that he cannot accomplish the dream without Lennie, because even though he was not a practical part of such a complex idea, Lennie was the driving force that made George strive towards it, this can be seen in ways which Lennie frequently reminds George of the dreams; “Tell me George- Like you done before.” George goes so far to keep Lennie from a brutal death that he even misleads the other men, saying "we came from the South so he'll go North", because he knows he will return to the brush, in the South, as instructed. The final scene of Of Mice and Men seems to combine many of the major themes of the novel, particularly that of companionship and the importance of having a dream. As George is about to slay Lennie, he comforts him by speaking of the dream, and of leaving the ranch and fulfilling their dream immediately. He does this, both to ensure that Lennie dies in a happy state of mind, as well as to give himself the motivation necessary to kill his best, and only friend, once again bringing out the theme of companionship, and how it is necessary in a person’s life. The theme of the dangers of friendship is also brought out through this section of the book, as it was obvious to the reader, and perhaps to George, that Lennie was never destined to live out a full life, yet, because of George’s attachment, he chose to become progressively closer, causing catastrophe to George when he was finally forced to kill him.

It seems symbolic of George’s dependences on Lennie, that after Lennie dies George agrees to a drink with Slim, which perhaps insinuates the beginning of descent into aimless existence that Lennie had always guarded George from. This again reminds us of the mutual dependencies that Lennie and George had for each other, and of the constant themes throughout the book; the necessity of friendship and the dangers of friendships being to intimate.

Steinbeck seems to use George to present the themes of the book in a literal sense, for example, the theme of loneliness is presented by George’s dissatisfaction with Lennie as his only friend, and the theme of the importance of companionship, which can be seen in the mutual dependencies which have evolved in their relationship, despite their differences. This dependency leads to another vital theme, the theme of the danger of devoted companionships, which is literally exemplified by the almost inevitable end to their relationship. However, one of the strongest themes of the book is presented through George’s dream of owning his own farm, which kept him from becoming the same as the other men on the ranch.
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