Discuss Steinbeck’s Representation of George and Lennie in Section One. Use Your Discussion to Comment on the Nature of Their Relationship.

George is first described as ‘small and quick, dark of face, with restless eyes and sharp strong features’. He was small with ‘strong hands, slender arms [and] a thin and bony nose’. George Milton is seen to be short-tempered, tense and impatient but throughout section one; one also learns that George is a loving and devoted friend who would never abandon his friend even in the most desperate of times. Despite George’s hardened, sometimes gruff exterior, he still deeply believes in the story of their future which he tells and retells to Lennie throughout the book.

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He craves for the day when he can be a free man, ‘An’ live off the fatta the lan’’. Lennie Small on the other hand is at the outset described as ‘a huge man, shapeless of face, with large pale eyes, with wide, sloping shoulders; [who] walked heavily, dragging his feet a little’. Lennie’s simplicity is central to Steinbeck’s conception of the novel. He is compared to a ‘bear’ dragging his feet and ‘snorting into the water like a horse’, this is done in order for the reader to understand that Lennie is simple-minded and retarded.

The reader immediately sees the Lennie is doomed from the start and already begins to feel sympathy towards him. Although the reader is told he is ‘huge’ and strong, Lennie is defenceless and cannot look after himself. His innocence raises him to a standard of pure goodness. The reader can see this purity through Lennie’s fixation with soft things such as mice. The strong bond the two men share is clear from the beginning.

Lennie and George’s relationship can be compared to that of a father and a son; George representing the father figure, and Lennie the son. George is constantly looking out for Lennie, warning him of dangers. Lennie looks up to George and continually tries to be like him: ‘Lennie, who had been watching, imitated George exactly [he then] looked over to [him] to see whether he had it just right. He pulled his hat down a little more over his eyes, the way George’s at was. ’ Steinbeck also assimilates the pair as a ‘master’ with his ‘terrier’.

George being the master dictates to Lennie what to do and how to do it, not out of self pleasure but simply because Lennie is unable to think clearly for himself and must be told exactly what must be done and said in certain circumstances. The reader can see the love George has for Lennie when told the story of Weeds and how George immediately took Lennie to safety when danger arose. The two men could also be compared to brothers in the way that they both share the same ‘American Dream’ and how they would always have each other, no matter what: ‘Because I got you to look after me, and you got me to look after you’


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