Notes on Of Mice and Men Themes

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Of Mice and Men Topic Tracking: Friendship

Friendship 1: Despite George's impatience and annoyance with Lennie, and his remarks about how easy his life would be without him, he still believes that:

"Guys like us, that work on ranches, are the loneliest guys in the world. They got no family. They don't belong no place....With us it ain't like that. We got a future. We got somebody to talk to that gives a damn about us." Chapter 1, pg. 13-14.

And Lennie finishes:

"An' why? Because...because I got you to look after me, and you got me to look after you, and that's why." Chapter 1, pg. 14.

The kind of life these men lead, moving all over the country, never knowing anyone very long, and having very little to call their own, is intensely lonely. Even if Lennie is not very bright, he still listens to George, and he remains the one constant in George's transient life. For this George is grateful.

Friendship 2: Slim comes across very differently than the other men. Friendly and understanding, he invites George into conversation. When discussing how George and Lennie travel together, Slim remarks:

"'Ain't many guys travel around together,' he mused. 'I don't know why. Maybe ever'body in the whole damn world is scared of each other.'" Chapter 2, pg. 35.

Slim is much more open than most of the men on the ranch, and a marked contrast to Curley, whose can only communicate with fighting. Curley will push his wife away, choosing to go visit prostitutes rather than work on their marriage, whereas Slim attempts to construct a relationship with George the first chance he gets. The men have a deep respect for Slim, and his opinion is the final word on any subject.

Friendship 3: When George tells Slim how he used to play tricks on Lennie, beat him up, and generally abuse him for his own amusement, we get a very different picture of Lennie and George's friendship. George admits one reason why he behaved such:

"Made me seem God damn smart alongside of him." Chapter 3, pg. 40.

George takes very good care of Lennie, but he often feels anger at this burden, an anger which he takes out on Lennie. This fuels Lennie's greatest fear--that he might have to live without George.

Friendship 4: Candy's sheepdog is old, arthritic, and blind--his life is not a pleasant one. Carlson and Slim feel these are adequate reasons to kill the dog. Carlson tells Candy:

"Well, you ain't bein' kind to him keepin' him alive." Chapter 3, pg. 45.

And Slim responds:

"Carl's right, Candy. That dog ain't no good to himself. I wisht somebody'd shoot me if I got old an' a cripple." Chapter 3, pg. 45.

The argument the men use to convince Candy it is okay to euthanize his old friend will come up again at the end of the novel when George must kill Lennie. The dog and Lennie have parallel stories, with parallel fates, except Lennie has someone who cares enough about him to put him out of his misery, whereas Candy wouldn't get rid of his dog if he wasn't forced. Lennie has what Slim wishes for--someone who loves him enough to know when he life would be better for him if it were over.

Friendship 5: Candy tells George:

"I ought to of shot that dog myself, George. I shouldn't ought to of let no stranger shoot my dog." Chapter 3, pg. 61.

Candy feels that friends should look out for each other, and he knows he failed his old companion.

Friendship 6: Crooks is so desperate for companionship that he is appreciative of someone who cannot understand him or converse with him. He understands now that this is the reason why George keeps Lennie around him.

Friendship 7: Crooks reveals how easy it is to feel crazy when you are alone. With no one to confirm his reality, he begins to call it into question:

"'A guy needs somebody-to be near him.' He whined, 'A guy goes nuts if he ain't got nobody.'" Chapter 4, pg. 72.

Crooks' lonely present is very different from his childhood, when he had his two brothers to keep him company, even sleeping in the same bed.

Friendship 8: Curley's wife tries repeatedly to assure Lennie that it's okay for him to talk to her. Like most of the characters in the book, she also feels a need for companionship. Her self-centered and aggressive husband does not fill this need.

Friendship 9: When George suggests they find Lennie and lock him up instead of shooting him, Slim has to remind George how terrible it would be if Lennie were locked in a cage, or strapped to a bed. Like the painful life of Candy's arthritic sheepdog, life in prison or an asylum would be no better for Lennie. Just as Candy had to realize that his sheepdog would be better off dead than alive, so must George with Lennie.

Friendship 10: After Lennie killed Curley's wife, George was faced with a terrible choice-let Curley find Lennie and kill him, or kill Lennie himself. Unlike Candy, he will not let someone else shoot his best friend. He also will not subject his best friend to unnecessary pain. Slim's sympathetic response is best:

"'Never you mind,' said Slim. 'A guy got to sometimes.'" Chapter 6, pg. 107.

George lets Lennie die believing in their dream, though he himself must continue, knowing they will never reach it.

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