, Research Paper
George is described as “small and quick, dark of face, with restless eyes and sharp strong features”, which immediately draws contrast with Lennie, demonstrating that where Lennie is simple and slow, George is more mentally able and has a dominant position in their relationship. Because of his r?le of Lennie’s carer, and hence that much of George’s conversation is about Lennie, we learn little about him through his actual conversations with people. His only extended meaningful conversations are with Slim, and certainly do centre on Lennie, a clear indicator that much of George’s life is centred on Lennie. We can, however, learn a great deal about him through his actions; he is caring, level headed and sensible, but is greatly worn by the constant attention Lennie requires. Despite this, it is clear that he loves him greatly.
We understand from his actions and attitudes that George is sensible and able to think quickly in a situation, he is rational and a realist. He knows from experience and understanding of the nature of others, for example, that if the boss hears Lennie talk and realises his handicap, then it is unlikely they will get work. Thus he tells Lennie not to talk during their preliminary encounter, “you ain’t gonna say a word?if he finds out what a crazy bastard you are we won’t get no job”. He also knows, from past experience presumably, to make Lennie repeat things two or three times over to himself, to help him remember. He also knows that Lennie is likely to do things and attempt to hide them, such as when he instantly realises Lennie has a puppy with him when entering the bunkhouse. “George went quickly to him, grabbed him by the shoulder and rolled him over. He reached down and picked the tiny puppy from where Lennie had been concealing it against his stomach.” The fact he is so fast and sure in his actions suggests there his little doubt in his prediction that Lennie will have a puppy with him; he knows him well. He also knows to be naturally suspicious of others he encounters for fear that they will be prejudiced against Lennie, and although this can result in the loss of potential friendships, it is unfortunately necessary as otherwise Lennie would face much more danger. Exemplification of this is his natural reaction to Curley’s wife; he warns Lennie to stay away from the “jail-bait all set on the trigger.” We also see his necessary inability to trust anyone here, as he talks of his preference of whore over actual relationships; there is less danger from true involvement. “You give me a good whore house every time.”
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 underpin his entire character. He cares for Lennie, ensuring his safety and instructing him in almost every situation, an example of which is seen in Ch1 when he warns him about drinking stagnant water, “You never oughta drink water when it ain’t running, Lennie”. The fact that this comment is made ?hopelessly’ suggests that he has made warnings many times before, which are unheeded by Lennie, a fact which George understands but will continue to instruct him anyway. This situation can, however, anger George, such as his angry response when Lennie asks where they’re going again. George, however, recovers quickly from this anger; it may be that he is simply reasserting self-control after losing it briefly, or that his angry appearance was only feigned to display to Lennie his rather milder frustration.
Without Lennie, George would be much like other men, simply roaming the tracks of California looking for work. He laments his lack of this simple life when he becomes annoyed with Lennie. An example of this is seen when a pestered 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.” He talks of being able to blow his pay each month as other men do, enjoying himself in a pool bar or cat house before returning to work. The implication is that George dislikes intensely his responsibilities towards Lennie, and wishes he had a life like other men, such as Carlson. The irony is that this is far from the case, and George is simply expressing his frustrations with certain aspects of his situation, and not with his entire life. The common recount of the phrase “But we ain’t like that?I got you and you got me”, in various permutations, at first seems, to the reader, to be wrong. It appears that their relationship is very one-sided, George giving all to Lennie (a suggestion confirmed in more literal terms by Lennie’s hallucination of Aunt Clara later on, “when he had a pie he always gave you half, or more than half”). But it becomes clear that this is not the case, as it is Lennie who keeps George out of the whore houses and pool bars, which leaves him better off, and indeed Lennie gives George hope, a vitally important characteristic. The importance of Lennie to George is later highlighted by Crooks in his discussion with George; Lennie simply provides George with someone to talk to, to stop him going mad, even if he doesn’t understand what is said.
One of the factors that helps George to remain focused and discourages him from taking up the life of other workers is his dream of owning his own farm. This dream is regularly recounted to Lennie in a way which suggests he has done it many times before, “he repeated his words rhythmically”. It is seen that the story of the dream calms Lennie, raising the implication that George uses it as one of the limited methods he has of controlling Lennie. Later on in the novel, however, it becomes apparent that the dream is as much a guide and hope-giver to George as it is to Lennie, as he becomes genuinely excited about the prospect when he realises that it could be a real possibility, “Jesus Christ, I bet we could swing her!” However, after Curley’s wife’s death, George admits to Candy that maybe he knew it was never possible, “I think I knowed we’d never do her”. Despite this, and even if George genuinely did never believe the dream, his disbelief was, for a while, quashed to the back of his mind and the hope supplied by the dream took root, and kept him going. More support for the idea that it is genuinely George’s dream too is that it includes articles from his childhood, such as pigeons circling “like they done when I was a kid”, a strong indicator of his personal involvement in the dream.
Through his abstention from joining in with other men’s activities, George is cutting himself out of what little chance he has to socialise with others like him, and not just talk to Lennie. His lonesome nature is characterised by his habit of playing solitaire, a single-player game, because he knows that Lennie would not be able to cope with playing any kind of remotely complex card game. “Almost automatically George shuffled the cards and laid out his solitaire hand.” The fact that he does not attempt to socialise is important, as whenever he does it results in trouble. He tells Slim that when he was younger he encouraged Lennie to do stupid things in front of others to gain their respect, which endangers Lennie’s life. This is important, however, as it makes George realise that he has a position of power over Lennie that he must use with responsibility, marking a turning point in their relationship. And, when Lennie kills Curley’s wife, George is out with the other men playing horseshoes, attempting to socialise. It is not that he does not deserve a break, but he is in a very difficult position in leaving Lennie alone. This incident also results in another turning point in their relationship; George knows that to be humane he must end Lennie’s life. It is unfortunate that he cannot mix with others, but it is why his dream is so important to him; it provides the substance and enjoyment that other men find in the cathouse.
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 vital practically, Lennie was the driving force that made George strive towards the dream. He does not wish to be associated with Curley’s wife’s death, not because he fears punishment but because he wants to be able to help Lennie. He even misleads the other men, “we came from the South so he’ll go North”, because he knows he will return to the brush, in the South, as instructed. In killing Lennie, his is ensuring his future happiness as he had always been committed to doing in life. It is unfortunate, however, that at the very end of the novel, George agrees to a drink with Slim, perhaps marking the beginning of descent into aimless existence that Lennie had always guarded George from.
George is essentially just another ranch worker, but he has been protected from the ranch worker life by Lennie, while in return he protects Lennie from real dangers which assail him. He is essentially dependant on Lennie because of this, without him George would have no real character. He has learnt to be careful and caring, and knows that many people will have prejudices against Lennie automatically. This is not to say that he is not without prejudice himself, his clear racism is seen but his utter refusal to include Crooks in the dream, and so still the prejudices are objective, despite his own common experiences of such prejudice. One can only hope that after Lennie’s death he would not go on to become a soul-less Carlson like figure, but it is unfortunately likely to be the case.