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George is the protagonist and one of the two main characters in Of Mice and Men. A compassionate, kind, responsible, patient, and understanding man, he faithfully watches out for Lennie, his retarded friend and constant companion. When Lennie gets into trouble, George always helps him find a solution or get away. George is also shown to be a thinking person. He knows he must discipline Lennie in order to help him, and he is often seen telling Lennie what he has done wrong and what he must do to improve. He is also a planner, telling Lennie where he should go if there is trouble on the ranch. He also works hard to make the dream of owing a ten-acre farm become a reality. Unlike the other ranch hands that squander their money on women and drink, George refuses to spend a dime frivolously, saving everything to make the dream come true. He wants to buy the farm so that he and Lennie can live there, free from problems and constraints caused by society.
Sometimes George is portrayed as an angry man, for he gets frustrated with Lennie’s slowness. Although he scolds and even screams at him, he is never intentionally mean or cruel. Several times George thinks about what he could do if Lennie were not around, but they are just idle thoughts. George is legally free to desert the retarded man at any point in time; emotionally, however, he is entirely bound to Lennie, as his protector and companion. Lennie also keeps George from feeling the isolation and loneliness that possess the other ranch hands.
Because George cares for Lennie so deeply, he cannot allow him to die brutally at the hands of Curley and the angry ranch hands. After painting the picture of the farm in Lennie’s mind one last time, he takes Carlson’s pistol and mercifully shoots his friend, in a totally selfless act of kindness. It was a terribly difficult thing for George to do, and at the end of the book, Steinbeck paints him feeling lost and alone without his faithful companion and without a dream to keep him going.
Lennie is George’s friend and constant companion, who is mentally retarded and highly dependent on George. He suffers from a child’s mentality within a giant’s body. He is innocent and forgetful like a child. He is also attracted to small, soft things because of his childlike, gentle nature. Unfortunately, he often harms the things he loves accidentally. As a huge man with heavy arms and powerful hands, he does not know or understand his own strength.
Lennie idolizes George, his kind caretaker, almost like a god. In Lennie’s eyes, George is totally kind, faithful, and good. He tries hard to remember everything George tells him to do and obeys him implicitly without asking any questions. Even though Lennie did not know how to swim, he jumped in a river one time when George jokingly told him to do so. Because Lennie is slow, forgetful, and powerful, he causes trouble for George wherever they go. They had to leave the last job because Lennie reached out and grabbed the dress of a little girl and would not let go. When she screamed, the townspeople came and blamed Lennie for attempted rape.
Lennie never means to cause problems. He did not mean to kill his puppy and greatly regrets that it is dead. He tries to stay away from Curley and his wife, as George suggested. She, however, comes to Lennie in the barn and tells him he can stroke her hair. When he is too rough, she begins to scream and Lennie panics. When he covers her mouth and shakes her to be quiet, he accidentally breaks her neck.
Throughout the book Lennie is portrayed as a dreamer. He longs to go and live on a farm with George, away from the pressures and frustration of a society that always gets him in trouble. He constantly dreams of raising soft rabbits to be his pets on the farm. He senses that there are problems on the ranch and with Curley and begs George to take him away to the farm. At the end of the novel, when he and George talk by the stream, Lennie again senses trouble and begs George to get the farm quickly. When George pulls the trigger, Lennie is dreaming about the farm and the rabbits, therefore, dying happily.