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What do we learn about George and Lennie in the first chapter of "Of Mice and Men"? Free essay! Download now

Home > GCSE > English literature > What do we learn about George and Lennie in the first chapter of "Of Mice and Men"?

What do we learn about George and Lennie in the first chapter of "Of Mice and Men"?

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"Of Mice and Men" essay about George and Lennie and what we learn of their characters, their lives and their relationship in the first Chapter of the novella


1)Their lives and their background
It is obvious, from what we see them wearing when we first meet George and Lennie, that they are labouring men:
“Both were dressed in denim trousers and denim coats” (page 19)
They both carry “bindles” (a blanket with all their possessions wrapped up inside) which tells us that they are migrant (travelling) workers. They have few possessions because they need to travel light. This works out as their basic needs (meals, bedding, washing facilities) will be met in the basic accommodation provided for workers at the ranches they work at. George tells us what life is like for the average ranch hand like himself:
“They got no family. They don’t belong no place.” (page 32)
Because it is a lonely life, they get caught in a vicious circle, unable to save up the money they earn for anything better:
“They come to a ranch an’ work up a stake and then they go inta town an’ blow their stake, and the first thing you know, they’re poundin’ their tail on some other ranch.” (Page 32)
George and Lennie’s lives are a little more fulfilled and purposeful than other ranch hands’ lives because, as Lennie puts it:
“I got you to look after me, and you got me to look after you” (page 32)
We don’t learn much about their background in Chapter one other than that they obviously go back a long way together and that Lennie was brought up by a guardian called Aunt Clara (now dead). George obviously knew Aunt Clara and Lennie when he was a child because he talks of how Aunt Clara used to give Lennie rubber mice to stop him pinching the heads of real mice. We learn more about their backgrounds together later on in the book.

2) Their Characters
A) George
We learn quite a lot about George as a person in the first chapter from the things he says and does as well as Steinbeck’s descriptions of him. Steinbeck tells us that George:
“was small and quick, dark of face, with restless eyes” (page 19)
His appearance suggests his personality. His eyes are “restless” and we see later in Chapter 2 (when we get to the ranch) that he is a rather nervous and suspicious individual who keeps other people at a distance. The word “quick” is also used here and we do realise in this chapter that, although obviously uneducated, George is quite smart, planning how to manipulate the situation when they first meet the boss and also making arrangements for meeting-up an running away together if Lennie gets into “trouble”. We learn that George is practical and sensible, immediately realising that the water Lennie is trying to slurp could be stagnant:
“I ain’t sure it’s good water” (page 20)
He also loses his temper quite easily as we see from his irritable outburst against the bus driver who was:
“Too God damn lazy to pull up. Wonder he isn’t too damn good to stop in Soledad at all” (page 21)
We see also from his frequent outbursts at Lennie in this chapter that he is impatient and gets easily frustrated by minor irritations (such as Lennie’s complaints about there being no “ketchup” and his poor memory when it comes to their work tickets).
George clearly has no love for the work they do. He chooses not to go to the ranch this night (even though they could get there handily if they wanted to) because he has seen the work they will be doing and is in no hurry to do it:
“I seen thrashin’ machines on the way down. That means we’ll be bucking grain bags, bustin’ a gut. Tonight I’m gonna lay right here and look up. I like it.” (page 25)
B) Lennie
Steinbeck makes Lennie’s learning difficulties immediately obvious to us from his appearance. Whereas George had “sharp, strong features”, Lennie is “shapeless of face”. He walks heavily:
“dragging his feet a little, the way a bear drags his paws”
Lennie is repeatedly compared to animals in this chapter (he is compared to a horse, a terrier and a coyote as well as a bear). These animal comparisons stress his lack of intelligence and the fact that, like an animal, Lennie is instinctive. Comparing him to a bear tells us of his strength and the potential danger Lennie might represent; his hands are often called “paws” which also suggests how powerful they are. George refers to Lennie’s strength when he comments on how if the boss:
“sees ya work before he hears ya talk, we’re set” (page 24)

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