RE: What role does friendship play in “Of Mice and Men”?

In "Of Mice and Men," how is friendship depicted, particularly between George and Lennie, and what does it say about their situations and society?

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Friendship plays a central and poignant role in John Steinbeck's "Of Mice and Men," serving as a critical emotional foundation for the main characters, George and Lennie. It's a force that drives the plot and offers profound commentary on the human experience during the trying times of the Great Depression. In the novel, George and Lennie are itinerant workers who travel together from ranch to ranch seeking employment in California's agricultural sector. They share a dream of one day owning their own piece of land, a dream which is sustained by their friendship. This is a rarity during a time when most itinerant workers led solitary, disconnected lives due to economic hardship and personal struggles. The depiction of George and Lennie’s friendship is multifaceted: - **Companionship**: George and Lennie rely on each other for companionship in their otherwise lonely existence. Their relationship provides each with a sense of belonging and emotional support, making their burdens slightly more bearable. - **Protection**: George feels a protective sense of duty toward Lennie, who has the mind of a child and doesn't understand his own strength or the societal rules he's expected to abide by. Lennie, in turn, trusts George implicitly and looks to him for guidance. - **Sacrifice**: The friendship is marked by sacrifice, especially on George's part. There are multiple instances in the novel where George gives up personal freedom and opportunities for the sake of protecting Lennie. - **Motivation**: Their relationship serves as motivation for both characters. The hope of achieving their shared dream propels them forward and keeps them working, despite the harshness of their transient lives. The friendship between George and Lennie also offers a lens through which to view the failures of society during the Great Depression. Steinbeck uses their relationship to critique the economic disparity, loneliness, and isolation that characterized this period. Through their bond, Steinbeck explores the essential human need for connection, and how friendship can provide stability, hope, and meaning in the face of adversity. In essence, the friendship theme in "Of Mice and Men" is a mirror reflecting the broader human condition and societal flaws. It illustrates the importance of human relationships, particularly in dire times, and how those relationships shape individual destinies and expectations. The tragedy that befalls George and Lennie serves to underscore the fragility of their dream and the harsh reality for many during that historical period, making a powerful statement about the value and limitations of friendship amidst systemic societal failures.
Answered on July 8, 2024.
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