by Daniel Austin0
Of Mice, Men and Friendship
Of Mice and Men is an iconic book that clearly illustrates the power of friendship, and how a deep connection and friendship can push people to do things they never would have done before. The scene is set is set in California during the great depression, a time of poverty and economic crisis. The book then puts two good friends into this setting, and brings up questions about friendship and moral between them. It shows how a deep bond between friends can bring them to do things they never would have considered before, all in the name of friendship.
The book focuses on the two main characters, George and Lennie. George is a small man, but he makes up for his small size with his intelligence and wit. Lennie, on the other hand, is almost a polar opposite. He is a very large man, but he is severely lacking intelligence. While it is never explicitly stated, it seems to be implied he may have a mental illness or learning disability. Despite their differences, they are very close friends and are always together, no matter where they go. In fact, it is said that they have known each other for a very long time as well, even further strengthening this bond between them. This is clearly stated when George says “Him and me was both born in Auburn. I knowed his Aunt Clara. She took him when he was a baby and raised him up. When his Aunt Clara died, Lennie just come along with me out workin’. Got kinda used to each other after a little while.”. They have been lifelong friends, living in the same town since birth.
But still, the relationship between Lennie and George is an interesting one. George routinely calls Lennie stupid, and bursts into fits of anger when Lennie upsets him with his lack of intellect and conventional wisdom. Lennie on the other hand, has tried to manipulate George, saying “If you don’ want me I can go off in the gills an’ find a cave. I can go away any time”.
He is threatening George with leaving in an effort to manipulate him. George responds with “No—look! I was jus’ foolin’, Lennie. ‘Cause I want you to stay with me.” This shows, despite their issues, they still need each other, and are both very close. George needs Lennie so he can have company on the road, and Lennie needs George because George is like a parent to him, providing moral support and telling him what to do. They treat each other like family, and they love each other, even if they don’t always show it.
Also, their relationship stems past just a mutual need for each other. They are also very good friends and have been so since a very young age. they have a very deep emotional connection, and have since they met. George always stands up for Lennie when he is in trouble, and never lets anyone single Lennie out. For instance when curley assaulted Lennie, Lennie instinctively called for George to help, ‘“George,” he cried. “Make ‘um let me alone,
George.”’ George, while he could not physically interfere with the fight, was shouting and telling Lennie what to do. They always have each others backs, in any situation. Lennie also demonstrates that he becomes very upset when people speak badly about George. While Crooks was making fun of Lennie, Lennie seems upset in the way of a child. But upon Crooks suggesting that perhaps George was injured, Lennie became focused. “Suddenly Lennie’s eyes centered and grew quiet, and mad. He stood up and walked dangerously toward Crooks.
“Who hurt George?” he demanded”.
Their friendship is what led to the tragic ending between them. In the end, George thought it would be better to shoot Lennie in the head rather than let him be killed by the lynch mob that was coming for him. This decision was a very bold one, and could only happen with a very deep relationship and understanding between the two men. George is not the type kill someone easily, and he only did it because the situation was so dire. He knew that the best thing for Lennie would be to take his into his own hands and kill him.
But this asks the question, from georges perspecitve was this the right thing to do,or should he have let Lennie control his own fate and try to escape the lynch mob? Or as some would put it, is it better to be cruel, to be kind? This is a very philosophical question, and it relates very much into the deep friendship between Lennie and George. Depending on your point of view, you could see what George did as the worst possible thing he could have done for Lennie, or the best possible thing. Either way, the situation was dire and there was no time for careful decision making.
Well, George felt that what he did was the best possible thing for Lennie. Had George thought there were any better way out, he almost certainly would have taken it. George did not believe that there was any better thing for Lennie. George said “Couldn’ we maybe bring him in an’ they’ll lock him up? He’s nuts, Slim. He never done this to be mean.”, and tried to find a better solution to the problem, but to no avail. The men chasing him were to enraged, and George knew that Lennie would not be able to live on his own in the world. In fact, George said multiple times he thought Lennie would die had he gone off alone. For instance, he said “Yeah? How’d you eat? You ain’t got sense enough to find nothing to eat.”, followed by “I want you to stay with me, Lennie. Jesus Christ, somebody’d shoot you for a coyote if you was by yourself”.
All of this makes it very clear that George does not think Lennie capable of living on his own, in the wild. George doubted Lennie’s ability to survive on his own so much, in fact, that he chose not to even consult Lennie on his decision to kill him, instead deciding it would be better off for Lennie to die happily, as opposed to being stressed out over choices and what to do. This is just another example of George choosing to be cruel to be kind, deciding that the best thing to do would be to take Lennie’s life into his own hands, letting him die happily.
But all this begs the question, from an objective point of view, was this the right thing to do?
Personally, I do not believe it was. I do not believe that Georges perspective on the situation was completely correct, and I believe that Lennie should have had at least a say in whether he should be killed or not. While the situation was dire, and Lennie’s chances of survival were slim, I believe that he should have had the choice on what happens to him. Death was not the only option. While there is an argument for what George did being the right thing, I just do not believe that is the case. In the situation, I think George was wrong to be cruel to be kind. He took Lennie’s life without consultation, and I think that was wrong.
All of this comes back around to how friendship tests what it means to be human. While I do not believe George was in the right doing what he did, I do believe that he thought it was the right thing to do, and was undoubtedly very hard for him to do. George had trouble committing to the action, the book stating, “George raised the gun and his hand shook, and he dropped his hand to the ground again.” George was facing an internal struggle, as killing his best and only real friend is bound to be extremely troubling, even if you do believe it is for a good cost.
In this case I do believe that friendship does test what it means to be human. George was driven to do the unthinkable, to kill his best friend, in an act of friendship. He was willing to sacrifice so much to make sure his best friend died peacefully and happily, even if it meant he had to do horrible things. In his eyes, he was being cruel to Lennie, to be humane to Lennie.
All of this was a showing of the power of friendship, how you can be driven to do insane things, all in the name of friendship.
Overall, this book is a wonderful display of friendship and the power that it has. It demonstrates the effect that a deep friendship can have and how it can cause people to do things that any other people would think unthinkable, in the name of being a good friend. In the case of the book, that meant George killing his best friend so he would not be lynched by the lynch mob. It also shows that, in the eyes of some, the most human thing to do is the exact opposite of what you would expect. Lastly, it shows how such a close bond can lead to tragic endings, even when all people want is the best for each other. All in all, the book “Of Mice and Men” shows a myriad of philosophical points, with the power of friendship, most certainly, being at the forefront.