Explore how George and Lennie’s ways of speaking reveal aspects of their characters and relationships in Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men.


In John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men, George Milton and Lennie Small are best friends who travel around California doing various odd jobs. George is intellectually superior to Lennie, who clearly suffers from mental challenges. The way that they speak to one another strikes me as being the way a parent would speak to a child. George tells Lennie what to do, usually to keep Lennie from getting into trouble. George speaks in a manner comparable to the way a parent would speak to a child. Consider the following exchange from Chapter One as George quizzes Lennie on how Lennie is to respond at their next job:

“O.K. Now when we go in to see the boss, what you gonna do?”

“I . . . . I . . . .” Lennie thought. His face grew tight with thought. “I . . . . ain’t gonna say nothin’. Jus’ gonna stan’ there.”

“Good boy. That’s swell. You say that over two, three times so you sure won’t forget it.”

Although George speaks to Lennie as if he were a child, Lennie is a grown man so some of the things George says to Lennie would be inappropriate comments to make to a child, such as:

“’Cause I can jus’ as well go away, George, an’ live in a cave.”

“You can jus’ as well go to hell,” said George. “Shut up now.”

Only an extremely cruel parent would make such a remark to a child.

Still, George's creation of an ideal existence for himself and Lennie on a little farm of their own and George's threats that he will not let Lennie tend the rabbits if he gets into trouble do again recall the way in which some parents will try to manipulate a child's behavior by promising them a toy or some other reward. As we see throughout Steinbeck's novel, Lennie constantly has the dream of tending the rabbits on his mind. 

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