How Does Steinbeck Present the Relationship Between George and Lennie in the Novel?
Steinbeck presents the relationship between George and Lennie by utilizing a number of literary techniques and devices, particularly in the first 3 section. The skilled and careful presentation of this relationship forms the foundation upon which almost all of the novella’s prevailing themes are structured, from the preciousness of companionship to the futility of dreams (and, in particular, the so-called American Dream). The first paragraph focussing on the men (second paragraph, page 4) opens with the sentence: “They had walked single file down the path, and even in the open one stayed behind the other”.
Immediately, Steinbeck portrays the essence of George and Lennie’s relationship through this first quote about the men: that this relationship had a hierarchy; it was a leader-and-follower relationship, with one member guiding the other. The entire book revolves around this concept (George being Lennie’s carer as Lennie cannot lead himself), so it is appropriate that Steinbeck chooses this idea to be the cornerstone of the reader’s understanding of their relationship.
However, in order to avoid any assumption that one man was better than the other, Steinbeck dissolves the idea of a hierarchy immediately as he details the similarities between the two men, all of which refer to clothing and possessions, such as them both being “dressed in denim trousers and denim coats with brass buttons”, and having “black, shapeless hats” and “tight blanket rolls slung over their shoulders”.
Through their sole similarities being material possessions, Steinbeck shows that these two men are completely equal in circumstance and situation, intensifying attention on and the significance of their physical and mental differences. Steinbeck follows this with detailed and highly contrasting descriptions of the two men. He first describes the leader, using words such as “small and quick”, “slender” and “sharp”.
This does not create the image of a traditional leader, a fact which is compounded with the description of a “huge man” with “wide, sloping shoulders” as his follower. Steinbeck uses these departures from convention to indicate that there is an alternative reason why the leader leads the follower other than the traditional case of the pack following the strongest member. It is obvious that, although Lennie is the stronger and bigger of the two, he is content following a man who is several degrees smaller than him. The reason behind this is hinted