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In John Steinbeck’s ‘Of Mice and Men,’ the main characters portray the value of friendship in their lives. They recognize that since they do not have families, they only have each other to turn to in times of need. As the main characters work on ranches, they complain about the loneliness they often feel. However, their friendship gives them companionship in times of solitude, making them appreciate one another. Thus, it is essential to evaluate instances in which Steinbeck’s book portrays the importance of friendship through the main characters. Since friendship offers companionship to the main characters during a tragedy that separates other people, it is crucial to evaluate its importance in Steinbeck’s ‘Of Mice and Men.”
The Great Depression
An economic situation that separates many families and alienates many unions brings together two migrant farmers in Steinbeck’s ‘Of Mice and Men.’ During the depression, Californian people face isolation from families and friends. George and Lennie are farm workers in California, which Steinbeck uses as his setting for the novel (Steinbeck, 1937). Even though other people are emotionally deprived and separated, these two friends reveal their true intentions for one another. The tough economic times test their friendship. However, instead of separating like everyone else, they stick together, encouraging one another that the times will soon change and their lives will improve as long as they remain united.
Different characters demonstrate the absence of friendship that only Lennie and George have. Curley’s wife longs for companionship, as an example of all other characters in the book who do not get the opportunity to be comforted amid the Great Depression (Eliasson, 2011). Every character envies the relationship that George and Lennie share. Their boss at the farm suspects that it could be a result of financial manipulation that these two are together. They not only stay by each other’s side at the farm but also take trips together. Thus, their compassion amid an economic problem that separates families and friendships depicts a true friendship that withstands storms.
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As Lennie and George withstand the Great Depression and the loneliness it brings, other characters are intolerant. Candy is among those who attempt to create a friendship with his dog. However, his intolerance leads to the end of this friendship, making him lonely again. As a result, the characters who fail at their friendship attempts envy what Lennie and George share. According to Spilka, “creative defense against rank loneliness; it will be reinforced, thematically, by the hostility and guardedness of bunkhouse life, and by the apparent advance of their dream toward realization” (Steinbeck, 1937). Spilka’s words imply that friendships like that of Lennie and George emerge as a defense mechanism. Their primary purpose is to defend the parties against specific harm, including emotional, financial, or social distress. Thus, the creativity of these characters in maintaining their friendship enables them to stick together throughout the novel.
While traveling together and providing company for one another is an excellent attribute of friendship, selflessness reveals the love for each other. Lennie is physically abled but mentally challenged. George realizes that even though Lennie is beneficial to farms and diligently attends to his duties, his mental capacity threatens those around him (Halldórsdóttir, 2017). Therefore, instead of separating from him, he takes care of Lennie as if he was a child. He knows that Lennie could be jailed or sent to a shelter or his condition. Hence, being in his company and attending to him when necessary helps Lennie stay out of trouble. George reminds Lennie of this, which stirs appreciation and further strengthens their friendship.
Even though George keeps reminding Lennie of how he helps him, it is in a good way as he clarifies that their friendship is mutual. At the novel’s beginning, George insinuates that they (Lennie and George) are not like the lonely people in California. Instead, they have each other constantly. Company is significant for George, who knows he has no family (Eliasson, 2011). Thus, while Lennie provides company to George, he also gets his aid. The mutual friendship built on selfless intentions managed to withstand the Great Depression. Many people separate from their families. Others lack food and primary healthcare. Americans become distant from others as they expect to fight their woes (Halldórsdóttir, 2017). In this turmoil, true friendship emerges between Lennie and George, who move from one ranch to another, using their physical strength to earn a living.
In conclusion, Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men” depicts how difficult situations separate people while bringing others together. The Great Depression was a challenging economic situation for Americans. Many lacked food and primary resources, and others were homeless. No family could afford to increase a member to their setup as there were limited resources. Parents separated from their children, and spouses chose different paths to survive the depression. While this countrywide separation and loneliness spread, two individuals realized that separation would only make them like others. Having no family to turn to, they stick together throughout the depression, traveling to different ranches to farm. They also show selflessness, George’s attribute toward Lennie for his mental situation. Even though Lennie’s situation compromises George’s daily activities, it gives him the company he needs. Thus, the mutuality in friendship, selflessness, and loyalty in the Great Depression are critical attributes of friendship in the novel.
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- Eliasson, F. (2011). Naturalism and friendship in” Of Mice and Men.” GUPEA. https://gupea.ub.gu.se/handle/2077/25013
- Halldórsdóttir, R. (2017). Moral Issues, Loneliness, and Friendship in of Mice and Men. ZBOOK. https://zbook.org/read/191fab_moral-issues-loneliness-and-friendship-in-of-mice-and-men.html
- Steinbeck, J. (1984). Of Mice and Men (1937). New York: Bantam.